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I am handlaying my track (250 on cedar ties) and have not had any problems with ties coming loose, or paint flaking off after the rail has been placed. I spray a coat of Krylon Camo brown and then spike away. I don't use a jig as I look the random look of the ties. Most wood tie main lines are pretty equally spaced, but the branch lines, and yards are vary quite a bit on tie spacing. I've got over 200+ layed for 3 years now and have suffered no major problems other then ballast washing out with the rain. Next time I'm going with a concrete roadbed instead. My ties and rail don't seem to move much in the summer, but I can notice the gaps in the rail this winter. Nothing to major, with no gaps larger than 1/16th of an inch or so. 
 As for tie stain, I've used black leather shoe polish duilted 50/50. It doesn't seem to last to long, so I won't recommend it, but it looks like a very dark tie stain. 
When you've master handlaying track, next up is turnouts. I've made both #4 and #6's with precast frogs and points. I do use a jig for the turnouts as the tie spacing needs to be more accurate and I also use 8 spikes per tie.
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