Minwax PolyShades is a blend of an oil-based polyurethane and a stain, so there's no need to apply two separate products when you wish to tint the wood on your latest DIY project. It's made for both bare wood and previously sealed wood surfaces, and applying it requires a natural-bristle brush or a foam brush. The surface preparation varies, however, for bare wood and previously coated wood.
Preparing Bare Wood
Minwax recommends sanding in the direction of the wood grain with a fine-grit sandpaper, such as 220 grit, to smooth the surface and remove any foreign substances, such as glue residue. Wipe off the dust with a tack cloth or a microfiber cloth.
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To ensure the stain soaks into the wood, Minwax suggests treating it with an oil-based wood conditioner, especially if the wood is soft or porous, as is the case with pine, a common wood for all sorts of DIY and construction projects. Minwax Oil-Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner emits harmful fumes, so only work in a well-ventilated area, ideally outdoors, and afterward, deposit the brush or rag into a metal can filled with water to prevent combustion.
Apply the conditioner with a disposable paintbrush or lint-free cloth following the direction of the grain and with the project piece set atop a plastic tarp. Let the coating sit for five to 15 minutes and then wipe off any excess using a clean, lint-free cloth. Apply the PolyShades within two hours for best results.
Both bare wood and previously sealed wood must be absolutely clean before using PolyShades.
Applying Minwax PolyShades
Cover the area beneath your project piece with a plastic tarp or drop cloth. Open and stir the PolyShades and then dip a natural-bristle brush or a foam brush into the can, wiping off any excess inside the can rim. Apply a thin coat to the wood, overlapping strokes slightly in the area you've just worked to ensure that wet polyurethane overlaps wet polyurethane rather than applying a new row over an area that's already starting to dry. This helps prevent marks in the finish.
Once you've coated the entire surface, go over it again with the brush, this time without dipping it back into the PolyShades. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle and just lightly touch the wet surface coating with it, which helps remove any bubbles. Allow the coating to dry for at least six hours or longer if it's humid. When it's dry, go over it with #000 or very fine steel wool and then wipe off the surface with a lint-free cloth.
Apply a second coat of PolyShades following the same process and allowing ample drying time. If the project still needs more tint after the second coat, apply a third, which protects the surface even more. As with the rags and brushes used for the wood conditioner, deposit any materials with PolyShades residue on them into a water-filled metal container for safety.