Stain Tutorial: Special Walnut Stain on Cedar for Exterior Use

Submitted by Ana White on Tue, 04/30/2013 - 09:39
Additional Photos

Hi DIY Friends!

Thank you so much for the plan love on my $2 DIY Cedar Kitchen Herb Garden Planter! 

It was so fun and easy to make, and I’m so glad you enjoy the plans! Really looking forward to seeing your planters!

Someone commented that their planter would probably not look as good as mine, and I just gotta call foul on that!

Here’s what my planter looked like when I finished building it:

Nothing special!

And here’s what my Herb Garden Planter looks like now after a quick stain job:

It’s ALL in the finish!!!  

And I’m delighted to tell you that this finish is actually very easy to achieve!  Don’t be intimidated by stain, just follow the steps and take the time to test and you’ll be amazed at what you are capable of!

I’m partnering up once again with the awesome folks over at Minwax® to bring you this tutorial.- Thanks Minwax!

Shopping List

For this stain tutorial, I used

•    Sandpaper in Medium and Fine grits

•    Minwax® Wood Finish™ in Special Walnut

•    Natural Bristle Brush

•    Minwax® Helmsman® Water Based Spar Urethane 

•    Synthetic Bristle Brush

•    Staining Rags

Step 1

Project Preparation

Because I’m using cedar fence pickets which are very rough and uneven, I sanded my boards first before any assemble.  It’s much easier to sand a flat board than it is to sand a little planter!

I used medium grit sandpaper, sanding in the direction of the wood grain.

Then I followed up with a quick hand sanding using sanding blocks.  I started with a medium grit, working in the direction of the wood grain, just to make sure the power sander didn’t leave any marks.  Then I followed up with fine grit sand paper. 

It just takes a minute to do this!

Then before I move on to actual staining, I get rid of all sanding residue by brushing off, vacuuming, and then just to be sure, wiping down the project with a barely damp rag.  

Step 2 Instructions


For this project, I want to not just protect the wood, but add color to it.  

So I choose Minwax® Wood Finish™ stain in Special Walnut.

Since the Minwax Wood Finish is oil-based, I’m using a natural bristle brush.  Minwax matches brush colors to can colors to make picking a brush easy!  Yellow goes with yellow.

Even though the stain is brand new, I mixed it up because residue can end up on the bottom - resulting in uneven colors.  I also mix as I work, just to make sure the contents aren't settling on me.

I choose to stain after painting the letters just because I’m doing a dark stain, and wanted to be able to see the letter outlines when I painted them on the light wood.

I just apply the stain with the natural bristle brush in the direction of the wood grain.  

I love this color!

After about 10 minutes (5-15 is recommended) of allowing the stain to penetrate the wood, I took a clean cloth and began wiping excess off.  Don’t let excess stain dry on the project - it won’t look good! (and could prevent the topcoat from adhering properly)

The cedar took the stain so well, I only needed a single coat.  But for a deeper coat, additional stain coats can be added after a few hours of dry time.  Before applying the protective top coat, I let the project dry overnight.

Step 3 Instructions

Protective Exterior Top Coat

To protect the finish, I used Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane.  I could use oil-based, but I have the waterbased on hand (and love it) so I opted for it.

Notice I’m using a blue brush now with the blue label on the can.  

I applied a light, even coat of the Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane to the project.  I choose the Helmsman Spar Urethane because it’s specifically formulated for exterior conditions to protect against water damage and sunlight.

I applied two coats of Helmsman®, waiting a couple hours between coats, and lightly sanding between coats with fine grit sandpaper.

Amazing how a finish can transform a project!

Thanks Minwax® for bringing us today’s staining tutorial!