Before staining a hardwood floor, I sampled the stain on a scrap to test the color.
The floor is oak, but the sample I had was birch.
The oil-based red mahagony stain appears far darker than I expected, and far darker than I recall the sample in the store looked (though I'm not doing a side-by-side comparison). Since oak is darker, I expect the final result to be even darker.
But I used a foam brush, not a cloth, to apply the stain. I find a foam brush a bit easier (and faster) to handle than cloth.
Do foam brushes soak up too much stain and inherently result in darker tones? Is a cloth really necessary to apply wood stains to produce the "official" tone?
A foam brush doesn't really allow for "working it in". You soak it and swipe. If you attempt to rub it in, the foam will shard quite quickly. By comparison, a cloth could handle rubbing. I can't quite appreciate whether rubbing will insert more stain inside the grain, or will spread the bit of stain on a larger surface. I'm wondering: is rubbing in the stain required?
Or might the issue be simply one of perception, and once an entire room has the tone it will no longer look quite as dark?