gel stain experience?

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Forum topic by LarryB posted 06-19-2013 05:19 PM 1733 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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96 posts in 2627 days

06-19-2013 05:19 PM

I’m finishing a cherry chest that I’ll post later. This is my first time to use a gel stain. The General Finishes instructions say to apply the stain, wipe, then buff with 320 – 400 paper. Use additional coats for deeper, more durable surface.

All my other projects have been finished with regular stain, then three coats of polyurethane.

I’m inclined to go ahead with 2 to 3 coats of the poly on top of this product.

Should I trust the ‘durability of just the gel coats? Anyone have experience with this? Please advise. Thanks!

10 replies so far

View Gerald Thompson's profile

Gerald Thompson

940 posts in 2233 days

#1 posted 06-19-2013 07:56 PM

If it were me I would forgo the stain no matter what kind. Cherry, over time, turns a beautiful color from sinlight and oxidation.. I don’t care for poly personally. It seems “plastic” to me. What sort of gloss do you want to achieve?

-- Jerry

View tturner's profile


63 posts in 2027 days

#2 posted 06-20-2013 01:44 AM

I tried gel once. That’s enough. Don’t do it. As you wipe it off it, it tends to leave light and dark spots. Then when you 2nd coat it, it gets even worse. That stuff is useless. I don’t usually stain but I matched a book case I made to my daughters bed and it was a nightmare, especially in the corners. The 2nd coat will remove the first coat. What makes you want to use gel rather than liquid? It goes on nice and evenly, but wipe off is disappointing. Good luck.


-- I'm him

View madts's profile


1862 posts in 2339 days

#3 posted 06-20-2013 01:51 AM

Ditto both Gerald and tturner.

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3479 days

#4 posted 06-20-2013 02:39 AM

I have used gel stain on cherry before. It was General also. I dont like it either. It got blotchy and quite dark.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View MichaelR's profile


42 posts in 2428 days

#5 posted 06-20-2013 02:58 AM

I’ve been using Bartley’s Gel Stains, and yes they are back in production. Everyone’s correct about trying to apply second and subsequent coats but I tend to load up a first coat and gently wipe off excess. DO NOT let it set, wipe on/wipe off and if it a large piece find a way to break it into manageable working sections. About 20-30 minutes later I’ll hand buff it with a clean rag.

I will come back after initial cure (5 or 6 hours) and touch up any lighter streaks or blotches with a small rag or sponge. For this I’ll dab a small amount on an the applicator and let it sit for a minute or so. Then lightly touch up the area and blend it in.

I think a key part of your question was whether to apply poly over it and the answer is that gel stain is not a top coat. It needs a top finishing coat of some kind. I’m not fond of poly on most things but that depends mostly on end use and not underlying treatment.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5659 posts in 2812 days

#6 posted 06-20-2013 03:19 AM

I don’t like gel stains either. They tend to streak when you wipe them off.
The only way you would have to sand after stain is with stain + poly products, or with water based products.

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

View GNP's profile


12 posts in 2501 days

#7 posted 06-20-2013 12:49 PM

I usually use boiled linseed oil to pop the grain on cherry. Never stained it, but have used waterbased dye, on some bleached out cherry before.
Do some tests on scrap wood to find what you like.

View bannerpond1's profile


397 posts in 1897 days

#8 posted 06-20-2013 01:47 PM

I’m with GNP, but I’ve been using tung oil rather than linseed. You get deep, instant color on the cherry and there is virtually no blotching. I made a mistake on my first cherry project by trying to stain it. Never again. However, I’ve had good results with wipe-on poly. I use 0000 steel wool between coats and then wax as a final. Works well on walnut, too.

-- --Dale Page

View LarryB's profile


96 posts in 2627 days

#9 posted 06-20-2013 07:54 PM

Thanks for the comments! I’d attended a ‘finishing’ seminar and heard numerous good reports about gels so decided to give it a try.
I’d already applied a gel coat to this project and fortunately it turned out really decent. I did work just one section at a time, wiping the stain off and buffing the surface as I went. The grains are nicely defined and no blotches (got lucky?)
I’ll post the project when it’s finished and you folks can be the judge.
I was glad to learn that as is, gel is not a top coat, so I do plan to finish it. The scrap wood tests are a great suggestion.
All that being said, I will probably not continue to use gels – (can any one use a nearly full pint of Georgian Cherry?)

View cabmaker's profile


1731 posts in 2808 days

#10 posted 06-20-2013 10:01 PM

gel stains have their place. It’s all about learning when, what and where to us it. Only way I know to learn that is to use it.

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