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How Many of you Use a Wash Coat?

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Forum topic by Dustin posted 09-27-2017 12:11 PM 466 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dustin

359 posts in 524 days


09-27-2017 12:11 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing question

So, I’m in the middle of preparing test pieces for a recent commission that I’m going to have to stain to better match the color of the other furniture in the office this is heading to (I hate staining cherry, but it’s the customer’s request). I picked up some General Finishes gel stain (Georgian Cherry), and it’s right in the ballpark with the other furniture, so I’m off to a good start.

I know that GF makes excellent quality finishing products (at this point I’m a fan for life), and I was advised that even with a blotch prone wood like cherry, there is no need to do a wash coat of 1# shellac prior to applying the stain. So I prepared a sample board, one side with the wash coat, the other without, and…they seem pretty much identical on both sides. Color, lack of blotching: unless I had the sides labeled I don’t think I could tell them apart. I only have the first coat on, and will be re-coating tonight, so maybe the difference will be more noticeable by then.

So my question is how many of you use a wash coat/pre-stain conditioner when you’re using a high quality product like GF? My first thoughts are that I’ll likely use it anyways, just as a precaution (in case my test pieces were less prone to blotching than the ones in the project).

Thanks for the input!

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."


10 replies so far

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jfynyson

23 posts in 650 days


#1 posted 09-27-2017 01:00 PM

Dustin, I was recently in your situation only I had to match birch (due to cost) to a cherry like existing stain. I used GF’s Candlelight gel stain. I had to use both birch plywood and birch hardwood pieces and match them. After many test pieces I came to realize exactly what you have stated and that’s the fact that I couldn’t tell them apart. So, before finishing the piece with many parts I went to my local woodworking store and they confirmed that using a gel stain I do not have to put down a coat of shellac.

There’s no blotching issues with a finish that sits on the surface like a gel stain vs those that penetrate into the wood such as oils, oil varnish blends, normal stains, etc. The piece looks great to this day and that was months ago. I used GF’s Arm R Seal on top of the gel stain though. I would indeed use a “wash coat” if I needed to color match, match plywoods & hardwoods & hardwoods of slightly differing colors to the same end color. This is however only if the piece needs color…if just using top coats and trying to keep the natural wood color then I wouldn’t use was wash coat unless it’s a naturally oily type wood.

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Dustin

359 posts in 524 days


#2 posted 09-27-2017 02:02 PM



Dustin, I was recently in your situation only I had to match birch (due to cost) to a cherry like existing stain. I used GF s Candlelight gel stain. I had to use both birch plywood and birch hardwood pieces and match them. After many test pieces I came to realize exactly what you have stated and that s the fact that I couldn t tell them apart. So, before finishing the piece with many parts I went to my local woodworking store and they confirmed that using a gel stain I do not have to put down a coat of shellac.

There s no blotching issues with a finish that sits on the surface like a gel stain vs those that penetrate into the wood such as oils, oil varnish blends, normal stains, etc. The piece looks great to this day and that was months ago. I used GF s Arm R Seal on top of the gel stain though. I would indeed use a “wash coat” if I needed to color match, match plywoods & hardwoods & hardwoods of slightly differing colors to the same end color. This is however only if the piece needs color…if just using top coats and trying to keep the natural wood color then I wouldn t use was wash coat unless it s a naturally oily type wood.

- jfynyson

Thanks for the feedback. I guess I was just a little skeptical that even though gel stain is meant to sit “on top” of the wood, I expected some penetration (probably because my only prior experience was with MW gel stain, and that stuff is awful). My thoughts re the 1# cut of shellac were to use it anyways as a light sealer, but that will largely be determined by the end result of my scrap test, after another coat or two.

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

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jfynyson

23 posts in 650 days


#3 posted 09-27-2017 02:45 PM

In case you’ve not used GF gel stain before on bigger pieces (ie not test pieces) then you have to really slop it on and have a ton of rags ready to remove it before it dries….if areas start to dry then add more. Very different that testing it on small pieces. I recently did a queen size platform bed and it came out great but it’s tough to keep the color even on large parts if not following what I’ve laid out below.

Only do one side or one big part at a time and wet it out first w/ mineral spirits to help it move/spread better. GF’s YouTube video tutorials also state this.

I found that blue shop/mechanic towels are best for this entire process. They make it slop on much faster than anything else I tried. Just evenly fold the towel so that when you wipe it over the surface you are not leaving a lot of streaks. The trick is to evenly remove the gel to the coloration you prefer.

When dry you do not have to do anything to be ready for your top coats but you must let it fully dry or else any mineral spirits in your top coat will dissolve the stain areas a bit and smear the color. Not a bad idea here to lock it in with a 50% cut of dewaxed shellac (Bulls Eye). Then be very careful when sanding the first & second top coats especially on corners/edges and the stain is easily sanded through.

View HorizontalMike's profile

HorizontalMike

7609 posts in 2698 days


#4 posted 09-27-2017 02:45 PM

Dustin,
Just a suggestion here, since I noticed that the piece is destined to be placed in an office. When trying to match the stain, make sure that you match the lighting color temperature that is present in the target office environment. Most “offices” tend to be lit with fluorescent tubes, thus your stain-matching shop environment should be the same or very similar.

I found this out while trying to match stain on “parts” of a piece of furniture. Matching pieces that are touching is tough. In other words, what matches under warm colors can be completely off when viewing under cool and daylight lighting.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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Dustin

359 posts in 524 days


#5 posted 09-27-2017 02:54 PM

Jfy,

Yes indeed, I’m planning on laying down mineral spirits first (luckily, it’s much smaller than a Queen size bed!). And I love my blue shop towels…use ‘em for everything. And yes, I was planning on top coating after the stain dries with a coat of dewaxed shellac. After that, it will likely receive 3-4 coats of satin wipe-on poly for some added durability. Again, though, I’ll be doing the entire finishing schedule to my samples to make sure I end up with the finish I want.

Mike,

Thanks for the input. Luckily, I’m not going for an exact match (and the customer doesn’t expect it). It was really just to get it close-ish, so that he doesn’t have a lot of darker furniture and then one much lighter piece.

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View ArtMann's profile

ArtMann

635 posts in 600 days


#6 posted 09-28-2017 04:35 PM

Gel stain doesn’t work like water based or alcohol based colorants. You can stain a piece of plastic with it. It doesn’t require penetration to be effective. I am not fond of the results of gel stains in most cases because it masks the grain but you gotta do what you gotta do.

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pintodeluxe

5376 posts in 2597 days


#7 posted 09-28-2017 04:42 PM

If I am using oil based stains on oak I wouldn’t use a pre-stain conditioner. Even on oak I will use a wash coat prior to gel stain though. It just applies more evenly, and is easier to control the color.

On cherry I always use a pre-stain conditioner (even with gel stain). For the pre-stain conditioner I thin some Bullseye Sealcoat about 50/50 with denatured alcohol. Brush or spray it on and let dry. Scuff sand with 320-400 grit paper by hand. Clean it up with cheese cloth and compressed air, and you are ready for gel stain.

Spray the topcoat for best results.
Good luck with your project.

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

View OSU55's profile

OSU55

1364 posts in 1773 days


#8 posted 09-28-2017 04:50 PM

Shellac is not the best wood conditioner. Here is some info may help you out with conditioning wood to control blotching, dye or stain. No need to limit yourself to gel stains, which aren’t a good solution for blotching.

View Dustin's profile

Dustin

359 posts in 524 days


#9 posted 09-29-2017 12:43 PM

Thanks for all the feedback, folks. I’ll be doing a number of tests, samples, etc, to see what will work for me. Luckily, this isn’t a huge project, so it’s a better place for me to cut my teeth.

Honestly, after just 2 coats of the GF stain, I’m loving what I’m seeing. It definitely feels like I have more control than when I’ve tried using traditional oil-based stains, and the color is phenomenal without masking the grain too much.

Once the project is finished, I’ll get some pictures up.

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

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Dustin

359 posts in 524 days


#10 posted 10-18-2017 12:07 PM

Just a quick update for all you folks generous enough to comment here:

As I’m approaching assembly and final finish on this project, I ran another sample piece (desk is quarter-sawn cherry, first sample was flat sawn). I used Zinnser SealCoat cut 50/50 with denatured alcohol on one half of the board, let it dry, and sanded lightly with 320 grit paper. I then applied the gel stain to both halves of the board. While my first piece didn’t show much difference, this one certainly did. The side without the SealCoat is much blotchier, and you can clearly see the pores (small though they are in cherry) that didn’t get filled managed to trap a little of the stain.

As some others have mentioned, the stain does mask the grain a bit (though that’s also consitent with the other furniture in this desk’s new home), but it does leave a beautiful finish. As this is my first foray into stain-finishing, I can’t really complain!

Oh, and I’ll try to post some pics of my sample piece later.

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

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