99.9% of the time we DON'T use stain at all. Stain soaks into the wood to change the color of the wood. Stain does not seal the wood. Even if you use a stain on the wood you still need to varnish the wood to protect it. We don't like using stain because it soaks into the wood covering up the circle saw etching that were created when the wood was milled over 100 years ago and it hides the patina of the wood.
Typically we ONLY use an oil based spar urethane to varnish the wood. We use two coats of varnish, sanding the wood in between coatings, to seal the wood properly.
The reason our wood LOOKS like it is stained is because of the patina that occurs naturally over time. Patina can be described as a color ‘tarnish’ on wooden structures or items produced by age, wear, and exposure to natural elements; through age and exposure. If you are using new wood then you will not be able to achieve the colors and tones that we achieve with our old wood because our wood has been aging, for over 100 years.
There's no secret to how we achieve our wood coloring other than letting mother nature do her work naturally over a long period of time. This also means that not every board is going to be the same color. Sometimes even the same board will have different hues and colorings due to the aging process of the wood.
Sometimes we buy the wood, sometimes we go out and tear down an old barn or house, and sometimes we are blessed by someone that would rather see us use the wood than it being burned or ending up in the landfill. One thing is for certain, this is part of the equation that we don't have much control over, and we definitely lose sleep at night with the thought of running out of reclaimed wood. So far, we have been blessed and we have a warehouse full of reclaimed wood. Our advice, pray hard and be choosy when getting your wood. There's nothing worse than getting a load of wood only to realize that it's all rotten!