Wood Staining using Tea

I started work on a table-top lamp shade. I intend to make it with wood exposed on the top while the sides are covered using paper. The wood that I used for making the frame of the lamp is no-name cheap wood available at the corner wood working shop. It is also very light in color and so I decided to color it. There were two choices, to paint it over or to stain it. Painting it would have taken away the charm of the wood and I really like the wood grain to show thru. So I decided to stain it.

Since the surface of the wood was not very large, coupled with my inexperience in staining the wood using laakh-dana or commercial wood stains, I searched around the internet for something which I could use from household things. I found one article (link is pending) about using tea leaves to stain the wood. I decided to use the same as it appeared easy and non-messy.

It turned out to a wonderful golden brown and after varnishing the piece, it looks amazing.


Only the top is stained and varnished, the sides will be covered with paper. I stained one side (in foreground) just to check the surface and the unstained light colored wood is visible in the background of the frame.

Here’s how you can use tea leaves for staining wood.

Based on the surface to be covered you can estimate the amount of liquid which will be required. I figured that half a cup will suffice as the surface to cover was not very large. Take around four times the quantity of water. So I took two cups. Put in 2-4 tea bags and cover the container so that water does not evaporate. Taking the benefit of the harsh sunny summer, I put the container in the sun for a day. The water had turned brown black because of the tea leaves by evening. Now, boil the water in an open container along with the tea bags till the water reduces to around one fourth the quantity, leaving you with the desired amount of tea colored water. Let the liquid cool before you use it on wood. It will be dark brown in color and slightly thicker then, say, tea.

Instead of leaving the water out in the sun for a day you can directly go to the boiling process but then you should start with some more amount of water as it will require extra boiling to reach the desired strength.

Sand the wood with emery papers number 120 or 160 till you get a smooth finish. Clean the surface with a cloth and check that the desired smoothness is achieved. Now, apply the brown liquid using a brush in even strokes. Make sure you do not apply too much in one go as it can give patchy results. Instead, go quickly thru the entire surface and let the wood dry. Do not worry about not getting the required darkness in the first coat itself. Instead let the wood dry before applying the next coat. You can apply as many coats as you want but make sure to let the wood dry out in between the coats. I applied 3 coats to reach the shade I wanted.

Once the wood has dried out, apply a thin coat of clear varnish. After the varnish has dried out, sand the surface using 160 number emery paper and apply a second coat. I found that the surface was not very smooth after the first coat but was quite smooth to touch once the second coat had dried out.

I did not use any wood fillers or chalk-putty on the wood and hence not sure how it will take to the tea-water. So you may want to test on a side before you go ahead on the whole surface.

How is it looking? Have you tried using tea or any other non-traditional stuff to stain wood? Do let me know about your experience.



About Writer

Being based in India, I will focus primarily from that perspective.
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One Response to Wood Staining using Tea

  1. Pingback: A handmade Table Light for a gift « woodenmint

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