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Cool. Good luck. I've never tried to stain bark. That's a new one.

When finishing oak, if you're using a water-based stain, make sure and lightly sand your piece after it dries as the water will raise the grain. Normally, you'd wash the piece with water, dry and sand twice before finishing. Washing with water swells parts of the wood and makes them swell. Sanding takes it down, and doing this twice makes sure you won't have to sand after staining because that can sand off some of the stain. You can still do this after the first coat but then wet it again and sand before applying more stain.

On a related note, if you're looking to ebonize wood, turn it truly black, there's a description from one of the top chair makers in the world that is a bit laborious, but supposedly does an amazing job of turning even cheap poplar into ebony.

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/techniques/ebonizing_wood
 

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On my father's cane, which is made of maple with the bark still on, I only used a beeswax finish I made. It's equal parts boiled linseed oil, beeswax and turpentine. Gently heat the beeswax and very(!!) carefully add the warm (not hot!) beeswax to the linseed oil, turpentine mixture. Put in a glass or ceramic container you can seal, and let cool. I use it on a lot of stuff. Wipe it on, let dry for a while, wipe off excess (careful with those rags!) and then buff when fully dry. Won't work on really craggy bark, but for the smooth stuff, works quite well and gives a nice gentle sheen. Not really a waterproof sealer, but does give some protection, and is very easily re-applied. I use it on bare wood as well.

Some will add a little carnuba or harder wax than beeswax to the mixture to give a bit more protection than just beeswax alone. Up to you.

Just be careful about adding warm beeswax to a volatile liquid like turpentine or mineral spirits (the other option). You can also use tung oil instead of linseed oil. Your call.
 
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