Stain grade is any type of milled wood suitable for staining. It can be hard or softwood, and has been planed and sanded in preparation for finishing. When wood is milled, it passes through several stages. If the process is stopped at a certain stage, the wood is sold as rough, or paint, grade. If the milling process continues to the last stage, the wood is considered stain grade.
Mahogany is a common stain-grade wood. It is prized by craftsmen for its inherent red color and consistent straight grain. It is also soft enough for most saw blades to cut without any problems. Mahogany is usually processed to stain-grade quality for use by cabinetmakers, craftsmen and hobbyists. Luthiers (guitar builders) also prefer mahogany for musical instruments because of an inherent tone quality that mahogany renders to the instrument.
Furniture makers utilize stain-grade cherry to build freestanding items such as desks, credenzas and other pieces that sell for thousands of dollars. Cherry is an exclusive stain-grade wood that imparts a gentle soft glow to any furniture item. It has an inherent creamy amber color that is pleasant to the eye, imparting a certain ambiance that no other wood can match. Stain-grade cherry is semi-hard and easy to work with. It carves easy and has a pleasant odor when cut.
Walnut - although not requiring stain because of its brown color - is almost always sold as stain-grade wood. It is one of the softest and lightest of all the hardwoods and is probably used by more weekend craftsmen than all the other stain-grade woods. Walnut has the mystique and the workability that craftsmen love to build small jewelry boxes, larger hope chests, clocks and other small craft items that bring top dollar. Stain-grade walnut is stable and a pleasure to work with.
Stain-grade pine is in a class all by itself. Typical stain-grade pine - also sometimes refereed to as knotty pine - usually has lots of defects that give the wood character. Pine is usually not thought of as a wood that lends itself to fine furniture, but when stain-grade pine is used to build chests, tables or even cabinets, a rustic, cowboy atmosphere prevails over the project when finished. This under-used wood is affordable and perfect for craftsmen when it is milled down to stain-grade quality.