General Finisishes Gel Stain Issues

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Forum topic by greenthumb posted 05-07-2016 09:39 PM 405 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View greenthumb's profile


2 posts in 2376 days

05-07-2016 09:39 PM


I am a newbie, and need some advice. My project is kitchen cabinet face frames. I choose alder and used Bulleye unwaxed, shellac 2 pound cut for blotch control. It worked well. For the stain I am using General Finishes Sandlewood Gel Stain.

The gel stain directions say to said with 150 grit and apply the stain. I did this and all turned out well. Now I want to apply a lacquer finish. However, the wood is still al little rough with the 150 grit, so I took some 320 and very, very lightly began to sand the wood. This did smooth the wood, but took off some of the stain. (Unhappy)

So what should I do?

I followed General Finishes direction with the 150 grit but it left the wood a little rough. I tried to remedy this with using 320 grit, but it took some of the stain off.

If I spray the lacquer on the stained wood sanded with 150 grit will it smooth out the surface once I get a couple of coats on it. Please advise.


7 replies so far

View AandCstyle's profile


2540 posts in 1680 days

#1 posted 05-07-2016 10:35 PM

Jim, there is a bit of water in the shellac which probably caused the whiskers. Then, when you sanded you probably sanded through the shellac and have now sanded through the stain. Did you raise the grain with water and sand that back before the shellac? What grit did you sand to before the shellac? The lacquer will not smooth out the surface.

At this point, you can try to apply the stain to the light areas and see if it gives you the color you want, then apply the topcoat. However, more likely, you will need to sand it all back to bare wood and start over. Then don’t use 150G, try 320G or 400G very gently, almost not hitting the corners at all. Good luck.

-- Art

View greenthumb's profile


2 posts in 2376 days

#2 posted 05-07-2016 10:57 PM


Thank-you for your response. I started by sanding with 120 and then moved on to 150. I applied the Shellac and then I applied the stain. General Finishes said to sand with 150 before applying the stain. I did this.

It seems a catch 22 that General says to sand with 150 to open the pores and then stain, knowing that the 150 grit will leave a rough surface.

I am hoping that the application of the lacquer will smooth out the surface. Any thoughts…...

View ThomasChippendale's profile


244 posts in 355 days

#3 posted 05-07-2016 11:54 PM

The issue is not the gel stain, its the sanding. For having a proper finish with starting with 120 grit, unless you are working on a pre-sanded veneer surface is not achievable. On solid wood, you need to start at least with 100, preferably 80 grit and work your way to 150 without jumping grits (80-100-120-150).

The second factor is that you cannot sand stained wood and expect it to remain the same color, innevitably you will remove stain. You should have covered the stain with either shellac or the finish of your choice and then sand before applying subsequent coats. Being carefull not to cut through the finish.

-- PJ

View pintodeluxe's profile


4827 posts in 2236 days

#4 posted 05-08-2016 01:03 AM

Wood should not feel rough after 150 grit sanding. I suspect that your shellac dried too quickly, causing a rough surface. I personally use a much thinner coat of shellac, and have not experienced this problem. I start with Bullseye seal coat and thin it 1:1 with denatured alcohol, or perhaps a little thinner. Another advantage of a thinner seal coat is it allows you to get a slightly darker color once stain is applied.

Never sand the stain coat. That will cause problems. Instead apply a topcoat, and sand between topcoats with 320 grit or finer.

Gel stains are problematic for almost all finishers that try them. Streaking and uneven color application are common problems. I like gel stain on small projects (picture frames), but find it almost impossible to get an even color on large pieces (bookcase, entertainment center etc). I much prefer a high solid-content liquid stain like Rodda, Varathane, or Cabot oil based stains. It doesn’t sound like the gel stain is your issue this time, but be wary of it on large projects.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View rwe2156's profile


2122 posts in 903 days

#5 posted 05-08-2016 12:05 PM

Finishing is my weak point, but I’m thinking sanding over stained wood will remove stain from the harder growth rings, so you will have to restain it.

Just wondering why gel stain? I don’t routinely use it only on relief carvings in basswood or butternut. I always sand to 400 prior to staining and I’ve never had an issue on the sanded surfaces.

If it were me, I would experiment on some scrap and consider another type of stain/finish.

Good luck.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View bonesbr549's profile


1137 posts in 2490 days

#6 posted 05-08-2016 12:12 PM

All others have steered you in the right direction and sanding and “stain” will always present a problem when uniform coloring is desired. A very light touch on the sanding for grain raising.

In the future, if you want to color your wood surfaces prior to top coating, I would recommend dyes. While stain has color and binders that go deep, IMO putting just the pigment on top of the surface gives you much better control. Second, if an oops happens no big deal, the dye is just on the surface and is easily removed and you can have a do-over no issues.

If you can, invest in a spray setup, and go to dyes and never look back. They are not that expensive now with earlex having some nice ones at a very decent cost. (I’ve not owned one, but read great reviews on them)

I have an apollo sprayer I’ve been using for over 10 years and its fantastic but it was an investment. Good luck on the cabinets and post some pic’s after you’re done. We’d love to see them.

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View ThomasChippendale's profile


244 posts in 355 days

#7 posted 05-08-2016 02:44 PM

Gel stains are actually quite forgiving and easy to use but as any other finish, need to be adapted to the type of wood and sanding you can perform as well as the finished color you want to achieve. I have used it recently to stain a complete basement comprised of tree bookshelves, a bar, a desk and wall pannels made of mahogany without a single problem. I used GF Georgian Cherry gel stain. We used it back in the days when we turned 1,000,000 bd.ft per year of hard maple into chairs and tables. I would not use it however on most North American hardwoods to achieve a dark finish as it requires the sanding grit to be too rough to my liking. Water based stains will let you sand down to 180-220 grits and still achieve dark colors.

-- PJ

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