What is Ashwood and How to Stain it

Ashwood is among the most famous hardwoods in homesteads. You will find it in kitchen cabinets, food containers, flooring, furniture, and on the handle of most garden accessories.

The lumber originates from ash trees, featuring a light brown to beige hue. Thus, most woodworkers stain it to resemble Oak and use it as a low-cost option.

Further, staining Ashwood gives it stunning hues to suit multiple decors. But despite having nearly all the premium oak features and being affordable, users still wonder, Does Ashwood Stain Well?

Absolutely! Ashwood stains pretty well. It accepts any stain color effortlessly, thanks to having large pores.

Furthermore, basic oil wood stains soak uniformly through the lumber and do not deliver a blotchy result like many other wood types.

Ashwood also stains evenly without losing its beautiful texture and grain. Even better, some stains accentuate this beauty, resulting in a masterpiece.

There is much to learn about Ashwood, staining and painting it, and maintaining the surface for added durability. Hence, this article discusses everything you should know when handling this lumber.

What Is Ashwood?

Image of Ashwood Furniture. But Does Ashwood Stain Well
Ashwood Furniture

The term ash comes from ‘spear,’ a reference to the tree’s spear-shaped leaves. Moreover, the ancients used this wood for weaponry.

The word is tied to multiple legends. For instance, Norse mythology refers to the plant as ‘The World Tree.’

In this story, the first man came from Ash; thus, burning the Ashwood as a Yule log guaranteed a prosperous year.

Fraxinus, Ashwood’s scientific name, shows it belongs to the olive family tree.

Also, we have dozens of Ash trees native to North America, whereas White and Green Ash trees are the most prevalent in Vermont.

While most wood users think ‘hardwood’ refers to its density or durability, the term points to the wood’s tree type.

The lumber is hardwood if it originates from a dicot tree, usually a broad-leafed plant variety.

On the other hand, wood is softwood when it originates from a gymnosperm tree, usually a conifer. 

So, Ash is hardwood, similar to Oak, Maple, Walnut, and Cherry, while some contrasting primary softwood types include Pine, Cedar, and Fir.

You can also determine Ashwood’s durability using the Janka Test.

The procedure involves pressing a steel ball into the lumber until it is halfway embedded. Then, measure the force used.

White Ashwood, commonly used in furniture pieces, measures 1,320 on the Janka metric.

This score falls below White Oak and Maple, sitting at 1360 Janka and 1,460 Janka, respectively. 

However, the wood tops Walnut, Cherry, and Red Oak, making it a durable option for fine furniture.

Generally, Ashwood is light-colored and has a smooth grain. It is a typical hardwood native to the East Coast and some Canadian regions.

In addition, Ash is a beautiful alternative for fine furniture pieces, thanks to its typical straight grain and light brown or beige hue. 

The wood is also among the most durable varieties and boasts an extensive history in American furniture work.

Further, the material is lightweight, aesthetically appealing, durable, and absorbs stains excellently.

Its lightweight and shock resistance attribute makes it a favorite for tool handles, baseball bats, and restaurant furniture.

Ashwood is currently making a splash in household furnishings and the woodworking sector, particularly in the mid-century modern trend.

However, unlike most trees with distinct color variations between the trees sapwood and heartwood, it isn’t easy to draw the line for Ashwood.

The lumber is pretty light and tends to adopt various beige shades that darken slightly over time.

We have different Ashwood types, each having its unique characteristics. Below are the most famous varieties.

  • European Ash (Fraxinus Excelsior)

This hardwood comes from the ash tree. It is sturdy, stiff, and heavy, making it perfect for flooring, furniture, hockey sticks, and baseball bats.

European Ashwood has a light brown hue and a straight or slightly wavy grain.

The lumber is also resistant to insect damage and rot, enhancing its longevity. Even better, you can stain or paint it effortlessly for added durability.

However, European Ashwood is expensive and challenging to find in North America.

  • Blue Ash (Fraxinus Quadrangulate)

This Ashwood species originates from North America. It grows to 30 to 40 feet tall and features a blue-gray bark.

The plant’s flowers are greenish-white, whereas the fruits are brownish-black seeds found in clusters.

In addition, its leaves are opposite and pinnately compound with seven to nine leaflets.

Blue Ash is hardwood, meaning it’s sturdy, heavy, and challenging to handle. However, it still tops woodworkers’ preference list for cabinetry, furniture, and flooring.

And they also use it for smoking meat and making charcoal.

The lumber’s benefits include its durability and resistance to insect infestation and rot. It stains well and is thus perfect for multiple projects.

Unfortunately, the downside is that the lumber is quite heavy, making it hard to operate and carry. Also, it is rare and hence expensive.

  • Black Ash (Fraxinus Nigra)

This wood type is famous for manufacturing furniture and related wood products. Further, it is perfect for firewood.

Black Ash features a black to dark brown hue with a fine-grain structure. It is also dense and hard, making it impressively durable.

The surface is easy to handle and receives finishes well. Therefore, you can comfortably use it in various applications.

Also, the tree is native to Canada and the Eastern United States. It matures in 20 to 30 years and grows up to 100 feet tall with a three-foot trunk diameter.

Although Black Ash is hardwood, which is denser and sturdier than most softwoods, it is weaker than some hardwood types. 

The material is also vulnerable to insect damage and rot. Therefore, it is not as strong as Maple or Oakwood.

  • Green Ash (Fraxinus Pennsylvanica)

This Ashwood category is perfect for cabinetry and furniture. Besides, its incredible strength and durability deliver high-quality wood products.

Green Ash is convenient to handle, making it ideal for professional and amateur woodworkers. It also features a straight grain pattern, giving your workpiece a sleek, modern appearance.

However, Green Ash is expensive and rare. Therefore, it is unsuitable for some woodworkers.

  • Oregon Ash (Fraxinus Latifolia)

This hardwood type originates from the Oregon Ash tree. Further, the plant is native to the Western U.S. but exists in California, Idaho, and Oregon.

Oregon Ashwood boasts durability and strength, making it ideal for flooring and furniture projects. It is also easy to operate. So, you can drill, sand, and cut it effortlessly.

In addition, this lumber type features a lovely grain pattern and an extra interest level in home decor.

But Ashwood is not as decay and rot-resistant as other hardwood types. As a result, it is not ideal for outdoor projects or home areas prone to moisture and water exposure.

Also, the surface is vulnerable to insect damage. Thus, please take protective measures against pests.

  • White Ash (Fraxinus Americana)

This Lumber is the widely used Ashwood type. Besides, it is durable and sturdy, delivering excellent furniture and flooring projects.

White Ash has a slight grain pattern and a light brown hue. In addition, it grows in North America and can reach a 100-foot height with a three feet trunk diameter.

Unfortunately, although this lumber is the hardest and heaviest of the Ash varieties, it is not decay- or insect-resistant. Thus, consider staining or painting it for added longevity.

  • Pink Ash (Alphitonia Petriei)

You will find Pink Ash in multiple cabinetry and furniture works. Moreover, the lumber delivers successful projects thanks to its strength and durability.

This Ashwood derives its name from its pinkish color, which adds an elegant touch to your work. Further, it is among the heaviest wood types, making it perfect for extensive furniture pieces.

  • Olive Ash

This Ashwood type originates from the olive tree. It is dense and tough, making it excellent for flooring and furniture.

Olive Ash also features a lovely grain pattern, ranging from straight to wavy, and its colors vary from light to dark brown.

But there is a downside: the lumber is challenging to handle due to its high density. In addition, it is vulnerable to cracking and warping with poor maintenance.

  • Pumpkin Ash (Fraxinus Profunda)

This Ashwood variety comes from the Pumpkin Ash tree. It originates from Eastern U. S. and North America and matures in 20 to 30 years.

Pumpkin Ashwood gets its name from its orange-brown color, resembling a pumpkin. In addition, the plant grows up to 100 feet with a three feet diameter.

Further, this lumber type is sturdy, durable, and famous for flooring, furniture pieces, and home construction.

Pumpkin Ashwood is resistant to insect damage and rot. It stains well and features a beautiful grain structure, making it a perfect alternative for cabinetry.

Interestingly, this wood type works perfectly in boat and watercraft construction, thanks to its warping resistance tendencies.

It also imparts a sweet, mild flavor and is thus excellent for smoking meat.

But the Ashwood’s hardness and density make it challenging to handle. In addition, it is vulnerable to splintering and discolors in direct light.

As a result, please avoid it for outdoor projects.

  • Tamo Ash (Fraxinus lanuginosa)

Typically, Tamo Ashwood comes in handy in furniture and wood products construction. It guarantees strength, durability, and a unique grain pattern.

This lumber variety is among the popular woods used in constructing musical instruments like violins and guitars.

Moreover, Tamo Ash is rot and pest-resistant, guaranteeing successful outdoor, boat, and watercraft projects. It is also easy to operate, receiving stains and paints well.

Lastly, the wood’s surface features a light brown and slightly pinkish hue. Hence, it is easy to identify.

Going back to previous years, Ashwood has always been a primary part of people’s lives. Besides, early cultures utilized it for everything from wagons to weapons.

Some users even believed the wood had spiritual and healing properties and could bring prosperity.

The above may not be the case today, but Ash remains useful in cabinets, flooring, sports equipment, furniture, tools, and weapons.

Usually, Ashwood has a straight grain, but the tree’s growing conditions create unique patterns.

For instance, if the plant strains or succumbs to a pest, you will see the impact on the grain’s appearance.

This type of structure brings the term ‘figured wood.’ And as a result, you’ll see a birdseye or curly grain.

Finally, Spalted Ash is famous among artisan furniture designers. But please note that figured lumber is more challenging to find than straight-grained varieties.

Pros and Cons of Staining Ashwood

Typically, staining Ashwood involves adding a stain top coat to the surface. Some of the benefits of the practice include

  • A Stain Penetrates the Wood Grain

Quality wood stains penetrate the grain, preventing water from soaking into the lumber fibers. So you don’t have to worry about moisture damage and rotting.

In addition, staining Ashwood and adding a top transparent coat is an excellent way to protect wood siding, doors, and window frames.

The exercise also minimizes maintenance costs, as you only need to maintain the topcoat.

  • It Showcases the Wood’s Grain, Color, and Texture

Wood stains are available in multiple hues, including transparent, semi-transparent, and solid. 

Also, we have some transparent formulas with increased options for tinting with other products. Therefore, you can easily choose how much wood grain you want to showcase.

Unlike painted wood, stained surfaces fade over time instead of peeling. So, you only need to scuff the surface before recoating.

  • Applying a Stain Highlights the Beauty of the Wood

Choosing the correct finish for Ashwood helps enhance its natural beauty rather than masking it.

Moreover, staining the surface is a perfect way to enhance the deck’s appearance. The finish does not peel like paint.

Unfortunately, staining Ashwood has some drawbacks to consider. They are

  • The Stain Finish Only Lasts a Few Years

Although some stain coats last up to five years, postponing re-staining your workpiece for too long is risky. For example, the stain job becomes more complex and labor intensive.

In addition, even stripped and re-stained decks need frequent maintenance to remain in good shape.

  • Wood Stain Is Less Predictable than Paint

Unfortunately, staining Ashwood needs a more experienced applicator, as wood stains are less predictable than paints.

For instance, you need more tests to ensure that the project delivers the desired effect. Otherwise, you may realize the finish is off when it’s too late.

  • Certain Ashwood Types Do Not Hold Stains Well

Tropical hardwoods are too dense to accept stains well. Hence, it would be best to use a two-coat deck formula.

Also, these wood types need a slightly different sanding technique. Thus, please hire a professional.

How to Stain Ashwood

Ashwood is perfect for staining applications with the correct tools and knowledge. So, here is a detailed list of recommended supplies and procedures to guarantee a successful finish.

The project materials include:

  • 220-grit paper
  • Drop cloth
  • Hand gloves
  • Applicator (Lint-free cloth or paintbrush)
  • Preferred wood stain
  • Tack cloth or rag

Next, the procedure is as follows:

  • Prepare the Work Area

The first step is to ventilate the working space for indoor projects. Open the door and windows to increase airflow and turn on the dehumidifier.

Alternatively, you can work outdoors for maximum air circulation. But this option is only possible when working on a movable workpiece.

Also, lay down plastic sheeting or drop cloth to protect the floor or surrounding area from accidental spills.

You never know when you’ll spill something. So, the plastic sheeting will collect the drips.

  • Clean and Sand the Surface

Clean the workpiece, whether wood furniture, a wood piece, or cabinetry. The process removes grime and dirt accumulated over time.

But still, you can go straight to sanding the wood if it is clean enough.

  • Sand the Wood

This step requires 220-grit sandpaper. Please avoid using finer sandpaper as it scratches the wood, destroying its beautiful wood grain.

Sand the lumber gently and evenly, covering the entire surface. Further, please be moderate with it.

You can attach sandpaper on a sanding sponge for manual sanding or utilize an orbital sander for more extensive projects.

Lastly, remember that the choice of sanding accessory depends on the project’s size and the wood’s nature.

For example, an orbital sander may not cover some nooks and crevices, like under the deck’s railings.

  • Clean the Sanding Dust and Let the Wood Dry 

Use a damp or tack cloth to wipe away the wood dust. However, please avoid leaving debris on the sanded area when using a rag.

In addition, wring out as much moisture as possible. Otherwise, the water raises the wood grain and compromises the smoothness.

After wiping the wood, please leave it to dry before applying the stain coat.

  • Apply the First Stain Coat

First, knowing what stain type matches the surface is prudent for fulfilling the staining purpose.

Next, always use a clean, lint-free cloth to apply the stain or a natural-bristled paintbrush.

But the most critical step is not how the formula gets onto the wood but how the excess formula gets out. 

Further, by this instruction, we mean it’s crucial to wipe the product before it dries and becomes sticky.

Therefore, saturate the applicator with the formula and rub it uniformly across the wood, whether you use a rag or paintbrush.

Also, remember that the goal is to deliver uniform coverage all over the workpiece.

For the application strategy: dip the staining accessory in the stain can and apply it over the lumber. The formula’s pigments soak into Ashwood’s large pores, creating a deep dark hue.

A thin stain coat delivers a lighter color, whereas a thick layer guarantees a deep hue.

So, please consider multiple thin coats as they are easy to dry and highlight Ashwood’s beautiful grain.

Also, follow the wood grain direction when removing the excess formula. How well you adhere to this directive influences the project’s quality.

After application, leave the stain on the surface for at least five minutes if you want a darker finish. 

Oppositely, wipe the excess formula immediately after application if you want a lighter, more natural appearance.

Finally, the average wait duration is five to ten minutes. But water-based stains may dry more quickly than oil-based alternatives.

Therefore, consider the weather and the product’s drying behavior for accurate results.

  • Let the Ashwood Surface Dry Completely

Different stains feature varying drying durations. Therefore, read the product label for accurate recommendations.

In addition, most wood stains are dry and ready for recoating in one to two hours. So, inspect the wood afterward and see if it needs more color.

Unfortunately, a wet surface eventually destroys the wood and compromises the finish. Hence, please be patient and let it dry thoroughly.

  • Add Another Stain Coat if necessary, and Let it Dry

Apply the second stain layer after the wood completely dries. Further, the formula penetrates through Ashwood’s large pores within fifteen minutes.

Next, give the surface about 24 hours before finishing.

Similarly, add more stain coats until the surface reaches the desired color.

Also, go for more layers for deeper hues and fewer coats for lighter results. Only ensure the wood dries well between applications.

Often, you need at least eight hours before adding a top coat. But you are safer waiting 24 hours.

  • Seal the finished ash wood

Applying a protective coat on the stained surface is advisable. It locks the stain color and protects the workpiece from wear and tear. As a result, you guarantee a durable project.

Fortunately, Ashwood works excellently with multiple finishes, such as regular nitrocellulose lacquer.

But polyurethane or varnish is more advantageous when handling kitchen cabinets or ash furniture.

Here’s How to Stain Ashwood:

Best Stain for Ashwood

Thankfully, Ashwood absorbs any stain color evenly throughout the surface.

However, ensure that the lumber’s undertone matches or complements the finish perfectly. Otherwise, you may deliver an older or bad appearance.

In addition, Ashwood features a beige to light brown undertone and a straight, attractive lumber grain. Hence, pick the most compatible stain matching the lumber’s color.

Below are some recommended stains for Ashwood in the market.

  • General Finishes Oil-based Gel Stain on Ashwood

This oil-based gel formula is among the best Ashwood stain products. Besides, manufacturers specially design it to soak deep into the lumber’s fibers.

Generally, a gel stain avoids uneven application and spillage. Thus, you won’t have trouble delivering complete coverage or cleaning up later.

Although Ashwood is less susceptible to blotchiness, General Finishes Stain guarantees minimal streaks on the wood. In addition, the stain does not mask the wood grain’s beauty.

Further, sometimes Ashwood’s large pores can overly absorb lots of stain, leading to wastage. But gel stains limit the absorption and help you save on formula.

Lastly, use one coat to deliver a nice finish and three layers for a rich one. Then, give the formula at least eight drying hours and 

  • Varathane Classic Wood Interior Stain on Ash Wood

This classic interior stain is perfect for indoor Ash woodwork and furniture. It is easy to handle and soaks into the wood evenly, enhancing the wood grain.

Moreover, applying Varathane Classic stain guarantees a rich appearance. It also adds a lovely shade to the wood while protecting the surface from environmental elements.

You can clean the stain using mineral spirits to ensure uniform coverage. Also, two coats and a two-hour drying duration are sufficient for the desired finish.

  • Rust-Oleum Ultimate Stain on Ash Wood

This ultimate formula works well on Ashwood flooring due to its exceptional high-grade quality. It also features the fast-trying property, and one coat is enough for a satisfactory result.

Rust-Oleum stain enhances Ashwood’s natural grain without masking it. Moreover, it penetrates the lumber evenly without any issues.

This finish also delivers moisture resistance and seals the surface perfectly. So you are sure that the workpiece is safe from environmental defects.

  • Minwax Penetrating Wood Finish on Ash Wood

This Minwax product penetrates the lumber deeply and highlights the wood grain. As such, it is a famous option among woodworkers.

Also, it stains uniformly over the wood’s surface and does not mask the natural grain and pattern.

Ideally, two to three coats will deliver a unique color tone, whereas one coat keeps the hue lighter. But you can wipe the excess with mineral spirits if you think it’s too much.

Minwax Penetrating Wood Finish is perfect for new Ashwood workpieces and functions best with a sealer. Further, you only need a two-hour drying period before adding subsequent layers.

  • Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer on Ash Wood

This stain and sealer combination works best for Ashwood outdoor workpieces. It stains and seals the surface to deliver superior protection from the elements.

Therefore, you are sure of an improved wood tone with enhanced protection.

The above is why Ready Seal Exterior Stain is among the best stains for Ashwood projects.

Moreover, the product features a natural Cedar hue, among many other shades. So you can comfortably select the tone that matches or compliments the project.

A Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer product penetrate the Ashwood surface within minutes and stains uniformly. In addition, staining will not slow down due to temperature variations.

You also do not need to back-brush the finish. Therefore, it comes in handy when you’re working with a deadline.

Finally, stain reapplication is straightforward, as you do not need to strip or sand the wood. Moreover, two to three coats are sufficient to deliver maximum beauty and protection.

Does Ashwood Paint Well?

Ashwood paints well. Further, like other hardwood varieties, you can paint it with a latex formula and expect a professional finish. 

However, ensure you prepare the workpiece carefully before painting. Otherwise, the finish may last only a short time.

Once the wood is ready, you can paint it with your preferred latex-based formula.

How to Paint Ashwood

The first step is to get the correct supplies. They include a tack cloth, two paint brushes, two paint rollers, latex-based paint, a latex primer, 150-grit sandpaper, and a hand vacuum.

Next, check out the steps below.

  • Sand the surface with 150-grit sandpaper. Continue until the wood feels smooth and free of rough patches.
  • Clear the sawdust with a hand vacuum. Then, wipe the surface with a tack cloth to eliminate residual sawdust.
  • Apply a quality water-based primer using a roller or paintbrush and allow it to dry. Usually, the product needs one to two hours.
  • Apply the first paint coat in even and smooth strokes. Also, follow the wood grain direction to avoid brush marks.
  • Give the paint layer four to five hours of drying time. However, this duration shortens or lengthens depending on the paint brand.
  • Add the second paint coat to facilitate consistency and even coverage. Then, let it dry for four to five hours.

NB: Use a tinted primer when handling a dark-colored formula. It will also save you from doing the third topcoat.

Frequently Asked Questions

These questions include:

  • Is Ashwood Endangered?

Ash trees have thrived for centuries in North America. Some people even consider them to be ‘invasive’ as they can grow anywhere.

Unfortunately, a wood-boring pest, the Emerald Ash Borer, slipped into the country. Worse still, it is decimating ash tree populations.

An infected healthy ash tree only lives a few years. So, the government stepped in and quarantined ash trees, meaning you cannot transport them out of certain parts of the state.

However, despite the efforts to prevent the spread of these wood-boring pests, Vermont detected them in Mid-2018.

So, Ash trees are now ‘critically endangered, meaning they are at a higher risk of extinction in the wild.

Nevertheless, multiple agencies have united to eradicate the pest and protect Ash trees.

  • Is Ashwood Eco-Friendly?

The Ashwood used by woodworkers is sustainably harvested, meaning that users do not harvest it in an environmentally harmful way.

Moreover, the wood harvesters get as much local wood as possible. Hence, minimal transportation reduces the carbon footprint.

  • How Can I Distinguish Ashwood Furniture?

It is challenging to tell whether a furniture piece is from Ashwood. Besides, the lumber closely resembles Oak after staining.

In addition, multiple antique Ashwood pieces get passed off as being Oak. Even professionals mistake the two wood types when relying only on visual indicators.

As a result, purchasing Ash furniture from a reputable and experienced seller is advisable.

This way, you can guarantee the correct wood type. Otherwise, you may need to get a microscope and additional scientific knowledge.

  • Can Ash Wood Furniture Go Outside?

Ideally, wood furniture is not suitable for outdoor projects. Also, although it remains intact with regular care and maintenance, it degrades.

Further, Ashwood is among the least rot-resistant lumber species. Therefore, it is not an item to keep outside.

  • Is Ash Wood Easy to Stain?

Ashwood leads the list of easy-to-stain surfaces. It readily receives stains and lets the pigments penetrate its large open pores. Eventually, you get a beautiful finish effortlessly.

The wood’s open pores are evenly distributed across the surface. Therefore, you are sure of complete coverage without blotches.

Like Red Oak and other ring-porous lumber, stain pigments accentuates Ashwood’s pores. Hence, you can create any desired look.

Furthermore, you can expect the surface to accept any finish without compromising its grain pattern or texture.

Most DIYers and professional woodworkers prefer staining Ashwood to resemble Oak or deliver various stunning color shades.

Lastly, add a transparent coat to the stained surface to lock in the color. The exercise also enhances the project’s durability.

  • What’s the Correct Sandpaper Grit for Ashwood?

220-grit sandpaper works well with Ashwood. It opens up the pores enough to deliver a good finish.

In addition, you can also use 320- grit paper when expecting a lighter and more natural surface. But please avoid finer-grit papers as they block the pores.

Similarly, coarse grit sandpaper may leave unsightly scratch marks on the wood, compromising the final result.

  • Does Ashwood Need Wood Conditioner Before Staining?

Ashwood is among the most convenient materials to stain. Besides, it stains well and uniformly, delivering complete coverage without a wood conditioner.

Therefore, you do not need to wood condition the lumber before staining.

Furthermore, Ashwood’s open pore structure receives stains effortlessly without risking streaks and blotchiness.


Ashwood is ideal for furniture, flooring, cabinetry, and other woodworking applications. Its light beige to light brown color and straight grain give your workpiece a unique look.

Fortunately, the wood is one of the few surfaces that deliver a perfect stain finish. It does not lose the grain or texture.

Thus, woodworkers often stain it to resemble an oak surface or suit various decor colors.

Also, although Ashwood still looks gorgeous in its natural state, it is prudent to add a protective coat. So, check out the discourse above for an accurate answer to the question:

Does Ashwood Stain Well?

Ashwood stains well, thanks to its prominent straight-grain structure and large pores. Furthermore, the surface accepts various wood stains, delivering multiple lovely shades.

You can use basic oil and water-based stains as they penetrate the lumber uniformly. They create the desired shade without blotches.

Also, wood stains make the grain pop and do not conceal Ashwood’s natural attributes.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

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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