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How to Apply Gel Stain by General Finishes

Java Gel is a popular stain has been featured widely on blogs and social media pages dedicated to re-purposing and upcycling furniture and cabinets.

Interested in learning more? Watch the video below and continue reading for instructions on how to use this Gel Stain, plus get tips and project inspiration!


Watch This Live In-Studio Demonstration


Side Table Makeover

When we finally got our hands on some, the wonderful, furniture-restyling ninja, Kerri documented her first experience with the highly anticipated product.



Working with General Finishes Gel Stain Over Finished Wood

General Finishes Gel Stain is an oil-based stain that can easily create a lustrous finish. Initially, it was formulated to enhance raw wood, allowing a layering of colours but can also be used over existing finishes. Gel stains are thicker in consistency than liquid oil-based stains. This means no drips, runs or spills!



There are two methods for using gel stain over existing finishes:

Apply On/Wipe Off Method: Work on one section at a time. Apply gel stain liberally and wipe off excess stain with a cloth or high quality paper towels. Wipe with the grain, blending any adjoining areas. Additional coats will darken the initial coat.

Painting Stain On: This method is normally used if a very dark painted look is desired. Dry brush on sparingly the first coat. Brush on the second coat heavily with a bristle or foam brush and then dry-brush the excess stain off with a clean brush. Using the flat part of a dry bristle brush (slightly angled) brush across and feather out in the direction of the grain pattern. Additional coats will give a darker colour.

In the following photos, we show you how to achieve a stained finish using the “apply and wipe” method over an original cherry finish.

Start by ensuring your piece is free of dust. View our cleaning infographic here.

Lightly sand the piece only to scuff the surface, not to remove finish. Follow by wiping with a tack cloth or damp rag to remove fine dust.

For this example, we have selected “Java” Gel Stain, though we carry several other gel stain colours. Mix the gel stain well with stir stick. It is best to wear gloves and an apron or old clothes as this product is difficult to remove from fabric.

Using a foam brush, apply a liberal amount of stain to the surface following the grain of the wood.



Once the surface is covered, lightly wipe away excess product with a soft cloth, like a cheese cloth or high quality paper towels. You will see the original surface with this first application and you can choose to use the original colour to help create a grained effect.



You can apply additional coats of the gel stain to achieve a darker, richer look that will look layered instead of solid (as achieved with the “painted on” technique). In this example, we used two coats of stain and allowed a bit of the original cherry finish to come through. General Finishes recommends 6-8 hours of dry time between coats.



A top coat is not necessary due to the high amount of urethane in the gel stain that will provide protection. As an option for maximum durability on high traffic pieces, you can use General Finishes Gel Topcoat or General Finishes water-based High Performance Top Coat, but you need to wait 72 hours before applying when changing from oil to water-based finishes.

We completed our project by painting the remaining areas with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™ Provence and finished with Annie Sloan Soft Clear Wax. Also note that General Finishes does not recommend the use of Gel Stain over laminates or high gloss surfaces.



How To Gel Stain Your Kitchen Table 


Gel Stain Application Demo


You can buy General Finishes Gel Stain, along with other essential furniture refinishing products in our store.

Thank you so much for reading! If you have any questions at all, leave us a comment!

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Chalk Paint™ General Finishes

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