How To Make Pine Look More Like Oak (And Other Staining Tips) - Pretty Real

How To Make Pine Look More Like Oak (And Other Staining Tips)

11:44 AM

Staining Pine Mirrors for a basic bathroom renovation on a budget
Remember when I shared that I bought final sale pine mirrors that looked like oak on the website but looked orange in real life? For a hot second, I considered just losing my $300+ dollars (I even bought these replacements). But then I came to my senses and decided there had to be a way to make pine look more like oak (I'd even settle for making the pine look less yellow). Although they weren't what I expected, they were a great size and real wood. And you can sand and stain pine, right? So that's what I set out to do. In order to keep them light and a little more modern looking, I knew I couldn't throw a coat of dark stain on them. I had to do this right. I'll cut to the chase. I'm really happy with the result! Here's what I did.
Staining a Waxed Pine Mirror to make it look lighter, brighter, and less orange!
original finish
First I researched my butt off to get an idea of what types of stains look good over pine. I learned so much. I learned about wood bleach which can help tone down the yellow hue of pine. I learned about using a steel wool pad and a vinegar solution to help with the unsightly knots that are often prominent in pine. I learned about whitewash pickling stain. All of these things are useful but I couldn't try them all. I decided to test out some of the stain combos I saw online on a 'strip' of pinewood and go from there. But first, here are two things you can do to make sure your stain goes on nice and smoothly! 

first, sand the wood and get rid of any remaining dust. I saw the difference clearly between sanding and not sanding since I forgot to sand for tests 1 and 2. Cant you tell?!

second, make sure to use a wood conditioner. It really helps and pine needs all the help it can get. Okay, here are the combos I tested and the products I used*:

Sanding block
Wood conditioner
Early American Stain
Golden Oak Stain
Whitewash Pickling Stain
Weathered Oak Stain

*Most of my supplies were from Home Depot except the whitewash stain- got that from Amazon!

Here are are the stains I tried on the pine "test" piece:
1. weathered oak
2. golden oak, and then the next day, whitewash pickling stain that I wiped off after a minute.
3. weathered oak + early American wiped off right away.
4. weathered oak + early American allowed to sit for a couple of minutes before wiping off.
5. weathered oak (heavy-handed) + early American allowed to sit for 5 minutes before wiping off.
6. golden oak allowed to sit for 2 minutes.
7. golden oak lightly applied + whitewash pickling allowed to sit for just a minute before wiping off.

and then on a whim:
8. early American + the whitewash pickling stain. (not pictured but trust me when I say it looked disgusting).
Pine stained in various combinations of weathered oak, early american, golden oak, and whitewash pickling stain

It might seem like overkill to test all of these but unless you have experience staining, I'd suggest you do the same! How the final piece will look can vary based on how much stain you use, the wood prep, how long you allow the stain to sit on the wood, etc. So it's best to figure out your plan on a piece of test wood. But understand each piece of wood is different and so your results will be slightly different from your test. Also, I know they all look very similar here but in person, the differences are more noticeable. And really this 'test' is only comprised of a few variations I knew I'd like.

My favorite was #5 and #7. I couldn't decide so I asked Joe, who voted for #7. I was so afraid of using the whitewash for some reason but I figured the worse that could happen is that I wouldn't like it. And guess what? I already didn't like the mirrors so did I really have anything to lose? DIY takes courage y'all!

Ok so before staining the mirrors, I sanded off their waxed pine finish. I used an older version of this sander. The wood sanded really nicely- smooth and uniform. It was time to stain!

Sanded pine mirror ready to stain to look more like oak

Here's what I did to attain its new "oak-like" finish:

1. First I applied the pre-stain wood conditioner and let it dry for a half-hour.

2. Next, I applied golden oak lightly, meaning I dipped my cloth (I used an old t-shirt) into the stain and wiped it over the wood, rubbing it in as I went so as not to let it "puddle" anywhere. I let it dry for a few minutes. I was working outside in the sun so it didn't take too long for it to be dry to the touch.

A pine mirror with a light coat of golden oak applied

3. Then, using a foam brush, I applied the white wash pickling stain. I used a little more whitewash to cover the area. I allowed that to sit for just 45 seconds. I learned that if I let it sit too long it became hard to wipe off after. Remember, you can always do another coat but you can't go backward. So start light-handed! After less than a minute, I wiped it up (in?) with a cloth. I worked on one section at a time so the whitewash pickling stain wouldn't run or dry too quickly. In fact when I tried to work on one section while the other dried, the stain ended up drying too quickly! So take your time.

a pine mirror with a light coat of golden oak, followed by a thick coat of whitewash pickling stain

And the result:

How To Make Pine To Look More Like Oak (And Other Staining Tips)

How To Make Pine To Look More Like Oak (And Other Staining Tips)

I found that the corners were the trickiest. If the whitewash stain collects or puddles at all, it's hard to get it off. If that happens, you can sand it off and start over but I really didn't want to have to do that. I suggest taking your time and wiping seams/corners right away to avoid the puddling.

And as with any DIY project, make sure to start in the most inconspicuous place you can! That way you can get the hang of it in an area that's not very obvious. For this project, that was the very top where no one can see. Starting there gave me a chance to get in a groove.

A basic builder bathroom renovation on a budget

The mirrors are not perfect but are SUCH an improvement from where we started! I hope these tips for staining pine to look more like oak were helpful! And side note, if you're looking for pretty wood mirrors, these wood-look mirrors are awesome! I was so tempted to keep them!

*affiliate links included. Thanks for supporting Pretty Real Blog. ♥

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  2. Does the white wash darken over time? I tried this method, I didn't factor in hot weather that day, all of the white wash started drying before I had a chance to wipe it off. Also I found the white wash too white over the stain.

    1. it did not darken for me- but yes, it dries super quickly. I ended up working in small sections and wiping it off almost immediately after putting it on.

    2. If you use Golden oak one gallon and a pint of early American make sure you stir it very well then you will accumulate the color that you are looking for and it is more oak looking finish. Also use a wood sealer previous to applying the stain on your wood as the urethane will also help with the darkening

  3. This is incredibly helpful. I am using some ikea pine drawers for a diy desk situation and my inspiration is with oak so I have been trying to strategize how to do this! Looking forward to giving your technique a go!

  4. Thank you, thank you! Currently building on a budget and looking for stains to make pine stair treads more palatable... this is so helpful. <3

    1. I assume these were a 1 to 1 mix as you did not specify a different ratio that I could see

    2. I am curious as I did not see any mention in the blog. Was this a 1:1 Ratio mix? I need to know because I have a client asking me to duplicate one of these. Thank you in advance.

    3. I didn't mix the stain prior to applying so there's no ratio. I just applied one, then applied another on top of it. Hope this helps!

  5. So does 5 and 7 have any white wash added to them, or just stain?

  6. I bought pickling stain and tried on the inside of my wood bathroom vanity and it is coming out too white. I'm wondering now if I need to sand first and add wood conditioner. I think it is pine. I was hoping to avoid sanding...