Oil Based Gel Stains

Gel Stain from General Finishes is home of the popular Java Gel Stain featured across the nation's social media for upcycling furniture and cabinets. Gel wood stains are heavy-bodied and do not penetrate as deeply into the wood as liquid oil-based wipe-on stains do, providing the deepest, richest colors of any oil-based stain available.

Need some inspiration? Visit the General Finishes Design Center or Pinterest Board for gel stain ideas.

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General Finishes Java Oil Based Gel Stain, Quart

Instructions

Step 1: Preparation for Gel Stain

All raw wood projects require preparation sanding before applying stain, and all existing finishes require prep cleaning and sanding. If you skip this critical step, your finish may fail.

Preparation for Raw Wood Projects
See our video: How to Prep Sand Raw Wood

  1. Prep sand with120-grit sandpaper followed by150-grit sandpaper. Do not over-sand with fine-grit sandpapers; this will close and seal the wood grain, preventing ideal color absorption.
  2. Remove the dust with a tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.
  3. Let dry completely before applying General Finishes product. 

Preparation for Projects with an Existing Finish
For high-use areas with heavy grime build-up and oil from hands, give your project a deeper cleaning.
See our video: How to Prepare Existing Finishes

  1. Scuff clean with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Dry 1-2 hours. Avoid cleaning with products containing phosphates (salt), which can linger in the substrate and produce a white haze. If your project requires a deeper cleaning, see Power Prep Cleaning Highly Used Existing Finishes below.
  2. Sand lightly with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.
  3. Remove the dust with a tack cloth or a water-dampened rag. 
  4. Let dry completely before applying General Finishes product.

Power Prep Cleaning Highly Used Existing Finishes
See our video: How to Power Prep Existing High Use Finishes for Stain or Paint

  1. Scrub clean with a detergent, such as Spic and Span or Dawn, using a Scotch Brite pad.
  2. Rinse well with water.
  3. Scrub clean with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Dry 1-2 hours.
  4. Sand lightly with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.
  5. Remove the dust with a  tack cloth or a water-dampened rag. 
  6. Let dry completely before applying General Finishes product.

Alternative Cleaning Solutions for Existing Finishes (Not as aggressive or effective as denatured alcohol; requires rinsing.) 

  1. 50:50 mix of bleach and water 
  2. 50:50 mix of vinegar and water
  3. Mineral spirits can be used when working with water-based products, but only if the surface is thoroughly rinsed and allowed to dry for 72 hours.

Step 2: How To Apply General Finishes Gel Stain

General Finishes Gel Stain Application Steps

  1. Stir the stain to reincorporate solids that have settled to the bottom of the can.
  2. Use only with adequate ventilation. Open windows and doors, or use other means to maintain fresh air flow during application and drying. 
  3. If desired, thin stain with 10-15% mineral spirits.
  4. There is usually no need for General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural to improve color uniformity. Gel Stain is loaded with pigments that provide deep uniform coverage.
  5. Test your complete finishing process before starting. The stain color is affected by variances in wood and deepened with the application of topcoat.
  6. Divide your project into manageable sections: top, side, drawer, door, table seam.
  7. Hand-Application over Raw Wood:
    • See our video on How To Apply Gel Stain to a Raw Wood Surface or illustrated instructions here.
    • Apply a slip coat of mineral spirits over the raw wood immediately before application to facilitate the flow of stain on the surface and reduce lap marks. (This is not a conditioner)
    • Working quickly, apply a LIBERAL coat using a natural bristle brush, foam brush, staining pad, pad applicator or foam roller. Gel Stain dries quickly for all the reasons customers love it: it is loaded with colorants and solids. If not enough stain is used, the surface may dry too quickly, causing an uneven appearance. On large surfaces, leave a wet edge between passes to prevent lap marks. We recommend getting a buddy to help apply the stain.
    • Stain your project section by section and wipe off the excess evenly with the grain using absorbent shop towels or open-weave cloths, such as cotton terry towels for larger projects. Check for missed spots and lap marks before moving to the next section. Do NOT use cotton t-shirts to wipe away stain because they will "push" the stain around and not absorb it.
    • Immediately correct lap marks by rewetting the entire working area with stain and wiping off the excess.
    • Pull excess stain out of corners and details with a bristle brush.
    • Let the stain dry 24+ hours in ideal conditions: 70*F/20*C, 50-70% humidity. Inadequate dry time is one of the top reasons for Gel Stain finish failure. You can tell if an oil-based finish is dry if it is no longer tacky, cool to the touch, and if you can press a cotton ball over the surface and nothing sticks. If in doubt, wait longer. Increase dry time if:
      • Humidity is over 80%
      • 3+ coats are applied (not recommended)
      • Thick coats are applied
      • Layering General Finishes water- and oil-based products:
        • Water over oil: Let oil-based products dry 72+hr before applying water-based products
        • Oil over water: Let water-based products dry 24+hr before applying oil-based products
      • If Gel Stain is tacky after 5 days, dry time requirements have not been met and it may never dry. The only alternative is to strip off the finish and start over.
  8. Optional: apply a second coat to deepen the color. Apply no more than 2 coats.
  9. Finish with 3 coats of General Finishes topcoat, letting each coat dry 72 hours.
  10. Dry Brushing Over an Existing Finish
    • See our video tutorials:
    • Prepare surface by scrubbing with a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water using a Scotch Brite Pad. Lightly sand with fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper. Wipe off dust with an oil-free tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.
    • Test your complete finishing process before starting. The stain color is affected by variances in wood and deepened with the application of topcoat.
    • Apply stain with a natural bristle brush or foam brush. Feather out uneven areas and pull excess stain from corners using a bristle brush. Discharge accumulated stain from the brush onto a paper towel soaked with mineral spirits as you work.
    • Let the stain dry 48+ hours in ideal conditions: 70*F/20*C, 50-70% humidity. You can tell if an oil-based finish is dry if it is no longer tacky, and cool to the touch. If in doubt, wait longer. Increase dry time if:
      • Humidity is over 80%
      • 3+ coats are applied 
      • Thick coats are applied
      • Applying over products from other brands
      • Layering General Finishes water- and oil-based products:
        • Water over oil: Let oil-based products dry 72+hr before applying water-based products
        • Oil over water: Let water-based products dry 24+hr before applying oil-based products
      • If Gel Stain is tacky after 5 days, dry time requirements have not been met and it may never dry. The only alternative is to strip the finish off and start over.
  11. Optional: apply a second coat to deepen the color. Apply no more than 2 coats.
  12. Finish with 3 coats of General Finishes topcoat, letting each coat dry 72 hours
  13. ​​​​​​Painting on Stain Without Wiping Away:
    • When painting on Gel Stain without wiping away, let the stain dry 72 hours between coats in ideal conditions: 70*F/20*C; 50-70% humidity.
    • Layering General Finishes water- and oil-based products:
      • Water over oil: Let oil-based products dry 72+hr before applying water-based products
      • Oil over water: Let water-based products dry 24+hr before applying oil-based products
    • If you are using General Finishes Java Gel Stain, General Finishes recommends using General Finishes Dark Chocolate Milk Paint instead of painting on Gel Stain. This Milk Paint color matches a solid application of Java Gel Stain, is much faster to apply, and offers easy water clean up.
       

Mixing Gel Colors

  • Gel stains can be intermixed to create custom colors.
  • Gel Stain can be mixed with no more than 10% Liquid Oil Stain is added by volume. The liquid stain will thin the stain, which may help it spread more easily but it will not have as much coverage. 
  • Gel Stain can be layered over other General Finishes water and oil-based stains. Allow for adequate dry time when layering water and oil products. See video tutorial: Can Oil and Water Based Finishes Be Applied on the Same Project 

Step 3: Topcoat Over Oil Based Stain

Always seal General Finishes oil-based stains with 3 coats topcoat to lock in the color. You can use either oil-based or water-based topcoat. When layering water-based and oil-based products, increase the dry time:

  • Water over oil: Let oil-based products dry 72+hrs
  • Oil over water: Let water-based products dry 24+hrs

DO NOT use General Finishes Enduro-Var Topcoat with oil-based products.


General Finishes Arm-R-Seal

  • Thinner consistency.
  • Oil-based.
  • Ambers.
  • Available in Satin, Semi-Gloss and Gloss sheens.
  • Because of its thinner consistency, Arm-R-Seal is easier to apply over large and detailed surfaces, such as kitchen cabinets.
  • General Finishes most durable retail topcoat and suitable for high-use areas.

General Finishes Gel Topcoat

  • Thick consistency.
  • Oil-based.
  • Ambers.
  • Available in Satin sheen. This satin is shinier than Arm-R-Seal satin.
  • Durable and suitable for high-use areas.

General Finishes High Performance or General Finishes Flat Out Flat Water Based Topcoat

  • Looks "white" in the can.
  • Drys clear.
  • Water cleanup.
  • Brush or spray.
  • High Performance is very durable and suitable for high-use areas.
  • Flat Out Flat is designed to look and feel like a wax finish; it is recommended for low-use projects.

Cleanup of Oil Based Products

Cleanup
Clean up application materials and hands with mineral spirits or waterless hand cleaner, like Goop or Gojo. 

Disposal
Take great care when disposing of product-soaked applicators. Application materials, such as brushes and towels, containing oil-based products may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately place all application materials soaked with this product in a sealed, water-filled metal container. Dispose of in accordance with local fire regulations. 

Spills
Clean up spills with mineral spirits immediately while wet. If oil-based finishes dry, they are difficult to clean off any surface, clothes or carpet. Carpet may discolor if cleaned with mineral spirits.

Prevention 
Protect your workspace with a tarp, your hands with gloves, and your clothes with an apron.

Storage of Oil Based Stains

Life of Product
General Finishes products do not last forever, even when unopened. They are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

Storage Tips
See our video: Tips on Storing Leftover Finishes
Oil-based products start to harden and cure when exposed to oxygen. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:

  1. Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal. 
  2. Keep lid closed while working. Decant what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work. Every minute the can is open, the product is curing.
  3. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Product in the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  4. Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
  5. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50*F/10*C or above 80*F/26*C. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to an open flame source such as a water heater or furnace.
  6. Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimizing oxygen exposure from within the can. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring. 
  7. Add Bloxygen To Sealed Product. Bloxygen is an argon gas system that prevents oxygen and moisture from hardening leftover product. Because Bloxygen gas is heavier than air, it sinks to the surface of the leftover finish, creating a barrier between product and air trapped in the container. 
  8. Decant leftovers to a smaller container when the finish is almost used up to reduce the volume of oxygen in the container. 


STORING MIXTURES

  • Mixtures involving colors & sheens within the same product line CAN be stored
    E.g., Java Gel Stain + Brown Mahogany Gel Stain
  • Mixtures involving different oil-based products should NOT be stored for later use. 
    E.g.: Gel Stain + Mineral Spirits (for thinning)
    Gel Stain + Liquid Oil-Based Stain
    Gel Stain + Gel Topcoat

Alternative Storage Containers

  • Glass Bottles that seal completely.
  • Do not store oil-based products in plastic bottles.

Gel Stain hardens faster than other products. It may soften slightly if a small amount of mineral spirits is added.  

Warnings and Warranties

Limited Warranty
General Finishes products must be tested to your complete satisfaction before using, including compatibility with other manufacturers products. General Finishes will be responsible only for the cost of our products and will not be responsible for any costs such as labor, damage, or replacement costs.

Contamination and Compatibility
Our finishes are engineered as a system and are compatible with each other. General Finishes cannot guarantee an ideal refinish when applying our products on top of or combined with another company's products or over surfaces that have been in contact with waxes, polishes or sprays containing contaminants such as silicone. Test for adherence and aesthetics before beginning. 

Danger: Contents are COMBUSTIBLE. Keep away from heat and open flame. Application materials or other waste soaked with this product may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately after use, place rags, steel wool or waste in a sealed, water-filled, metal container. Dispose of in accordance with local fire regulations.

CAUTION: Contains ALIPHATIC HYDROCARBONS. VAPOR HARMFUL. Use only with adequate ventilation. DELAYED EFFECTS FROM LONG-TERM OVEREXPOSURE. Contains solvents which can cause permanent brain and nervous system damage. Intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating & inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal.

Warning
If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log onto www.epa.gov/lead.

Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye and skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.

FIRST AID: In case of eye contact, flush thoroughly with large amounts of water for 15 minutes and get medical attention. For skin contact, wash thoroughly with soap and water. In case of respiratory difficulty, provide fresh air and call physician. If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. Get medical attention immediately. 

Warning
This product contains a chemical known to the State Of California to cause cancer and birth defects. Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye or skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.

Specifications

Basic Features
Product Colors American Oak, Antique Walnut, Black, Brown Mahogany, Candlelite, Colonial Maple, Georgian Cherry, Golden Pine, Gray, Java, New Pine, Nutmeg, Prairie Wheat
Base Type Oil
Interior or Exterior Interior only
Type Oil Based Stain
Application
Coats 1+ coats
Application Method Brush
Brushable Yes
Usable over existing finishes Yes - see product page application instructions.
Sprayable No
Dry Time
Dry Time - Touch Raw Wood (8+ hr), Existing Finish wipe-on (12-24+ hr), Paint on (12-72+ hr)
Dry Time - Recoat Raw Wood (24+ hr), Existing Finish wipe-on (48-72 hr), Paint on (72+ hr), Dry brushing (48+ hr.)
Contents
Can Sizes Half-Pints, Pints, Quarts, Gallons
Coverage 125 sq. ft/quart, 500 sq. ft/gal
Technical Data
Viscosity Very Thick
Viscosity (cPs) 1000-2000
Weight Solids 42%
VOC <550 g/L

Design Center

Videos

Colors

Gel Stains | Oil Based | Shown on Maple AND Oak

  • General Finishes New Pine Gel Stain on Maple
  • General Finishes Prairie Wheat Gel Stain on Maple
  • Nutmeg on Maple

FAQs

Oil Based Gel Stain FAQs

Do Gel Stains Require a Topcoat?

All stains need a top coat. Think of stain as the color and top coat as the sealer and protectant.

The high urethane content of General Finishes Gel Stains results in a lustrous finish that tends to fool people into assuming no sealant is required. The beauty of Gel Stain comes from thick thick urethane which can carry a LOT of color to any surface, but that color must be sealed in with top coat. An added bonus of top coat is that it also protects the wood from drying out.

Think of stain as the color and top coat as the sealer and protectant.

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Can GF’s Gel Stain be used outdoors?

Do not use General Finishes Gel Stain or any oil based finish outside where this direct exposure to water. If your furniture will be resting under a cover and not exposed to direct water, you may have a successful result. We recommend our Milk Paint or Exterior 450 products instead.

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How can I thin Gel Stain?

Gel Stain can be mixed with up to 50% Liquid Oil Stain but be aware that this will thin the viscosity. We recommend starting with 10% Liquid Oil Stain and testing to your satisfaction. Add more Liquid Stain as needed up to 50%. The mix will be thin and more translucent, but will not lose any of its properties for adhesion and curing.

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Will Gel Stains darken with another coat?

Yes, each layer will darken your project even more. You can also start with a lighter color Gel Stain, and layer on darker colors See step by step photo instructions on how to layer Gel Stain Colors on the GF Blog. Click on the first photo and follow along with this photo tutorial as we finish a walnut table with 1 coat of Java Gel Stain over Nutmeg Gel Stain. Completed with 3 coats of Gel Satin Topcoat. Table design by John Harryman.

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How can I lighten the color of the Java Gel stain I have applied?

It's always possible to darken a stained surface, but you cannot lighten a stained surface after the finish has dried. When the surface is still wet, you can try to lighten the color by scrubbing with mineral spirits. If the finish has hardened, you will need to sand down your current stain and start over or use one of our paints.

You can mix Gel Stains to create a custom color.

You can thin Gel Stain with 10-15% mineral spirits.

Always test our color on a hidden area of your project before beginning.

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Can I mix Gel Stains together to achieve other colors?

Yes, mix like products together at any ratio to make more color options. You can also mix with 10% GF liquid oil base stains to obtain a slightly thinner stain than the normal Gel Stain formula.

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How can I prevent Gel Stain from hardening in the can?

As the Gel Stain is used, the volume of stain in the can is displaced with air, causing the stain to start curing. Gel Stains harden up more quickly than liquid oil stains for all the reasons folks love them - the extra colorants and solids within the stain that provide such great coverage also harden up more quickly than other stains. During storage, the oxygen or moisture that's sealed in the container continues to cure and thicken your stored product, ruining the leftovers.Here are some tips to ensure your Gel Stain remains in great working condition.
  • Decant the amount of stain you'll need into a foil covered bowl and reseal your can right away. Every minute the can is open the stain is curing.  
  • Be sure to REALLY clean the chime and the lid of the can to assure a tight seal.  
  • Use Bloxygen to help remove excess oxygen from your can of finish to help preserve it longer. 
  • Store your sealed cans upside down. 
  • Transfer any unused stain to a smaller container once finished with your project or buy Gel Stain in smaller cans to begin with. 
  • Plastic Wrap??  Haven't tried it, but you get the idea! Anything to prevent contact with air is key. 
https://generalfinishes.com/retail-products/oil-base-wood-stains-sealers/oilbase-gel-stains#.VkjpXN-rRMM

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Can Gel Stain be applied over a high gloss paint finish?

Possibly but not recommended - the high gloss is an issue. Folks have successfully put Gel Stain on more surfaces than we ever dreamed of including fiber glass but if you want to proceed, TEST your procedure on the inside of a door first, let the door cure for 14 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc to see if the finish bonds to the surface. It might not adhere.

If you want to proceed with your project, the cabinets need to be sanded with 150-180 grit sandpaper before attempting to apply the Gel Stain. If you cannot achieve enough abrasion by sanding, apply a De-Glosser, available at any paint store. We think Milk Paint would be a better choice as paint is more flexible and tends to adhere well to many surfaces, but test to your satisfaction before proceeding. Milk Paint is available in Dark Chocolate, a very close color match to Java Gel.

More information about Oil Based Gel Stains.

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I just watched your video on dry brushing Gel Stain. Can I use ethynol alcohol instead of mineral spirits to keep the brush discharged during application?

Yes, but it will evaporate much more quickly so you will need to rewet the discharge pad more frequently. See the video below for how to update existing finishes using a dry brush technique.

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Can gel stain be used on ceramic tile around a fireplace?

Gel Stain is engineered for wood, but it has successfully adhered to more surfaces than we could have imagined. However, since tile cannot be abraded properly though sanding,  lasting adhesion may be difficult if not impossible. 

Milk Paint will have a better chance of adhering than Gel Stain. Dark Chocolate Milk Paint was created to match the color of Java Gel stain, for example. Both products are more likely to adhere if they are applied over a tile-appropriate primer. 

Contact a tile store for recommendations regarding a primer that can help finishes stick to ceramic tile. 

Even with primer, we cannot give any guarantees that the finish will adhere properly or last. Always test for compatibility between your primer and Milk Paint or Gel Stain before beginning.

If you choose to proceed, test your procedure on a hidden area first and let it cure for 7-10 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc. to make sure the finish bonds to the surface.

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Can Gel Stain be sealed with wax instead of top coat?

Wax can be used over Gel Stain, if you prefer. Just let the Gel Stain dry 24-48 hours before applying the wax. Note: wax is not a durable product. It needs yearly reapplication, will show daily use (finger marks and smudges) and may be very difficult to remove if a future topcoat application is desired.

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Can Milk Paint or Gel Stain can be used over laminate?

GF advises extra care and prep when applying any finish over laminate surfaces because they are specifically designed not to mar and therefore they are not very "sand-able", making adherence difficult. In addition to this non-permeable surface factor, Gel Stain is an oil based product, and it is more difficult to obtain proper drying characteristics over a dense manufactured surface such as laminate. Gel stains, as all wood stains, were formulated to go over raw wood which has an "open" surface and can absorb some of the stain.

Customers have reported the successful use of Gel products over laminates. 

HERE ARE TWO TECHNIQUES: 

  1. Using Dark Chocolate Milk Paint as a Base under Gel Stain (Dark Chocolate Milk Paint was formulated to mimic the color of Java Gel Stain)
  2. Several techniques using only Gel Stain/no paint or primer

SOME NOTES:

  • If you can abrade the surface by sanding, you will increase your chances of success. If you choose to proceed, test for adhesion on a hidden area of your project before getting started.
  • If you are applying GF Gel Stains over existing "sealed" finished wood or any impenetrable surface, TRIPLE OR QUADRUPLE the drying times of all the finishes used because the stain cannot soak into the surface.
  • De-glossers: GF does not recommend the use of a de-glosser as a REPLACEMENT for prep sanding and cleaning. They are sold by manufacturers that advocate that it is ok to cover up dirt and grime, which can create a problem. GF feels that appropriate cleaning and sanding delivers a better result and saves money. If you have physical issues with the labor of sanding, at least clean the project before using a de-glosser.

APPLYING GENERAL FINISHES MILK PAINT TO LAMINATE FOLLOWED BY GEL STAIN DRY BRUSH TECHNIQUE: 

  1. “Power clean” by scrubbing with a solution of water and a strong detergent such as Dawn or Spic & Span, using a Scotch Bright Pad. Rinse thoroughly. Then follow with a second scrubbing with a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water, also using a Scotch Brite pad. Let dry completely.
  2. Sand with a power sander. 150 grit followed by 180 grit sandpaper. (some users report using 220 grit sandpaper). Wipe off the dust.
  3. Apply XIM 400 White Primer Sealer Bonder (follow label applications instructions but let dry longer, 12 hours or overnight.)
  4. Apply 2 coats of Milk Paint allowing triple drying time. Use Dark Chocolate if you are trying to mimic the look of Java Gel Stain.
  5. Apply Java Gel Stain, and while still wet, immediately use a mineral spirit dry brush technique to create a wood grain effect. Dip a clean brush in mineral spirits and drag over the surface until you achieve the effect you want, continually discharging the excess stain. (Here is a good video demonstrating a dry brush technique here. Allow the Gel Stain to DRY 72 HOURS or longer if necessary.
  6. Seal with a topcoat, allowing extra dry time. In GF's finish line, you can use Arm-R-Seal (this topcoat ambers) over dark colors and High Performance over light colors.

APPLYING GEL STAIN DIRECTLY TO LAMINATE:

  • “Power clean” by scrubbing with a solution of water and a strong detergent such as Dawn or Spic & Span, using a Scotch Bright Pad. Rinse thoroughly. Then follow with a second scrubbing with a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water, also using a Scotch Brite pad. Let dry completely.
  • Sand with a power sander. 150 grit followed by 180 grit sandpaper. (some users reported using 220 grit sandpaper). Wipe off the dust.

You can apply Java Gel Stain several ways:

  • With a roller for a painted effect (from ABHall), painting on with a chip brush followed by pouncing with a plastic bag for a textured effect from Denise Wonders Beatty 
  • Brushing on followed by a mineral spirit dry-brush technique. See mineral spirits dry-brushing technique in this video
  • Apply a slip-coat of mineral spirits first using a chip brush to give you more open time. While the mineral spirits is still wet, paint the Gel Stain on using a chip brush. While the Gel Stain is still wet, GENTLY smooth out the surface with a folded blue shop towel going in the direction of the grain. Tip from Andrea Allred : Dry brush Gray Gel Stain on top the next day for a weathered look. 
  • Paint on two coats of Gel Stain, letting each coat dry 72 hours. Create the look of faux wood by sanding each coat lightly.
  • Allow the Gel Stain to DRY 72 HOURS. If it is still tacky and cool to the touch, let it dry for days. Let it dry, let it dry, let it dry. Lack of dry time over existing surfaces is the number one reason for Gel Stain failure!
  • Seal with 3 coats of topcoat, allowing triple dry time. In GF's finish line, you can use Arm-R-Seal (this topcoat ambers) over dark colors and High Performance over light colors.

*Note: here another issue with laminate countertops. When using fine wood finishes, water and spills must be wiped up in a timely fashion. If this a high use area near a sink, consider replacing the countertop instead. If this a low use area such as a bedroom dresser that needs a tune-up, you will be fine.

ADHESION TEST: 
Test your entire procedure (preparation to top coat) on a hidden area first and let it cure for 7-10 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc. to make sure the finish bonds to the surface.
FAQS are permanently archived at https://generalfinishes.com/faqs
 

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Should I use a coat of Gel Topcoat on raw wood to achieve an more even color before staining?

While Gel Stain can be applied over an existing finish, it was originally engineered for raw wood surfaces. We prefer applying the Gel Stain over a slip coat of mineral spirits instead of topcoat as shown in this video. (http://bit.ly/1WwDUQ1) 

The slip coat will reduce the drag and help the stain "glide on" easier. The other important technique shown in this video is to apply the stain liberally in sections and remove the excess quickly. Gel Stain is so pigment rich you will get an uneven application if you try to dab it on with a dry rag.

Applying over a layer of top coat is acceptable, but there are two big benefits of applying the stain directly to the wood or over a slip coat.

1) The beauty of the grain is highlighted. This effect will be greatly diminished if the stain is applied over an existing finish.

2) Less coats are required to obtain a dark color.

Preparation and application techniques along with dry time between coats are all different when applying Gel Stain over raw wood vs. an existing finish.

Dry time differences:

http://bit.ly/TZTLwL

 

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What is the best top coat to use over Gel Stains?

You can use any of our topcoats. In the water based line, use High Performance or Flat Out Flat. For oil based, use either Gel Satin or Arm R Seal. Gel is much thicker. Arm-R-Seal is much thinner, easier to apply and easier to apply to large projects than Gel. Always allow 72 hour dry time when apply water base products over oil based product.

More information on Oil Base Gel Stains

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How do I create a glaze with General Finishes Gel Stain?

Yes- just add 10% mineral spirits. You can add more mineral spirits, but test first. The mixture will thin out quickly.

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Can I use GF Dyes Stains under Gel Stains?

Yes, many professional finishers use Dye Stains to increase the depth of the grain, to even out color saturation, and to achieve deeper colors. Use Amber or Yellow for a golden glow under any gel stain.

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How can I prevent Gel Stain from hardening in the can?

As the Gel Stain is used, the volume of stain in the can is displaced with air, causing the stain to start curing. Gel Stains harden up more quickly than liquid oil stains for all the reasons folks love them - the extra colorants and solids within the stain that provide such great coverage also harden up more quickly than other stains. During storage, the oxygen or moisture that's sealed in the container continues to cure and thicken your stored product, ruining the leftovers.Here are some tips to ensure your Gel Stain remains in great working condition.
  • Decant the amount of stain you'll need into a foil covered bowl and reseal your can right away. Every minute the can is open the stain is curing.  
  • Be sure to REALLY clean the chime and the lid of the can to assure a tight seal.  
  • Use Bloxygen to help remove excess oxygen from your can of finish to help preserve it longer. 
  • Store your sealed cans upside down. 
  • Transfer any unused stain to a smaller container once finished with your project or buy Gel Stain in smaller cans to begin with. 
  • Plastic Wrap??  Haven't tried it, but you get the idea! Anything to prevent contact with air is key. 
https://generalfinishes.com/retail-products/oil-base-wood-stains-sealers/oilbase-gel-stains#.VkjpXN-rRMM

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Can I use denatured alcohol mixed with shellac to condition raw wood before applying Gel Stain?

Yes. Denatured alcohol is the solvent used in Shellac. A 50/50 mix is commonly used when conditioning wood before staining.

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How do I match putty wood filler to a dark stain?

Putty comes in two forms, pre-colored or as a stainable wood filler designed to fill minor imperfection such as nail holes, cracks, and gouges in the wood surface. Putty will display stain a bit differently than wood, so it is not a "perfect" fix, but a good one. The goal is to get the best possible color match to either the color of the raw wood or the color of your existing finish.

The easiest route is to buy a putty that is pre-mixed with color. Both Famowood and Timbermate make colors of putty in several shades. Famowood is available in both oil-based and water-based formulas. Timbermate is an interior grade water-based filler and comes in 13 premixed colors.

Be careful to note if you are buying a solvent (oil) based putty or a water-based putty. Either will work as long as you observe opposing dry times when switching from oil to water, and water to oil; just as you do with the finishes.

Water over oil: let oil dry for a minimum of 72 hours

Oil over water: let water dry a minimum of 24 hours

If you cannot purchase the right color match, you can tint the putty with stain to create a custom color.

  • Timbermate is a water-based putty and accepts stain mixing quite well. To darken water-based putty, use our water-based stains such as Espresso Water-Based Wood Stain or a dye stain.
  • Famowood is an oil-based putty. To darken oil-based putty, you can use a Gel Stain such as Java.

To use:

  • Prep sand your piece. If you are using with an existing finish, thoroughly prep clean and scuff sand your project first.
  • Press wood filler into defect
  • When dry, sand flush with surrounding surfaces after approximately 15-30 minutes, depending on temperature, depth of fill and whether the putty is oil or water based.

Finally, another good putty is Color Putty. They make both water and oil base versions in ready-made colors. This is a soft putty that can be used AFTER the project is finished to fill nail holes or small imperfections.

ALWAYS TEST filler, stain and finish combinations on a small area.

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I just watched your video on dry brushing Gel Stain. Can I use ethynol alcohol instead of mineral spirits to keep the brush discharged during application?

Yes, but it will evaporate much more quickly so you will need to rewet the discharge pad more frequently. See the video below for how to update existing finishes using a dry brush technique.

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Can GF’s Gel Stain be used outdoors?

Do not use General Finishes Gel Stain or any oil based finish outside where this direct exposure to water. If your furniture will be resting under a cover and not exposed to direct water, you may have a successful result. We recommend our Milk Paint or Exterior 450 products instead.

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Can Gel Stain be applied over a high gloss paint finish?

Possibly but not recommended - the high gloss is an issue. Folks have successfully put Gel Stain on more surfaces than we ever dreamed of including fiber glass but if you want to proceed, TEST your procedure on the inside of a door first, let the door cure for 14 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc to see if the finish bonds to the surface. It might not adhere.

If you want to proceed with your project, the cabinets need to be sanded with 150-180 grit sandpaper before attempting to apply the Gel Stain. If you cannot achieve enough abrasion by sanding, apply a De-Glosser, available at any paint store. We think Milk Paint would be a better choice as paint is more flexible and tends to adhere well to many surfaces, but test to your satisfaction before proceeding. Milk Paint is available in Dark Chocolate, a very close color match to Java Gel.

More information about Oil Based Gel Stains.

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Can Gel Stain be sealed with wax instead of top coat?

Wax can be used over Gel Stain, if you prefer. Just let the Gel Stain dry 24-48 hours before applying the wax. Note: wax is not a durable product. It needs yearly reapplication, will show daily use (finger marks and smudges) and may be very difficult to remove if a future topcoat application is desired.

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Can gel stain be used on ceramic tile around a fireplace?

Gel Stain is engineered for wood, but it has successfully adhered to more surfaces than we could have imagined. However, since tile cannot be abraded properly though sanding,  lasting adhesion may be difficult if not impossible. 

Milk Paint will have a better chance of adhering than Gel Stain. Dark Chocolate Milk Paint was created to match the color of Java Gel stain, for example. Both products are more likely to adhere if they are applied over a tile-appropriate primer. 

Contact a tile store for recommendations regarding a primer that can help finishes stick to ceramic tile. 

Even with primer, we cannot give any guarantees that the finish will adhere properly or last. Always test for compatibility between your primer and Milk Paint or Gel Stain before beginning.

If you choose to proceed, test your procedure on a hidden area first and let it cure for 7-10 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc. to make sure the finish bonds to the surface.

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Can I mix Gel Stains together to achieve other colors?

Yes, mix like products together at any ratio to make more color options. You can also mix with 10% GF liquid oil base stains to obtain a slightly thinner stain than the normal Gel Stain formula.

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Can I use denatured alcohol mixed with shellac to condition raw wood before applying Gel Stain?

Yes. Denatured alcohol is the solvent used in Shellac. A 50/50 mix is commonly used when conditioning wood before staining.

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Can I use GF Dyes Stains under Gel Stains?

Yes, many professional finishers use Dye Stains to increase the depth of the grain, to even out color saturation, and to achieve deeper colors. Use Amber or Yellow for a golden glow under any gel stain.

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Can I use interior wood stains outdoors if I coat with an exterior topcoat?

Interior wood stains are formulated for interior use and do not contain UV absorbers, mold retardants or HALS (Hindered amine light stabilizers used to protect the polymers from the effects of photo-oxidation.) Waterbased interior stains are much more likely to fail. You could try this look on an exterior door that will not receive a lot of sun, but be prepared for more maintenance than usual. It is not recommended. Everyone should note that all exterior finishes need to be maintained at some point - MOTHER NATURE wins the longevity war

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Can Milk Paint or Gel Stain can be used over laminate?

GF advises extra care and prep when applying any finish over laminate surfaces because they are specifically designed not to mar and therefore they are not very "sand-able", making adherence difficult. In addition to this non-permeable surface factor, Gel Stain is an oil based product, and it is more difficult to obtain proper drying characteristics over a dense manufactured surface such as laminate. Gel stains, as all wood stains, were formulated to go over raw wood which has an "open" surface and can absorb some of the stain.

Customers have reported the successful use of Gel products over laminates. 

HERE ARE TWO TECHNIQUES: 

  1. Using Dark Chocolate Milk Paint as a Base under Gel Stain (Dark Chocolate Milk Paint was formulated to mimic the color of Java Gel Stain)
  2. Several techniques using only Gel Stain/no paint or primer

SOME NOTES:

  • If you can abrade the surface by sanding, you will increase your chances of success. If you choose to proceed, test for adhesion on a hidden area of your project before getting started.
  • If you are applying GF Gel Stains over existing "sealed" finished wood or any impenetrable surface, TRIPLE OR QUADRUPLE the drying times of all the finishes used because the stain cannot soak into the surface.
  • De-glossers: GF does not recommend the use of a de-glosser as a REPLACEMENT for prep sanding and cleaning. They are sold by manufacturers that advocate that it is ok to cover up dirt and grime, which can create a problem. GF feels that appropriate cleaning and sanding delivers a better result and saves money. If you have physical issues with the labor of sanding, at least clean the project before using a de-glosser.

APPLYING GENERAL FINISHES MILK PAINT TO LAMINATE FOLLOWED BY GEL STAIN DRY BRUSH TECHNIQUE: 

  1. “Power clean” by scrubbing with a solution of water and a strong detergent such as Dawn or Spic & Span, using a Scotch Bright Pad. Rinse thoroughly. Then follow with a second scrubbing with a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water, also using a Scotch Brite pad. Let dry completely.
  2. Sand with a power sander. 150 grit followed by 180 grit sandpaper. (some users report using 220 grit sandpaper). Wipe off the dust.
  3. Apply XIM 400 White Primer Sealer Bonder (follow label applications instructions but let dry longer, 12 hours or overnight.)
  4. Apply 2 coats of Milk Paint allowing triple drying time. Use Dark Chocolate if you are trying to mimic the look of Java Gel Stain.
  5. Apply Java Gel Stain, and while still wet, immediately use a mineral spirit dry brush technique to create a wood grain effect. Dip a clean brush in mineral spirits and drag over the surface until you achieve the effect you want, continually discharging the excess stain. (Here is a good video demonstrating a dry brush technique here. Allow the Gel Stain to DRY 72 HOURS or longer if necessary.
  6. Seal with a topcoat, allowing extra dry time. In GF's finish line, you can use Arm-R-Seal (this topcoat ambers) over dark colors and High Performance over light colors.

APPLYING GEL STAIN DIRECTLY TO LAMINATE:

  • “Power clean” by scrubbing with a solution of water and a strong detergent such as Dawn or Spic & Span, using a Scotch Bright Pad. Rinse thoroughly. Then follow with a second scrubbing with a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water, also using a Scotch Brite pad. Let dry completely.
  • Sand with a power sander. 150 grit followed by 180 grit sandpaper. (some users reported using 220 grit sandpaper). Wipe off the dust.

You can apply Java Gel Stain several ways:

  • With a roller for a painted effect (from ABHall), painting on with a chip brush followed by pouncing with a plastic bag for a textured effect from Denise Wonders Beatty 
  • Brushing on followed by a mineral spirit dry-brush technique. See mineral spirits dry-brushing technique in this video
  • Apply a slip-coat of mineral spirits first using a chip brush to give you more open time. While the mineral spirits is still wet, paint the Gel Stain on using a chip brush. While the Gel Stain is still wet, GENTLY smooth out the surface with a folded blue shop towel going in the direction of the grain. Tip from Andrea Allred : Dry brush Gray Gel Stain on top the next day for a weathered look. 
  • Paint on two coats of Gel Stain, letting each coat dry 72 hours. Create the look of faux wood by sanding each coat lightly.
  • Allow the Gel Stain to DRY 72 HOURS. If it is still tacky and cool to the touch, let it dry for days. Let it dry, let it dry, let it dry. Lack of dry time over existing surfaces is the number one reason for Gel Stain failure!
  • Seal with 3 coats of topcoat, allowing triple dry time. In GF's finish line, you can use Arm-R-Seal (this topcoat ambers) over dark colors and High Performance over light colors.

*Note: here another issue with laminate countertops. When using fine wood finishes, water and spills must be wiped up in a timely fashion. If this a high use area near a sink, consider replacing the countertop instead. If this a low use area such as a bedroom dresser that needs a tune-up, you will be fine.

ADHESION TEST: 
Test your entire procedure (preparation to top coat) on a hidden area first and let it cure for 7-10 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc. to make sure the finish bonds to the surface.
FAQS are permanently archived at https://generalfinishes.com/faqs
 

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Do Gel Stains Require a Topcoat?

All stains need a top coat. Think of stain as the color and top coat as the sealer and protectant.

The high urethane content of General Finishes Gel Stains results in a lustrous finish that tends to fool people into assuming no sealant is required. The beauty of Gel Stain comes from thick thick urethane which can carry a LOT of color to any surface, but that color must be sealed in with top coat. An added bonus of top coat is that it also protects the wood from drying out.

Think of stain as the color and top coat as the sealer and protectant.

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How can I lighten the color of the Java Gel stain I have applied?

It's always possible to darken a stained surface, but you cannot lighten a stained surface after the finish has dried. When the surface is still wet, you can try to lighten the color by scrubbing with mineral spirits. If the finish has hardened, you will need to sand down your current stain and start over or use one of our paints.

You can mix Gel Stains to create a custom color.

You can thin Gel Stain with 10-15% mineral spirits.

Always test our color on a hidden area of your project before beginning.

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How can I prevent Gel Stain from hardening in the can?

As the Gel Stain is used, the volume of stain in the can is displaced with air, causing the stain to start curing. Gel Stains harden up more quickly than liquid oil stains for all the reasons folks love them - the extra colorants and solids within the stain that provide such great coverage also harden up more quickly than other stains. During storage, the oxygen or moisture that's sealed in the container continues to cure and thicken your stored product, ruining the leftovers.Here are some tips to ensure your Gel Stain remains in great working condition.
  • Decant the amount of stain you'll need into a foil covered bowl and reseal your can right away. Every minute the can is open the stain is curing.  
  • Be sure to REALLY clean the chime and the lid of the can to assure a tight seal.  
  • Use Bloxygen to help remove excess oxygen from your can of finish to help preserve it longer. 
  • Store your sealed cans upside down. 
  • Transfer any unused stain to a smaller container once finished with your project or buy Gel Stain in smaller cans to begin with. 
  • Plastic Wrap??  Haven't tried it, but you get the idea! Anything to prevent contact with air is key. 
https://generalfinishes.com/retail-products/oil-base-wood-stains-sealers/oilbase-gel-stains#.VkjpXN-rRMM

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How can I thin Gel Stain?

Gel Stain can be mixed with up to 50% Liquid Oil Stain but be aware that this will thin the viscosity. We recommend starting with 10% Liquid Oil Stain and testing to your satisfaction. Add more Liquid Stain as needed up to 50%. The mix will be thin and more translucent, but will not lose any of its properties for adhesion and curing.

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How do I achieve an even Gel stain color on raw knotty pine? When I apply the topcoat, the stain starts pulling off.

This is a classic problem. Pine is full of pitch (rosin or tar) and stain alone will never adhere to these areas. To fix, sand the table lightly with 120 grit sandpaper and restain the table. To improve adherence of the stain, mix 2 parts Gel Stain with one part Gel Satin Topcoat. Apply as many coats of the mix as needed to obtain the desired color, allowing 24 hour dry time between coats. Note: the stain may never adhere well to the knots because they are too dense to hold a stain. You can try dry brushing the knots with the stain to deepen the color and the protecting with topcoat.

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How do I correct the haze that appeared when I applied Gel Satin Top Coat over 3 coats of Gel Stain?

The haze (the technical term is blush) is caused by too many coats applied too quickly - you mentioned a recoat time of 12 hours which is not enough over and EXISTING finish. To remove the blush or haze you can either wipe the area with a strong solvent like xylene or lacquer thinner or you can try sanding out the haze and reapply the topcoat.

Future forward, allow more dry time when applying oil based products over an existing finish. Here are General Finishes recommended dry times for Gel Stain and Gel Topcoat.

These dry times related to Gel Stain applied over an existing finish. You must allow longer dry times when applying over an existing finish.

  • Dry-time to touch: 4-6 hours.
  • Dry-time to recoat with stain when "wiping off": 24 to 48 hours. Do not recoat until you are sure the stain is dry. If in doubt, wait longer. Humidity or cold temperatures will increase dry times.
  • Dry-time to recoat with stain when "painting on": 48 to 72 hours. Do not recoat until you are SURE the stain is dry. If in doubt, wait longer. Humidity or cold temperatures will increase dry times.
  • Dry-time to apply oil-based topcoat: 24 to 48 hours. 
  • Dry-time to apply water-based topcoat: 72 hours.
  • Dry-time for light use: 7-10 days.
  • Dry-time over laminate or other non pourous surfaces: At least 72 hours or more. Test to your satisfaction before proceeding.
  • Cure time: 21 to 30 days
  • CURE TIME: Cure time for all General Finishes oil based products is about 30 days. Dry time and cure time are totally unrelated. During the curing process protect your flat surfaces and avoid placing any heavy items on horizontal surfaces or sliding anything across the surface. 

 

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How do I create a glaze with General Finishes Gel Stain?

Yes- just add 10% mineral spirits. You can add more mineral spirits, but test first. The mixture will thin out quickly.

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I just watched your video on dry brushing Gel Stain. Can I use ethynol alcohol instead of mineral spirits to keep the brush discharged during application?

Yes, but it will evaporate much more quickly so you will need to rewet the discharge pad more frequently. See the video below for how to update existing finishes using a dry brush technique.

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Is topcoat required between Gel Stain and Water Based Glaze Effects?

Yes- this is not a good place to take shortcuts. Gel Stain gets its deep rich hue from a large number of colorants. Seal the stain with a topcoat before applying glaze to prevent "color pull."

The glaze will also glide easier over the surface after topcoat is applied, allowing you greater control of how much color you want to use. Be sure to wait 72 hours when applying water-based finishes over oil-based finishes.

Here is a sample finish schedule:

  1. Prep sand and clean
  2. Apply stain
  3. Apply a layer of topcoat to prevent color bleed thru and make glazing easier
  4. Apply Glaze Effects
  5. Apply 2-3 coats of topcoat to protect the entire project

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Should I use a coat of Gel Topcoat on raw wood to achieve an more even color before staining?

While Gel Stain can be applied over an existing finish, it was originally engineered for raw wood surfaces. We prefer applying the Gel Stain over a slip coat of mineral spirits instead of topcoat as shown in this video. (http://bit.ly/1WwDUQ1) 

The slip coat will reduce the drag and help the stain "glide on" easier. The other important technique shown in this video is to apply the stain liberally in sections and remove the excess quickly. Gel Stain is so pigment rich you will get an uneven application if you try to dab it on with a dry rag.

Applying over a layer of top coat is acceptable, but there are two big benefits of applying the stain directly to the wood or over a slip coat.

1) The beauty of the grain is highlighted. This effect will be greatly diminished if the stain is applied over an existing finish.

2) Less coats are required to obtain a dark color.

Preparation and application techniques along with dry time between coats are all different when applying Gel Stain over raw wood vs. an existing finish.

Dry time differences:

http://bit.ly/TZTLwL

 

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What is the best top coat to use over Gel Stains?

You can use any of our topcoats. In the water based line, use High Performance or Flat Out Flat. For oil based, use either Gel Satin or Arm R Seal. Gel is much thicker. Arm-R-Seal is much thinner, easier to apply and easier to apply to large projects than Gel. Always allow 72 hour dry time when apply water base products over oil based product.

More information on Oil Base Gel Stains

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Will Gel Stains darken with another coat?

Yes, each layer will darken your project even more. You can also start with a lighter color Gel Stain, and layer on darker colors See step by step photo instructions on how to layer Gel Stain Colors on the GF Blog. Click on the first photo and follow along with this photo tutorial as we finish a walnut table with 1 coat of Java Gel Stain over Nutmeg Gel Stain. Completed with 3 coats of Gel Satin Topcoat. Table design by John Harryman.

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