• Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by SKlaus posted 08-16-2013 01:42 PM 21230 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View SKlaus's profile


52 posts in 2384 days

08-16-2013 01:42 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing sanding general finish candlelight poplar gel gel stain stain

Hey everyone! I know this is a strange topic being that General finishes is pretty much foolproof. But I wanted to get someone elses opinion and advice. I had a run in with General finishes “candlelight” gel stain, and it took me some time to fix which perplexed me because I’ve had such good luck with General finish products ( and I think most people have)... So about the project

55” X 19 ” 4/4 poplar table top for a desk. sanded to 220. Sealed with 1 1/2 lb cut sealcoat (Dewaxed) tinted with transtint golden brown. sprayed the seal coat. let it dry about 1 1/2 hours. light sanding with 320 grit to knock down the nibs…

So I applied the gel stain liberaly using a rag. and wiped off. As I was pushing to product around to cover some of the inconsistencies of poplar, I noticed that it was pulling itself off of the wood!! The more I played with it, the more it pulled up!! It dried super fast. If I didnt push it to where I wanted it in less than 30 seconds, It would already become tacky and pull up. 1st round was a no go… to many areas that it had come loose with big patches that looked like it didnt even have any stain at all… sanded it back down using 220… sealed again with 1 1/2lb cut sealcoat with no tint… Same thing happened… I ended up having to wait for it to dry, and then go over it again with a darker stain in order to cover all the areas it was pulling up from.

I am pretty sure it wasnt just the blotchiness off poplar because I sealed the heck out of it, and thats why I used Gel Stain…

I didnt take pictures (dumy me…)

I live in South Florida… Jupiter specifically… Working out of a 2 car garage. temperature at 90+ degrees and humidity near 100%...

could that be a factor? Any ideas, anyone? User error or environmental? did I over seal it?

Help please…????

-- 2 Timothy 2:15 "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

18 replies so far

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3737 days

#1 posted 08-16-2013 07:20 PM

Only thing I can imagine is that the sealcoat was really heavy, so you had a more sealed surface.

WHen I spray Bulls Eye Shellac – to seal it is diluted 50:50 with alcohol.
especially when I am spraying something like a chair with lots of nooks and corners where finish may want to pool.

It is not an issue generally, but if (as you are doing) I am wanting to apply gel stain as a glaze – the variation in the sealed surface is a PITA.

You did the sand down and spray a thinner coat – - but it didn’t solve, so I realy don’t know.
Two guys that I feel really really are great with finishes (sure there are more) are Charles Neil and Mitch Kohanek.

Charles is on this site periodically – Mitch Kohanek is in Minnesota below is an interview he gave.
I took a week long class from him 3 years ago.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View SKlaus's profile


52 posts in 2384 days

#2 posted 08-16-2013 08:46 PM

Thanks! I sealed the first time at a 1 1/2 lb cut. I guess it’s possible that I oversealed. But the way the stain was laying down, it wasn’t blotchy, so I think the seal was ok. But I just had tremendous issues with moving the product around. I ended up having to lay it down 6” or so at a time across the peice before I wiped it off because it would dey so fast… And I couldn’t overlap because if I did… It would would pull up the area that I just put down at the edges… Very peculiar…. I ended up getting a result I can live with by chasing the first coat with a 2nd of a darker gel stain to blend… It worked in this case but it makes color matching impossible… I will look for the gentlemen you mentioned and reach out to them…. I think I might also write to general finishes themselves and see what they say… Thanks again!!

-- 2 Timothy 2:15 "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 2860 days

#3 posted 08-19-2013 12:28 AM

I had the same problem that you did using a General Finishes stain last week. It wasn’t gel stain but I had similar results.

I used GF pre-stain conditioner then applied stain. It seemed to have a very short window trying to wipe it off, as the instructions say. It also came of in layers sometimes to where almost nothing was left. It was a disastrous project for me. Thanks to Charles Neil’s response to my post on LJs I was able to get it all cleaned off, using water and a scotch bright pad.

I live in Colorado and it was 90+ degrees and about 5% humidity (no joke) so I was thinking it was drying too fast, too.

This was my first time using GF products. I tried it because everybody loves it. After removing all of the stain I put on a product that I see a lot of people complain about: minwax Polyshades. Love it or hate it, it worked a LOT better for me on this project.

Good luck with your project

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 2788 days

#4 posted 08-19-2013 01:27 AM

I’d give their tech support a call. Those guys have seen nearly every problem you can have. I like their paint but never used their stains.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View tturner's profile


63 posts in 2023 days

#5 posted 08-19-2013 09:52 PM

Been there and done that on a nearly perfect book case i made for my daughter. Once you wipe it off, it takes all the color with it! I love General Finishes’ products, but I will never buy that stuff again. I even called them and they said, yep, sorry it happens. If you look at my page here you will read where I had the exact same thing happen to me. Live and learn and learn to search Lumberjocks before trying anything new that relates to woodworking!

-- I'm him

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2679 days

#6 posted 08-19-2013 10:31 PM

Just my opinion but I think any gel stains are more like paint than stain. I only use them in spots where I want a one time application that will not be noticed.

As for working with poplar, I finished my interior house trim with it without any sealer (including the fireplace mantle). MinWax stains, followed by water based poly. The “green” streaks stain up darker than the rest of the board but nothing “offensive” at all…in fact the variation is so subtle that it can makes for a very pretty finished product. The only downside is that you really don’t get a clue as to what it is going to look like until you get stain on it!!!

View pintodeluxe's profile


5654 posts in 2808 days

#7 posted 08-19-2013 10:41 PM

Well I have had this problem with General gel stain alone, so it is no surprise to me that you encountered it over a sealcoat. Gel stain just behaves that way. It is streaky, and difficult to get a uniform color. Some call it an advantage because you can continue to adjust the color, and you are not “stuck” with it. For myself, I like a heavy bodied liquid stain that evens out the tones in wood and unifies the project. I use stains high is solid content, and low in dye content such as Rodda, Varathane, and Cabot.
I also try to avoid using a sealcoat. I accomplish this by largely avoiding cherry and poplar.
Here are some of my sample boards, including gel stains.
Good luck with your project!

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

View SKlaus's profile


52 posts in 2384 days

#8 posted 08-19-2013 11:56 PM

Thanks so much ya’ll!! At least I don’t feel alone… I know poplar is blotch prone and can be difficult to work with in the color area… I’m gonna try old masters gel stain on a sample just to see if the characteristics are different. I have some general stains water based stain (red and yellow can not blue) that has just a slightly thinner consistency than the gel and goes on like a dream… Maybe I’ll stick to that… Hopefully old masters works… Some of you mentioned NOT using sealcoat… But I have used stain on raw poplar and it looks very different, and in my opinion not appealing to me… Is there another way to seal it? Sanding sealer?

-- 2 Timothy 2:15 "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

View finishingfun's profile


2 posts in 1741 days

#9 posted 08-20-2013 02:01 AM

I have never really found gel stains to be of good quality and results. I have had good results with blotch prone wood by spraying a mist coat of water and acetone 50/50, evenly applied before stain application. It. Opens the grain and allows for more even colouring. Dont apply the water mix to heavily as it will pop to much grain and draw the stain in deeply causing it to go darker than you may wish.

View JonBikeRacer's profile


69 posts in 1597 days

#10 posted 01-26-2015 05:15 PM

I just had a similar experience with a table top. The gel was drying quickly, and it made the entire table look blotchy and uneven. Luckily, I was able to fix it by following the instructions on the can, with one exception…

The only detail not stated in the instructions is that the gel needs to be applied liberally (they are not kidding about this) to the entire work area, and quickly wiped off, before the gel can begin to dry. If you are working with a large surface, like I was, it helps to have more than one clean cloth to wipe off the excess.

I hope this helps.


-- Jon "That's about as close as I can eyeball it"

View ravensrock's profile


481 posts in 1637 days

#11 posted 01-27-2015 09:20 PM

This post has me nervous now. I’m just getting ready to start a similar process (dye, Sealcoat, GF gel stain, topped with Arm-R-Seal) on some red oak nesting tables I built for my wife. I tried it on a test piece and it came out nice. Now I’m wondering if it will be more difficult on the larger project itself. Might have to rethink my finishing plan.

-- Dave, York, PA, Wildside Woodworking

View ChefHDAN's profile


1062 posts in 2844 days

#12 posted 01-27-2015 11:06 PM

I had a problem with it drying faster than I could get it wiped off here, but was able to fix it with mineral spirits, I didn’t seal anything beforehand though, so I’m not sure what effect that may have with the gel stain, I was using GF Candlestick oil stain

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View SKlaus's profile


52 posts in 2384 days

#13 posted 01-27-2015 11:58 PM

Raven, In retrospect I agree with chef Dan. I think thinning 10% or less with mineral spirits or just sprinkling a bit on the surface while the gel is coating would really help to increase the open working time…. Just be extra careful to seal really well lest you end up with a darker color than u wanted. Don’t be worried. Give it a shot!!

-- 2 Timothy 2:15 "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2105 days

#14 posted 01-28-2015 01:10 AM

I think Sealcoat sanded to 320 is far too smooth to put any pigment product on, much less a gel stain…

What did GF tech support say?

View pjones46's profile


1001 posts in 2638 days

#15 posted 01-29-2015 12:00 AM

Could also be the Stoddard solvent and naptha content in the gel stain alomg with the Distillates (petroleum), hydrotreated light causing the problem

-- Respectfully, Paul

showing 1 through 15 of 18 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics