I'm sure that you will receive a number of replies to your question. Here's my take on it. First use a primer/sealer. It drys quickly that promotes even staining later on. After your sealer drys sand it with a fine grit paper (220 or so).
I do this because the primer sometimes releases stress in the wood causing the wood fibers to stand up.
Remember to rub down the work piece with a tack cloth before staining.
I have had bad results with paint-on stains. They tend to run. I now always use a staining pad and get good results.
I tend to let the stain dry completely then spray on a 'poly' finish. I like full gloss but that's my personal preference.
I haven't come across a local supply of Red Oak Stain and I usually settle for Golden Oak Stain.
Before you decide on a finish, stain, etc. Calculate the amount of sun the door will see and the UV and heat values. Many stains and finishes are UV darkening and some will bubble under constant sunlight.
Make sure you seal the end grain well. Red oak is an open grained wood and subject to moisture intrusion. We used red oak one time to make bubble pipes for some kids. You can actually blow through the end grain. Not so with white oak.
Hi Joe, my first suggestion is to stay away from Minwax stains, they have a sealer in the stain. Once you apply it you cannot lighten or darken it or make the grain stand out like oil stain will. Do all your sanding before staining, oil stain nor mineral spirits make the grain stand up on red oak, and the stain will seal the wood. Buy a quality oil stain in a darker tone/color than you want. Also purchase a gallon can of mineral spirits, apply the stain with a rag and leave it sit for a few minutes. Then use another rag soaked in mineral spirits and wipe the stain off until you get the tone/color you want. This also removes most of the oil from the stain. If it is not dark enough repeat the process until you get the color you want. You will find that this process makes the grain of the wood really jump with more contrast from light to dark grain. Be sure to let the door sit for a few days before applying your finish, so the stain can fully dry and this will avoid any bubbling. I would also suggest a poly topcoat, if it is an exterior door use a UV resistant (exterior) poly. I love Red Oak!!!
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