I am staining boards to build a shelving unit for my dad. Staining before building, which I know is backwards but there is a reason for doing this. My question is... Can I stack the stained boards if I let them dry 48 hours?

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Stain soaks in and dries to the touch in a fairly short time, though stain isn't a single thing. It's a broad class of products. Perhaps you're actually asking about sealers. There again, there are substantial differences in products, and your local climate play a role.

In any case, that would depend on the expected storage duration. I wouldn't expect the boards to stick together in a day or two in cool, dry conditions. That said, the safe bet is to use something to keep them separated--raw wood strips, plastic pipe, etc.

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