So, I am working on changing the stain on my particle-board cabinet(disassembled). I sanded, and then pre-stained the various pieces. I have also applied the first coat of stain(ebony) to the wood pieces, but I keep getting finger-prints and various marks on it as I move the pieces around. How do I get rid of those from the dried pieces? What is the best way to store the pieces away to dry? My other question is now that the pieces are dry, I guess I need to apply the sealer, in my case, minwax quick-dry polyurethane clear gloss,is there anything else I can do to make the finished product appear as if it was professionally done? I am using MinWax Wood Finish which claims to be both a stain, and sealer, do I need sealer still? And please how do I get rid of the smell when I am done? Is there a trick to this I can apply here?

  • 2
    Given that it's particle board and is never going to look like real wood, and given that you're going with ebony as the color, I'd have suggested just giving it a coat of black paint.
    – keshlam
    Jul 11, 2014 at 0:45
  • Why black paint?
    – user272671
    Jul 11, 2014 at 1:49
  • What do you mean 'particle board cabinet'? Are you staining actual particle board?
    – DA01
    Jul 11, 2014 at 1:53
  • Lacquer over ebony dye over particle board is mostly going to look like glossy black paint anyway.
    – keshlam
    Jul 11, 2014 at 2:22
  • What is Lacquer? The ebony does appear to be black and not ebony at all. And I have yet to apply the polyurathane on it.
    – user272671
    Jul 11, 2014 at 20:34

5 Answers 5


Do what a professional would do - don't touch it when wet.

Sand the affected areas with fine grit and re-stain, leave until it dries completely, then move, flip over and do the opposite side, etc. Apply the poly in the same manner. You cannot handle pieces until they dry fully. You also cannot handle them with hands that are wet with finish.

  • What if I need to add a second coat of stain? Is that after the first completely dries? I did sand the pieces before applying pre-conditioner but after applying my stain, I see sander markings all over. Do I apply a second coat and a third until those marks disappear?
    – user272671
    Jul 11, 2014 at 1:36
  • What grit sandpaper are you using?
    – DA01
    Jul 11, 2014 at 1:54
  • Let it dry COMPLETELY between coats. If you're seeing sanding marks, you either didn't sand enough (or evenly enough), didn't sand to a fine enough grit, or didn't clean the board after sanding to remove sawdust before starting to apply stain/paint/lacquer.
    – keshlam
    Jul 11, 2014 at 2:20
  • I used 40 and I did not completely take off the original color as I was afraid I would look the grain patterns which I wanted to keep. Or I am wrong in this?
    – user272671
    Jul 11, 2014 at 4:51
  • 3
    Then you need to go over it with 80 until you see no scratches from the 40, 120 or 150 until you see no scratches from the 80, 220 until you see no scratches from the 120 and then you might be able to apply stain and hope not to see sanding marks....
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 11, 2014 at 20:43

With real wood, proper technique with stain is to apply, let it soak in, wipe off excess which wasn't absorbed (by the less porous parts of the grain pattern), let it dry completely, evaluate the result, and repeat the whole sequence if/where you aren't getting the contrast you want. Then apply varnish over the top to seal it and protect it, again letting it dry between coats.

But particle board has no grain, so there isn't any differential absorption and you might as well just leave it there.

Sanding should be essentially complete before you begin applying surface treatments. Poly may want a very light sanding between layers to slightly roughen the surface and encourage the layers to bond with each other; read the manufacturer's instructions, and always wipe down with a tack cloth or microfiber cloth to remove sanding dust before applying the next coat. The final layer can be "rubbed out" after it has cured completely for a smoother surface and higher gloss, but that calls for very fine abrasives -- in fact, simply rubbing it with a paper bag is sometimes sufficient.

Books can be, and have been, written on the subject of finishing ... but I'm not sure particle board calls for much more than "don't mess it up."

  • Actually -- I'm making a bad assumption here. Is this particle board, or veneer over particle board? If the latter, then yes, you can refinish it like refinishing wood... but you need to be extremely careful not to sand through the veneer (or be prepared to apply a new layer of veneer, or to give up and paint it, if you do overshoot.)
    – keshlam
    Jul 11, 2014 at 3:00
  • Ikea type particle-board
    – user272671
    Jul 11, 2014 at 4:51
  • Can you help respond to the other questions I have too?
    – user272671
    Jul 11, 2014 at 20:33

If its what I'm thinking it is( a thermal-foiled particle board) you are doomed to failure. Most production grade furniture is made of this material and it will never take stain or finish the way you want it to. Basically they take particle board and wrap it in a micron thick layer of (usually) pvc foil with a wood grain printed on it. The foil is specifically designed to be nonabsorbent so it repels stains, and it has a particularly high molecular count so nothing sticks to it. That's pretty much the opposite of what you want when your trying to refinish something.

You can scuff sand it (but you'll almost certainly sand off some of the print) and apply a product like PolyShade (stain and finish in one) but it will be an uphill battle. You'll probably have adhesion problems, any vertical surface will take the color unevenly because the pigment settles to the bottom, any overlaps will show as the color doubles up, and on and on. Sorry to be a kill joy.


First off, I would not recommend staining particle board. If I'm picturing it correctly, you're working with an Ikea product that's essentially compressed sawdust held together by glue and two thin sheets of veneer, right? If the veneer is real wood, then you have a shot at staining with a good result. Otherwise, stick with paint.

For staining, you'll need to progressively sand with finer and finer grits. Since you started with 40 (I would usually start with 80 or possibly 120 if the surface was already smooth), next use 80, 120, and then 220. Your goal with each pass is to smooth out the surface so no scratches exist that are larger than the current grit that you are using is capable of producing. A random orbital sander should be ok for the whole process, but if you're using a simple rotary sander you'll need to sand by hand in the direction of the grain for your 120 and 220 passes. Otherwise you'll get swirl marks. With veneer you also have to be careful not to sand through. This may be very difficult in your case since you started with 40 grit.

Next wipe down the surface with a very slightly damp rag to remove all the sawdust. Let it dry out COMPLETELY afterwards. Then you're ready to apply wood conditioner. Follow the directions on the packaging.

Next, apply your stain. Wear gloves for this part. I use a foam brush and apply it in the direction of the grain. Keep a wet edge and work from one side of the piece to the other. After waiting the amount of time specified in the directions, carefully wipe off the excess stain, once again in the direction of the grain. The longer you leave it on, the darker it will be.

After letting the stain dry completely (and possibly applying a second coat), you're ready for poly. Make sure the surface is dust free, and STIR the poly (never shake, which introduces air bubbles). Apply using a foam brush, or one you don't mind cleaning with the appropriate solvent. If using a foam brush, don't squeeze it against the workpiece, which can also cause bubbles. Sand with 220 grit or higher between coats, and make sure to wipe away all dust this creates before applying the next one.

Lastly, to avoid any fingerprints or marks during the whole process, do not touch the piece until it is dry. Don't try to relocate it while wet. Just accept the fact that you may have to take longer if you don't have a large enough work space to do it all at once.


The cabinets probably do have a "finish" on them as opposed to being bare particle board. If so, the comment above about not being able to stain is correct, and you will need to paint. If they don't have a finish on them, particle board will suck up A LOT, A LOT of stain and can get expensive, so even then painting instead of staining may be a better option. I found some great information on ehow.com when I searched for "how to paint particle board to look like wood." For an even better effect, in addition to their instructions, use a wood graining tool, which is a rubber thingy with "teeth combs" and "wood patterns" (get a good quality one from a paint store instead of wal-mart). I removed the doors from the cabinets and laid the doors on cinder blocks so I could paint the edges as well as the surfaces. I used my dining room to leave them on the blocks until dry and ate in the living room. If you don't have that space, a technique I used in the past when painting interior doors is hammer nails into the top and bottom edges of the doors so they could be leaned against a wall to paint and let dry, thus allowing you to paint the edges of the doors. if you do this, you will end up with visible nail holes in the top and bottom edges (which of course on an interior door is not an issue because the top and bottom edges of a door are not visible). If you do this, you will have to be creative in filling the nail holes with wood putty and then use an artists paintbrush to paint the holes. Good luck!

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