Can gel stain REALLY be a one can solution?

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Forum topic by TraveledSome posted 05-02-2012 02:56 AM 20654 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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30 posts in 2182 days

05-02-2012 02:56 AM

Topic tags/keywords: general finishes gel stain one can unfinished furniture

Okay my second thread posted here, so forgive me if it’s foolish, but I was wondering about Gel Stains as single solutions. I have read on the General Finishes info it can be….and had a guy at a unfinished furniture store say it also…(though I suspect was hoping that would make the sell) I have some unfinished items that are just basic stuff like a bookshelf, and a side table from pottery barn that is REALLY basic…...I don’t need a uber finish, but I would like a little protection. Can you go this route? just 2-3 coats, and no top finish? This or any brand really.

Lastly if it matters. I have NO place to properly do this…so dust will be an issue….likely my garage or some other dusty area will be my only option. I’m tempted to just milk paint them and be done….

I need a easy, good “enough”, solution for basic unfinsihed furniture that any idiot can do….cause I am likely that idiot….


-- "People are eternally trying to walk out of difficulties, instead of trying to work out of them."

12 replies so far

View Martyroc's profile


2712 posts in 2271 days

#1 posted 05-02-2012 12:15 PM

If you have never used gel stain I don’t recommend trying it now for just a quick finish. I use it from time to time but either go over it with a few coats of laquer or Poly. I gel stain sits on top of the wood and never actually penetrates it like an oil or water stain, so your basically just putting some protection over it not into it. Although it would probably work with that and nothing else gel stain is tricky and a little practice would be the way to go first. I personally prefer a little more protection on most projects.

-- Martin ....always count the number of fingers you have before, and after using the saw.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2815 days

#2 posted 05-02-2012 01:03 PM

There are products with poly and stain all wrapped up in one. Minwax makes them and I think they’re called Polyshades. I have used these with good results on small projects. Buy a small can and experiment.

Wax is a wonderfully easy finish, reasonably durable (renew once a year), and there are some shades of the stuff out there. For ease of application, Watco Satin Wax wins. Available in Dark and Not Dark. : )

Shoe polish has been used, but I suspect that would run into $ on the scale I sense you’re talking about.

I hope I have answered your question enough to have earned the chance to comment: A nice piece of furniture can be ruined by a cheesy finish. We all would be wise to never say, “It’s done, now all I have to do is the finish!” The finish is an integral part of the overall project and your project—hand wrought from vintage wood found on the family farm or Crate and Barrel crate or barrel—deserves genuine attention.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4902 posts in 3925 days

#3 posted 05-02-2012 02:15 PM

I tried Polyshades ONE time. Never again.
Have ya sanded and prepped yet? What wood specie?
Projects sanded to 180/220, wiping stain of choice, seal with Zinsser SealCoat shellac, lightly sand, finish with 2/3 coats of wiping varnish (I use Modern Masters.)
Sounds more complicated than it really is. You can even get the SealCoat in rattle cans.
Don’t be afraid of finishing. It takes a bit of time, so don’t rush the project.


View jacob34's profile


465 posts in 2229 days

#4 posted 05-02-2012 02:34 PM

I used a gel stain on a step stool and it turned out ok. I agree with Marty practice on something first, I had the last of the project work better than when I started.

-- so a bear and a rabbit are sitting on a log

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4183 days

#5 posted 05-02-2012 03:19 PM

For my money, the easiest solution for your needs is to wipe on a regular, oil-based stain with a rag, then come back when it dries with a couple of coats of wipe-on satin polyurethane. The whole process is pretty foolproof, will give you the protection you want, and is not a lot of work either.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2319 days

#6 posted 05-02-2012 04:16 PM

Stain, and wipe on poly.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2655 days

#7 posted 05-03-2012 03:02 AM

A third vote for stain followed by wipe on poly. It’s the most idiot proof finish I have found. I have mixed a small amount of stain in the wipe on poly and got along well doing window and door casings.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Fuzzy's profile


298 posts in 3953 days

#8 posted 05-03-2012 02:39 PM

GEL stains are NOT all created equal … and your choice of General Finishes is one of the best available. It is a gel stain + polyurethane all in one product. As such, the finish will build after 2-3 applications, but the color will not intensify by very much for the same reason … the poly in the finish seals the surface, preventing absorption of more color. It will darken slightly just because it acts more like a toner after the first coat.

Your question would be more to the point if you specifically asked if others have had experience with G.F. Gel Stain … as you can see, you’ve gotten responses referring to other brands which may have little, if any, bearing on your choice.

Stain colors wood … gel stain simply colors it to a lesser depth to reduce blotching … non gel stains don’t really go all that much deeper. Now, some stains (Minwax) actually call themselves a Wood Finish … that’s because they do contain some form of a clear finish to act as a binder that locks the finish into the wood, so you can’t remove it by casual contact after it has dried. In that context, the G.F. Gel Stain IS a thick, non-penetrating gel stain with the addition of a binder/sealer which they clearly state is a polyurethane.

My favorite gel stain, when I need one is WOOD KOTE, but, it is not readily available in all areas, so you would probably need to mail order it. Much would depend on the wood species you are dealing with, and the reason for using a gel stain in the first place. Myself, I much prefer dyes & regular stains sealed with a topcoat that is best for my project. I try to keep coloring & protection as two separate issues, but, it does sound like the G.F. Gel Stain might just be a good candidate for your project and your working environment.

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3284 days

#9 posted 05-03-2012 02:55 PM

Gel stain will NOT offer any protection like a finish. You’ll always need a poly on top. Wipe on perhaps?

I’ve always been LOATHE to use a stain directly on wood, because what if you change your mind down the road? For me, water base finish, and color with water based stain. Practice to get the % right and the color you want.

Good luck!

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View Fuzzy's profile


298 posts in 3953 days

#10 posted 05-03-2012 05:38 PM

Milo … if you look at the General Finishes GEL STAIN can … it clearly states GEL STAIN + POLYURETHANE … topcoating is not an absolute requirement. I think this setup creates as many problems as it solves, but, it is a viable option for this situation. The General Finishes version is similar to PolyShades, which I HATE … but the reviews I’ve seen on the Gen. Fin. product are quite good … so … as I first said GEL STAINS are NOT all created equal.

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View MargieG's profile


2 posts in 1031 days

#11 posted 06-25-2015 05:42 PM

On the General Finished website it says to use a top coat with Java Gel Stain and even gives a nasty anecdote about an employee who didn’t and an example of what happen to a desk they finished with no top coat.

View MargieG's profile


2 posts in 1031 days

#12 posted 06-25-2015 05:45 PM

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