1. Never stain in bad lighting
2. Pick a location separate from the house, that is not underneath your neighbors' bedroom
3. If you start running out of stain, go buy new and DON'T scrape the bottom of the container (the pigment is a different color down there, which looks really bad when you're trying to touch up)
4. When sanding off your mistakes, check first that there's enough wood to sand
5. Wear gloves
We found that the more we did, the worse it looked. Finally on Sunday we called up some friends with some experience finishing furniture. They brought over a box full of power tools and plenty of moral support and got it all fixed up in exchange for a pizza.
The Studly Hubby on the first staining step, workin' hard..Don't worry, we pretty sure it's still going to be usable!!