Gel stain sucks....

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Forum topic by tturner posted 03-25-2013 08:46 PM 6602 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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63 posts in 1994 days

03-25-2013 08:46 PM

Topic tags/keywords: resource oak finishing

That pretty much sums it up for me. I hope your exeperience is or was better. I made a nice book case for my good customer (daughter) and it is great. She is happy with it so far. I HATE staining to begin with, but it had to match her existing bedroom furniture. The only color that Woodcraft had was Java gel stain so i had no choice but go with it. It went on pretty well. But the wipe down part wasnt pretty at ALL. If you happen to wipe cross grain, and at joints, sometimes you have to, it shows up as if you went across it with 80 grit. This just doesnt happen with regular liquid stains. The color is nice. I used pre-stain conditioner and i have in the past and it seems to even the color out nicely. I highly suggest that if you must stain.
In summation i have these 2 things to say….
1-I still hate staining. This is one of those things you have to do every so often to remind yourself why you dont do it more often.
2-If not for the bad days, you wouldnt know if you were having a good day.
Guys if you have any tips (dont use gel stain is too little, too late), I am all ears about gel stains. I know i have to stain something sometimes, so i may as well figure out the best ways.

-- I'm him

14 replies so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


5620 posts in 2779 days

#1 posted 03-25-2013 08:54 PM

1+ gel stains make life harder, not easier. The main problem I have with them is when wiping down the project, you get light and dark streaks. Looks uneven and makes me frown.
I have gone exclusively to Rodda oil based stains, which are great.
Benefits include…
1. Sprayable, or wipe on with clean rag.
2. Hides jointlines, and blends panels together perfectly.
3. Easy to apply.

I have also had decent results with Varathane products.

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

View Tkf's profile


38 posts in 1893 days

#2 posted 03-25-2013 10:50 PM

I haven’t had a problem with gel stains. Although I never condition my substrate because the gel should penetrate evenly. Perhaps your stain was just too thick and that you’ll need to dilate it. And I don’t mean the conditioner.

I never realized that people just hate staining so much. Let alone finishing.

View Tennessee's profile


2860 posts in 2480 days

#3 posted 03-25-2013 11:01 PM

I’ve never had any luck with gel stains, and I refinished pro for 12 years. I hate gel stain, there is no gel stain in my shop, and I find that any staining I have to do can be accomplished with clear stains like Minwax, or dyes such as Behlen.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2650 days

#4 posted 03-25-2013 11:20 PM

I use them more like a paint than a stain. Areas that are hard to get to and won’t be noticed (e.g. we had some exposed truss tails 16 feet up on a cathedral ceiling). Other than that, I’ve tried them (Minwax) and never again. That wipe-off is nasty.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2655 days

#5 posted 03-26-2013 02:00 AM

Yep, same here: experiences with gel stain were all bad!

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

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8513 posts in 1948 days

#6 posted 03-26-2013 02:43 AM

I don’t like stains. But if I have to get color, I go with watco danish oil in the various colors. Doesn’t seem to blotch, just have been really happy with the results.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


4339 posts in 2374 days

#7 posted 03-26-2013 02:48 AM

Shelf life in reality, not what they claim, really sucks. I use tape to mark when I buy chemicals, and when I used them last. So many better products. I remember a guy selling this at the woodshow one year and I decided to try a can. I used it within a month, worked so so nothing to write home about then went to try to use it again 3 months later, no go. I keep the shop at 55F all winter long the environment is stable and in the summer I have A/C set at 80, again normal. I left all my chemicals sitting for 3 years while in Iraq and I was surprised at how much was still good.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Monte Pittman's profile (online now)

Monte Pittman

28931 posts in 2303 days

#8 posted 03-26-2013 03:36 AM

Gel stain to me is more like paint. Stain should work with the grain of the wood. Gel hides it.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Miles King's profile

Miles King

28 posts in 2658 days

#9 posted 03-26-2013 08:23 AM

Right gel stain is a semi-transparent paint. I’ve used it twice both times on flat sawn white oak and had very good results. I don’t usually stain wood but in my opinion flat sawn white oak needs help.

-- Miles

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Miles King

28 posts in 2658 days

#10 posted 03-26-2013 08:25 AM

Right gel stain is a semi-transparent paint. I’ve used it twice both times on flat sawn white oak and had very good results. I don’t usually stain wood but in my opinion flat sawn white oak needs help.

-- Miles

View stnich's profile


118 posts in 2890 days

#11 posted 03-26-2013 01:00 PM

I just finished using three different color MinWax gel stains on I Pad and I Phone Docks. I do promotional work for the MinWax Co. so I use their products a lot. They were made out of Pine which can be difficult to stain. I picked pieces of wood with very prominent grains and used MinWax’s conditioner on them all. After sanding with a RO sander to 100 grit I sanded with the grain by hand up to 100-120 grit after that. I applied the conditioner as per the direction on the can. I made sure that the Gel Stain was warm and then applied it with a brush and quickly rubbed it down with a clean cloth. I didn’t leave very much stain on the pieces and didn’t go back into the stain very much. Then after they dried I knocked the stain down with a synthetic abrasive pad and applied another coat using the same technique as before. After the stain dried I knocked it down again and applied 3-4 coats of MinWax wipe on Poly sanding in between coats. They look very good. I have found that Gel Stains can be difficult to work with but just like any product you need to develop a good finishing strategy to get good results.

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2478 days

#12 posted 03-26-2013 01:21 PM

I’m not a fan of gel either but when I do use it I always do a coat of wood conditioner first as it protects against the gel blotching.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View tturner's profile


63 posts in 1994 days

#13 posted 03-26-2013 05:35 PM

It doesnt matter what you do, nothing changes the finishes. I have finished this damn thing 5 times. Ive sanded, and not sanded in between coats and there is no change. If you happen to wipe across the grain, youve put permanent marks in it. if you rub against another part that is already finished, it will remove that because of the solvents. The rest of the can just went to the trash can!

-- I'm him

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3124 days

#14 posted 03-26-2013 05:48 PM

You don’t wipe a gel stain, no matter what the instructions say. Like others have said, you should use it like a paint, or perhaps a glaze…and in fact, it makes for a good glaze when that technique is required.

To match existing furniture, I’d suggest using aniline dyes, either in alcohol or blonde dewaxed shellac. Water works too, but you have some grain raising to contend with.

-- jay,

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