How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains

Gel stain are thick, unlike liquid stains and as such immediate satisfaction and have a very high "touch" factor during the finishing process. Due to their high urethane content, applications of Gel Stain respond with a high lustre sooner than liquid oil based stains which must be top coated. And they do not splash, drip or run. However, this high urethane content also increases the viscosity (thickness), requiring more wiping away of excess product during the staining process. If you prefer "rubbing" and polishing a finish on, gel stain for you. The stain itself contains top coat material and they may be used as a one can finish. If using a gel stain as a one can finish, we recommend using at least 2-3 coats.

Supplies required for project

  • A good supply of high quality paper towels or lint free absorbent wiping cloths. Cotton cloth materials such as t-shirts do not absorb well.
  • Foam or synthetic brushes, latex paint pad applicators and an old bristle brush to get paint out of corners. You must brush or wash paint pad applicators before use to remove loose bristles.
  • #120, #180 or #220 grit sandpaper for sanding raw wood.
  • #320 or #400 grit sandpaper or superfine sanding sponges for buffing in between coats of top coats.

Surface Preparation

  • Remove all hardware, doors and drawers
  • Ensure all surfaces are clean and free from dirt, dust and oils.
  • Fill all nail holes with putty before sanding.
  • Sand the surface – please be aware that a good sanding is key to achieving a good finish. Prepare the surface by using medium paper first, and then proceed to finer grades. For softwoods such as pine, aspen, or alder, sand first with a #120 grit sandpaper, and finish sanding using #150 or #180 grit sandpaper. For closed grained hardwood such as Oak, Maple or Birch, start with #100 sandpaper and finish with no finer than #120 sandpaper. Never start sanding with very fine sandpaper on unfinished wood.
  • Remove all the dust by hoovering or wiping with a lint-free cloth or tack cloths. End-grains (areas where the wood has been cut against the grain), such as the front side of a table, tend to soak up more stain than other surfaces. Give end-grain areas an additional sanding to control the absorption of stain.

Applying The Gel Stain

Caution: If finishing an unassembled piece of furniture prior to assembly, care must be taken to avoid getting stain on areas of the joins as glue will not stick to surfaces that have finish on them.

Step - 1

Using a cloth, foam brush or paint pad applicator, apply a liberal amount of Gel Stain to the area of raw wood you are working. Divide your project into sections: drawer front, table or cabinet top, side of chest, etc. Keep the area wet with product while applying. Wipe away the excess with clean cloths or paper towelling (use high quality, absorbent paper towels), changing to clean cloths or towels as they become full of product. Rub out the stain until the colour is even, applying light pressure with your hand until the first layer of stain evens out in colour. As the first coat of stain dries, the appearance will be dull or dry. Take heart, the beauty of the wood will come alive as you add subsequent layers of colour and top coats.

How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains

Additional coats of stain may be applied for a deeper, richer colour. This photo shows a second coat of Java being applied over the first coat of Java. Sanding between coats of any stain or top coat is referred to as 'buffing'. We do not recommend buffing between coats of stain because you may remove an area of stain that cannot be re-blended. If you must buff because you have imperfections that need to be smoothed out, do so with caution using a superfine sanding pad or #320 sandpaper.

How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains

Step - 2

On the second or third coats of stain, wipe off the excess stain using a clean cloth or paper towelling the direction of the grain. Again, change to clean towels as necessary, and apply light pressure with your hand until the colour is evened out, finishing with a polishing motion always in the direction of the grain.

How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains

Tip: Keep extra wiping cloths nearby as you work, replacing them as needed until you remove all excess gel stain. Be sure to remove all rag marks and smudges, turning and changing cloths as needed. Several thin coats will give a better result than one thick coat.

How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains

Step - 3

Continue to turn the cloth to a clean side as you work. On your last few passes across the surface, use a lighter polishing motion, continuing to work in the direction of the grain. When you achieve the depth of colour desired, it is time to move on to optional top coats.

How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains

Tip: Use a dry bristle brush, preferably an old one you won't mind staining, to remove stain build-up from the corners of moulding, bead board, etc.

How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains

Tip: Protect any wet surfaces that you may handle by using a dry cloth.

How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains

Step - 4

The stain itself contains top coat material and can be used as a one can finish. If using a gel stain as a one can finish, we recommend using at least 2-3 coats. For maximum durability, apply HP Topcoat over Gel Stain after allowing 24 – 48 hours for the stain to dry. Apply top coat with a cloth, paint pad or foam brush. Shown here: application using paper towelling.

How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains

Step - 5

When applying topcoats, your application process turns into a very light, brisk polishing motion with long light sweeping strokes, as the Top Coats glide along the smoother surface of the previous stain coats. Several thin coats give the best result.

How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains

Step - 6

Buff lightly between each top coat with a super fine sanding pad or #320 sand paper. Do not buff the final topcoat. Sanding pads are far superior to sand paper as they form around mouldings and corners and they last a long time. We like using a well-worn pad on the last few coats of top coat to promote a fine finish.

Tip: If your super-fine sanding pad is new, use it on raw wood first when working with the final finish coat.

How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains

Step - 7

Hoover or wipe down after buffing each layer of top coat.

How To Use General Finishes Gel Stains
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