Creating an Oak-Like Effect: Staining Pine to Mimic Oak

Both pine and oak wood are popular materials for all kinds of woodworking projects such as building furniture, fences, decks, etc.

However, oak is more durable and visually appealing than pine; thus, woodworkers prefer it for most projects.

The high demand for oak wood makes it more expensive than the readily available pine.

For this reason, woodworkers have no choice but to use pine even though its aesthetic is nowhere near that of oak.

If you are stuck with the light-colored pine, you can still achieve the coveted beauty of oak by using a little wood stain and following a simple procedure.

In this article, I’ll show you the process of Staining Pine to Mimic Oak in a few simple steps.

The most crucial step to making pine look like oak is to condition the wood to make it absorb the stain more evenly.

Afterward, apply a dark stain, let it sit for a few minutes then wipe it off.

After it dries, follow with a lighter wood stain to bring out the unique oak beige, then finish off with a clear top coat to protect the finish.

Even if you’re after a lighter shade like the white oak, starting with a dark stain is the way to go.

Remember, the wood grain of oak is very prominent, a significant feature that distinguishes it from pine wood.

Therefore, the dark stain will make the pine’s grain more prominent, which is the most recognizable feature of oak.

Before we get into the details of staining pine to look like oak, let’s delve deeply into pine wood and oak wood individually.

Understanding their physical differences and other features will make the staining process much easier as you will know which products to use and why.

What Is Pine Wood?

Pine Trees In What Is SoftwoodPine is a softwood that makes up a large proportion of building materials.

Its trees grow faster than hardwoods; therefore, it is available in abundance, making it one of the most affordable softwoods on the market.

This wood has a signature creamy white color, but its shade varies from very white to yellowish, depending on the type of pine tree that produced it.

The surface of pine wood also has knots that are significantly darker than its wood grain; therefore, they stand out, giving the wood a rustic look.

One of the best things about pine wood is its incredible workability. It is easy to cut with hand and power tools and is soft enough to accept screws and nails.

Woodworkers use this wood to make furniture and decors because it can bend easily without breaking.

Furthermore, it is easy to carve and stick perfectly with glue, which is ideal for making small art pieces.

Pinewood is mainly used to make furniture and create structural wood for wooden framed houses.

It is also great for solid and engineered wood flooring, making doors, railings, paneling, and producing veneers and plywood.

Types of Pine Wood

There are four types of pine wood, varying slightly in color, strength, and other basic properties.

These are the white pine, southern yellow pine, western yellow pine, and red pine. 

  • The White Pine

White pine wood has the lightest color of all the pine types. It appears more white or pale yellow, and it is pretty challenging to differentiate its heartwood and sapwood.

This wood is lightweight; hence easy to carry around during projects.

Its best feature is its flexibility, which prevents it from splitting and swelling. For this reason, white pine wood is durable.

  • Southern Yellow Pine

This wood type is the hardest and most dense of the three light-colored pines (white pine, southern yellow, and western yellow pine).

However, this difference does not affect its workability or make it too heavy to move around.

In terms of appearance, this wood looks so much like white pine because of its light color.

However, if you’ve worked with pine for a long time like me, you will notice that the southern yellow pine has a slight golden tint compared to the white pine.

  • The Western Yellow Pine

This type of pine has a golden tint to its white color, just like the southern yellow; however, you can tell them apart by comparing their densities.

The western yellow pine falls right between the white pine and southern yellow, meaning it is neither too dense nor too light.

  • The Red Pine Wood

This is the strongest of all the pine types; hence woodworkers often use it for construction projects.

You can use it to make poles, cabin logs, railway ties, and any other application that requires durable material.

What Is Oak Wood?

Oak is a popular hardwood recognized for its versatility and beauty. There are more than 60 varieties of oak trees, each with its distinct color – red and white being the most popular.

Even these popular oaks can further be categorized based on where the tree grows.

There are northern red and southern red oak trees as well as Arizona white and Swamp white oak trees.

Since oak wood has many varieties, its color also varies significantly. The white oaks have a beige-brownish hue, while the red oaks have a darker and rosier color.

Sometimes, two oak wood pieces cut from the same tree can have different colors based on where they were extracted.

Wood extracted close to the sapwood will be lighter than those sourced from the heartwood.

All oak woods, no matter the variety, darken as they age. However, the changes happen subtly and gradually; thus, they are not easy to notice.

Color aside, oak wood has prominent straight wood grains and an uneven texture that is easy to recognize.

When you look closely at an oak board’s surface, you’ll notice dark “rays” running alongside the grain.

These spots often look like someone drew dotted lines across the wood board with a pencil. The markings are present in both red oak and white oak.

Since it is a hardwood, oak is much denser than softwoods such as pine, which makes it quite heavy.

This weight can be a little problematic when moving the wood boards around as you work.

Nevertheless, Oak wood still has excellent workability because it is easy to cut and shape with hand tools and other machinery.

Furthermore, it readily accepts stains and other finishes; it glues well and accepts nails and screws readily because of its straight grain.

Oakwood is mainly used for making furniture, flooring, and other construction projects.

You can also use it for specialty projects like crafting, making kitchen cabinets, wine barrels and boats (white oak), and veneering.

How to Stain Pine to Look Like Oak 

Here are the steps involved:

Step 1: Choose an Appropriate Wood Board

When staining one piece of wood to look like another, you must pull all stops to make the replication look as close to the real thing as possible.

In the case of staining pine to look like oak, the kind of pine board you select will play a significant role.

Oak has a lot of grain but very few knots, while pine is heavier on the knots and light on grain.

Therefore, you must first find a pine board with the least number of knots and more grain.

If you stain an overly knotty pine board, the results won’t look anything like an oak even to the eyes of an amateur.

The color will be like that of oak, but the many knots and little grain will give it away.

Step 2: Prepare Your Workspace

  • Move any unwanted objects out of the way to create space for your project and to avoid spilling wood stains on them.
  • Lay down a tarp and drop cloth or newspapers to protect the floor and surrounding areas from spills.
  • Set up your workstation outside, where fresh air is abundant. If you’re working indoors, open all windows and doors to keep fresh air circulating. Ventilation is essential to prevent fumes from the wood stain from accumulating and irritating your respiratory system.

Step 3: Sand the Pine

If you want your stain finish to appear flawless, you must apply it on a smooth and even surface.

The way to ensure that is by sanding the wood by hand or using a power sander if you want to work faster.

Avoid using orbital sanders on pine because they leave swirl marks on the surface, which would make the stain finish look muddy.

Also, use serrated sandpapers because pine tends to gum up and dull regular sandpapers.

  • Start with coarse 100-grit sandpaper to knock down all the high spots, making the wood flat and even—sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid leaving scratches across the board.
  • Work your way up the grits slowly until you reach 220-grit sandpaper. The fine paper will leave smaller scratch patterns, making the board appear smooth. Moreover, they will not stand out after staining the pine.

Step 4: Apply Pre-stain Wood Conditioner

Pinewood doesn’t accept stains easily because its wood grain is unevenly dense, causing some parts of the surface to be harder than others.

When you stain it, these softer areas absorb more product than the denser spots, causing the finish to look blotchy and unnatural.

The way to deal with this problem is to apply a quality wood conditioner before applying the stain.

A pre-stain wood conditioner penetrates and temporarily seals wood grain to even out the absorption rate, thus creating a more uniform finish.

It is the trick to preventing the soft pockets on pine wood from absorbing too much stain and preventing blotchiness.

  • Brush or wipe on a thin, even coat of the pre-stain conditioner across the entire pine board. Let it sit on the surface for 3-5 minutes, then wipe off the excess.
  • Allow the conditioner to dry for 30 minutes or as instructed on the product label for best results.

Sand the wood with 400-grit sandpaper, then apply a second coat following the same procedure.

Note: Do not allow the conditioner to sit on the wood for more than 5 minutes before wiping it off. It will seal the wood, thus preventing the stain from penetrating properly.

Step 5: Apply the Stain

The most striking trait of oak wood is its prominent grain. We know that wood stain enhances the wood grain, but you cannot achieve the oak look on pine with just one product.

You need to use more than one oak stain with different color intensities to get close enough to the oak aesthetic.

Two shades of oak stain can do the trick, but you can purchase up to three if you like.

  • Use a rag to apply the darkest oak-colored wood stain, leave it on for 5 minutes, then wipe off the excess product.

This first coat will add some color to the dull pine grain. You can leave it on for up to 10 minutes if you want the color to be more intense.

  • Allow the stain to dry as its manufacturer recommends, then follow up with a second coat of a lighter stain.

Follow the same application method as the first coat and keep going until you’ve applied all the oak stains.

  • After the final coat of stain dries, seal the wood with a water-based polyurethane or a polycrylic product to keep the stain looking intact.

Avoid-oil based polyurethanes because they will turn yellow and affect your finish after a while.

Note: Before staining the paint, ensure that you do enough practice on several scraps of pine wood until you achieve the color you desire.

There are six or more shades of oak stains; therefore, you can get samples to try out before making a big purchase and beginning your project.

Here How to Stain Pine Wood:

How Do You Make Pine Look Like Whitewashed Oak?

Many woodworkers focus on making pine wood look like red oak wood forgetting the unique white oak.

White oak is the most expensive of all oak varieties because it effectively repels moisture without treatment, making it the ideal choice for making wine barrels, boats, and many other wooden creations in constant contact with moisture.

Wine barrels aside, the white oak also makes excellent furniture and decor – if you can afford it.

However, if it is totally out of your price range, you can transform the cheaper pine wood into a lovely white oak look-alike with a little oak stain and some whitewash pickling stain.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Start by sanding down your pine wood with a block sander, ensuring you use light pressure to avoid leaving deep gouges on the wood surface.

Start sanding with coarse 100-grit sandpaper and slowly work your way up to 220-grit sandpaper to smoothen the wood and level it.

  • After sanding, vacuum away all the sanding dust, then use a damp cloth to remove the remaining specks so that they do not interfere with the penetration of your finish.

Afterward, allow the wood to dry for a few hours before applying the stain.

  • After the wood dries, apply a thin layer of whichever oak stain you choose using a cotton rag or foam brush.

Ensure that the coat is as light as possible, so you don’t make the oak undertone too dark.

  • After the stain has dried, apply the whitewash pickling stain to give the finish the classic beige looks of white oak.

You can apply it using a sponge, and do not be afraid to make it a little thicker than the first stain. 

  • The goal is to wash out the darker orange tones of the previous stain; therefore, leave the pickling stain on the pine for only a minute before wiping off the excess with a rag.

If you are staining all four sides of a pine board, apply the whitewash one side at a time to keep the white from overpowering the first stain.

  • Afterward, you can apply a water-based polyurethane or polycrylic to protect your new finish.

Avoid oil-based clear coats because they will turn amber over time and ruin your finish.

How Do You Lighten Yellowed Pine?

Pinewood turns into a pale yellow-orange hue after being exposed to sunlight for a long time.

This change may seem insignificant initially, but it will become more evident once you apply a stain or clear coat over it.

Some woodworkers do not get bothered by the slight color change.

However, if you don’t like it, you can lighten your yellowed pine using oxalic acid or a two-part wood bleach.

Before using any of the solutions above on the wood, you must first remove any previous finish you had on the wood.

Ensure that you get rid of all the paint, varnish, or wood sealer from all corners of the wood; otherwise, your wood will not lighten evenly. 

The solutions you will use to lighten your yellowed pine are acidic, meaning they can burn some materials and cause skin irritation.

For this reason, you must wear rubber gloves and protective goggles before you start any bleaching project.

Also, ensure that your work area has enough ventilation to prevent you from inhaling chemical fumes.

How to Lighten Yellowed-Pine with Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid is not as strong as the two-part bleaches, but it is adequate for jobs where you want to lighten the wood color just a little.

I recommend using it if your pine is in the very early stages of yellowing because the new color will not have set in too deep; therefore, you won’t need a strong bleach to make the pine light again.

This bleach comes in crystalline form and can be found in most paint and hardware stores. To use it:

  • Dissolve some of the crystals in hot water and keep adding more until they can’t dissolve anymore.
  • Use a cloth or synthetic bristled brush to apply the solution to the yellowed pine. Let it dry, then use another cloth or brush to remove the crystals that form on the surface.
  • Rinse off all traces of the oxalic acid with plenty of pure water, then allow the wood to dry for 24 hours before judging its color.
  • If the wood isn’t light enough to your satisfaction, mix another batch of bleach, then repeat the procedure until you achieve the lightness you want.
  • After achieving the perfect hue, stop the oxalic acid reaction on the wood by wiping it with white vinegar.

Spread some vinegar on the wood with a clean cloth to neutralize the acid, then rinse it off with plain water.

How to Lighten Yellowed Pine with Two-part Wood Bleach.

Two-part bleaches comprise two products – Solution A, Sodium hydroxide, and Solution B, Hydrogen Peroxide.

There are several bleach brands, each with specific application instructions that make the product work efficiently.

So, read the instructions on your product carefully to get it to work perfectly.

To use this method:

  • Pour solutions A and B into separate plastic bowls.
  • Apply Solution A on the pine using a rubber sponge or a nylon paint brush, then allow it to sit on the pine for the specified time on the product label – usually 15 minutes.
  • Next, apply Solution B and let it soak for the specified time. Keep your eye steady on the wood – if you notice the pine getting lighter than you want it to be, wipe some vinegar on it to stop the reaction.
  • Rinse the wood with plain water, then allow it to dry thoroughly before sanding and refinishing it.

Things to Know Before Lightening Yellowed Pine


Understand Your Bleach

Some people think any liquid with a bleaching effect can lighten wood, but they are wrong.

Before you bleach any wood, you must know which bleaching agent will work best for your particular task.

  • Chlorine or Ordinary Laundry bleach will remove any superficial stains or dye colors on wood, but it will not affect its natural color. So, don’t waste time lightening yellowed pine with laundry bleach.
  • Two-part bleaching solutions are the strongest of all bleaching agents and are best for altering the natural color of the wood.
  • Oxalic acid can remove superficial stains and alter wood’s natural color lightly; therefore, you should save it for light bleach jobs.

Neutralize Wood Between Treatments

When using wood bleach, ensure you neutralize the wood between each application.

You can use a combination of equal parts vinegar and water for this task to prevent the wood from becoming lighter than you anticipated.

Always Sand the Wood After Bleaching

Once you’ve lightened and neutralized the wood, you will notice that the wood grain has become coarse to the touch. You can remedy this by sanding the wood with fine grit sandpaper after it dries to smoothen before refinishing.

Experiment With the Bleaching Solutions

If you do not have experience lightening wood, I recommend you try all types of bleaching solutions on scrap pieces of your wood to understand their strength and how they work.

Best Stains for Pine

Choosing the best finish for pine wood will determine the beauty of your creations and how well the wood stays protected.

However, there is a sea of wood stains on the market today, all claiming to be the best for pine. So how do you know which one is best?

Worry not because we have tested several pine wood stains that we could find and compiled a list of the four best products that will guarantee you the best results on pine wood.

DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

DEFY extreme wood stain is the best product for pine because it allows the wood grain to show through, thus maintaining the natural rustic aesthetic of pine.

It is water-based; hence, it penetrates the wood thoroughly, drying with a beautiful semi-transparent matte finish, which adds to the wood’s natural look.

This product is fortified with Zinc particles dispersed throughout the stain to help prevent damaging UV rays from causing premature yellowing or weathering of the pine.

This feature makes DEFY extreme an ideal choice for staining wood decks, siding, fences, patio furniture, and other outdoor applications.

When you apply this stain, it goes on a little lighter than you’d expect but worry not because it darkens as it dries.

The resulting hue is dark enough that you may not have to apply a second coat; however, if you must, apply the second coat 20 minutes after the first one.


  • It is easy to apply
  • It lasts longer than most wood stains – up to 2 years without needing reapplication.
  • It is water-based and VOC compliant.


  •  It is quite costly

SamaN Interior Wood stain

SamaN wood stain is a high-quality water-based stain that penetrates pine wood fibers to amplify its beauty and protect it from harsh elements.

It is also odorless, eco-friendly, and risk-free for the health of its users and their pets. Since it is water-based, this product is easy to apply even for first-time woodworkers.

The selling point of this stain is that you do not need to apply a wood conditioner before using it, but it doesn’t work so well with pine.

From our tests, SamaN interior wood stain performed better on pine boards we conditioned before staining.

SamaN wood stain does not leave overlapping marks, thus guaranteeing you a flawless finish on pine.

It also comes in 40 colors, which you can mix as you like to get any custom shade you like.


  • It is water-based; hence it is easy to apply.
  • It is odorless.
  • It is eco-friendly.
  • It comes in different mixable colors.
  • It is easy to clean up after use.


  • It only lasts long indoors.’
  • It is a bit costly
  • It covers most of the grain, which isn’t good if you want to go more natural.

Varathane Fast Dry Wood stain

Varathane is an oil-based stain, but unlike other oil stains, it dries fast.

Manufacturers enhanced it with high-performance nano-pigment particles that give wood grain an intense hue, which is excellent for darkening light-colored pine.

Since it is oil-based, the color that this Varathane stain leaves on your pine will depend on how long you allow it to sit on the surface.

The standard procedure states that you should wipe off excess wood stain a minute after applying it to give you a safely average color.

However, you can leave it on the surface for a few more minutes if you want the color to be darker.

You can apply Varathane wood stain for all your interior projects like staining furniture, cabinets, trims, and paneling.

You can also use it for outdoor applications but ensure that you do not keep your pieces in direct sunlight to maintain the stain.


  • It is easy to apply despite being oil-based.
  • It dries up quickly.
  • It produces the best dark color for pine wood.
  • It has ample UV protection.


  • It becomes sticky to touch after drying a little
  • Sometimes it can be hard to achieve the exact shade you want.

Minwax Penetrating Wood Finish

Minwax Stain is an oil-based finish that penetrates pine wood to give it a beautiful color and enhance its natural grain.

It penetrates the wood grain in as little as five minutes and dries in two hours, allowing you to finish your projects quickly.

However, you can leave it on the wood for as long as 15 minutes if you want the color to be darker.

This formula is easy to apply with a cloth or a brush, and you only need two coats at most to get the results you want.

It also resists lapping, guaranteeing you a flawless finish without blotches.

Minwax penetrating stain has more than 20 colors giving you endless choices to achieve your desired look.

Moreover, unlike some low-quality stains, the final color you get with this product looks exactly like what’s on the container.


  • It is easy to apply
  • It is available in several colors.
  • It dries quicker than most oil stains.
  • Its color turns out precisely as it is on the container.
  • It enhances the grain intensity without taking away pine’s natural beauty.


  • It is costly
  • The drying time increases when you use it for indoor projects.


The most beautiful wood species are always in high demand, making them quite expensive.

For this reason, most woodworkers resort to creative methods to get cheaper and readily available woods to look like the premium types without spending a lot of money.

One of the most coveted and expensive wood types is oak, with its prominent wood grain and golden color. Woodworkers often try to learn How to Stain Pine to Look Like Oak to give their pieces a feel of premium look without breaking the bank.

The secret to staining pine to look like oak is to sand the wood, condition it to accept the stain evenly, then apply 2-3 different oak stains, starting with the darkest to the lightest shade.

The first dark stain will make the pine grain more prominent than the lighter ones will bring out the classic beige color of the oak.

Thank you for reading this article, and I hope this guide was clear enough. If you need me to clarify anything or have tips and tricks to share with us, feel free to leave a comment below.

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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