"Hand-Rubbed" Oil Finish
Staining can be an art-form and can be achieved by many different methods. Arrow Wood Finish can go over and bond to any kind of stain.
For most work, I recommend "Oil-based" stains. The reason for this is color control. If you use a "water-based" stain it is apt to give you a color right out of the bottle, but from that point on, it is hard to change. With oils, you can put on a light coat and rub it off quickly to achieve a lighter version of the color ... or add more coats or longer soaking time and the color gets darker and darker. I have found it easier to work the shade to what I want rather than trying to guess the exact shade of water based stain to choose.
Always let the stain you use, cure according to the manufacturers instructions before you apply Arrow.
Here is a nice trick if you have good figure in a piece to be finished. We want to SEE that grain, not hide it. Dry sand the raw wood farther and finer that you might normally do. There is now a smoother surface on the harder wood (the dark grain lines) than on the softer wood (the light lines between the dark ones). If you lightly stain the wood, it will reveal rather than hide the beauty of the wood.
For wood that won't take a stain, we have a suggestion for that too. Here is a scenario that I am personally familiar with to make this clearer. I had an old Marlin .22 that was in shambles. I was able to repair the bluing with Van's Instant Gun Blue. The receiver was aluminum, so I spray painted several very light coats of High-temp engine paint on it and now the metal was gorgeous!
The stock, however, had that old finish that you used to see on Glenfields and Marlins (and others) that when closely examined looked like an even brown finish, that had lighter yellowish dashes in it. It was supposed to look like wood grain, but if you have ever seen it, it said "CHEAP" at the top of it's lungs! Mine was in terrible shape, so I decided to strip it, stain the wood and then use Arrow to make it look great. Guess what? The reason for that silly finish was because the wood beneath it was as white as snow ... and would NOT take any stain evenly. I know, I tried them all!
An old Master Gunsmith straightened me out. That wood was kiln dried poplar. Hard as a rock, very light, and impossible to stain. He suggested LEATHER DYE. Wow! That set me off because my Dad was a Shoe Repairman and I was very familiar with "Phoebings Leather Dye". I got a bottle of brown and a bottle of oxblood (which is a redish stain that the older generation will remember). I stained the wood with the brown, wiped that off and immediately rubbed in the oxblood stain. After curing, I applied several coats of Arrow. The grain is slightly wide-spread (like in pine) rather than tight (like in walnut) but I have the most beautiful "French-Red" custom stock you have ever seen! It's still the cheap old stock the rifle came with ... but you'd never know it! Any wood that resists your efforts to get an even stain on - Try leather dye.
Another type of stain that is especially great for "Tiger Striped" maple is to use an acid. There are several that work that are available in woodworking shops (and a FEW paint departments), but I cheated. I sell a product with acid in it that stains your skin called "Arrow Brass & Copper Cleaner". I've used that to chemically "burn" the grain. Wipe that off and finish, and it really brought out those stripes.
Speaking of burning, a pencil torch can be used to create nifty effects on wood before finishing. Some use it to make false tiger-striping before finishing a black powder kit stock.
When using regular stains, heating the wood before applying the stain (with a hair-dryer) makes the stain soak in farther and get darker.
Another way to stain is the graduated method. If the current finish has been worn to a light spot, most stains will not adhere to it because the wood is still sealed. Rather than taking the finish down to raw wood and then staining it, you can do this. Take a small amount of Arrow Wood Finish and add a few drops of any oil based stain to it. Use it as you normally would. The Arrow Wood Finish will bond to any other finish so it can be used without stripping. When you apply a coat (with or without sandpaper) the stain that you put into the finish will bond to the surface of the existing finish. Each coat gets slightly darker as you are adding a bit more color every time. When the color is where you want it, if needed, you can always continue putting on coats with the wood finish straight from the bottle (without any stain in it).
In my personal opinion, the wood in most cases looks best unstained. But you can get any type of color you want by any method you want, and Arrow will bond to it permanently.