I wouldn't stain a piece of soft wood (esp. pine) without first applying Minwax Wood Conditioner. Follow the directions and do several tests with different stains and/or mixtures to get your color right. You will need to use a darker stain with the conditioner than you would without to get the same color so only buy the darker color samples to experiment with. Using the conditioner really evens out the color. You don't get those really dark blotchy areas as much from the really pourous areas. To me, pine stained without it looks like, well, stained pine. Pine stained with it looks more even and rich, not at all like some "cheap-assed-welfare-furniture-you bought from Joe's unfinished furniture barn.