Gel stain and shellac question

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Forum topic by redmosquito1 posted 01-14-2014 06:08 AM 1192 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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24 posts in 1021 days

01-14-2014 06:08 AM

Hello fellow LumberJocks,
I’m getting ready to finish my cherry wood nightstand I built and the fiance wanted a darker stain on it so I went to see what woodcraft had in stock.

After doing some reading/talking to the guy at woodcraft on finishing cherry I came to to the decision to use general finises gel stain in brown mahogany (that’s what she wanted) and do a couple of coats of shellac on top. I picked up zinnser unwaxed shellac which I believe is a 2 pound cut.

My plan is to sand to 120 grit and apply a coat of the gel stain and wipe off, let it sit to dry over night. Sand to 220 grit and then apply 2 coats of shellac and sand 320 then 400 and finish with 3-4 coats of the shellac on top as my top coat using a white scotch brite pad between coats. After the last coat I plan to use 0000 steel wool and apply a paste wax on top to get a good sheen and call it good.

Does that sound like a good plan? I’m not to sure when to sand, from what I’ve read you get the pest result with 120 or 150 grit before the gel stain is applied so prevent blotch. I know if I apply a coat of shellac before I stain it will also help reduce the blotch but from what I’ve been told/read gel stain will all but eliminate the blotch so I picked that to avoid a step (probably shouldn’t.)

Any tips? Am I on the right track?

Also, as a side note – I planed everything all 4 sides with my woodriver #4 v3 smooth plane prior to glue up, but then had to sand per reccomendations I’ve read. Did I waste my time or could I have stained and shellacked over the finish I got with the plane? It was glossy and perfectly smooth.

Thanks a bunch.

4 replies so far

View mervillehomesteader's profile


31 posts in 1016 days

#1 posted 01-14-2014 06:34 AM

I don’t know a whole lot about stains and shellacs. I always use a beeswax and tongue oil mix. If I want to darken I use Danish wood oils instead of tongue oil. Just heat the oil up on a low heat( I use my hiking stove and little cook pot) and add chopped up bees wax. It cools quick so you can fiddle with the mix till it becomes a paste I think its about half and half( I never pay attention to that kinda stuff). Then you just rub in with a rag keeping mix warm helps. I generally give it a couple coats letting the first sit overnight then apply the second the following morning and rub like hell. It gives it a great satin warm finish.I have a shelf that I did 15 years ago that has hung around in and out of hall ways multiple bedrooms and garages as a parts shelf and the like and is now my temporary wood tool shelf. And all it takes is a rub with a rag to give that nice warm finish that it once had when I gave it its first and only coat of finish so long ago. Oh and I never did sand, a Stanley #4 finish was all it got. I should clean it up and take a pic.

-- Perfectly Imperfect. Thats my style!

View JAAune's profile


1614 posts in 1736 days

#2 posted 01-14-2014 06:47 AM

It’s not necessary to sand after planing but it will affect the appearance to some extent. However, if you intend to stain to a dark color sanding is probably needed. Stain might not darken the burnished surface created by hand-planing enough to get the color you want.

You probably won’t have good luck sanding after staining. It could clog the paper and there’s a good chance of accidentally sanding through the color which will not penetrate the wood at all. Best to save sanding until after the first coat of finish is done.

First of all, do all testing on some scrap wood before working on the actual project.

Gel stain reduces splotching but may not be enough by itself. I would recommend trying the following procedure.

1. Sand with the grain to p150.
2. Mix up some alchohol and shellac about 50/50 and applying one coat of that to the wood and allow it to soak into the grain. There shouldn’t be a visible film buildup on the surface.
3. After the shellac is dry, scuff sand lightly with p220.
4. Apply gel stain
5. Apply first coat of shellac.
6. Scuff sand very lightly with p320 to smooth away dust nibs
7. Apply a second coat of shellac.
8. Determine if the finish is satisfactory. If not, repeat steps 6-7 until the finish looks good. Finish off with the wax afterwards.

Again, test with scrap wood first. You can get different results by mixing around the different steps and might find some other combination that looks better.

-- See my work at and

View blackcherry's profile


3292 posts in 3242 days

#3 posted 01-14-2014 02:04 PM

Are you spraying the shellac because if not you run a good chance of striking the gel stain if you brush and roll. Gel Stain tends to stay on the surface and wild move once a finish is applied with a brush and roller. Best of luck…BC

View redmosquito1's profile


24 posts in 1021 days

#4 posted 01-14-2014 02:12 PM

I would just oil it myself cause I like natural type look. However I’m building it for the fiancĂ© and she wants it stained so that’s what she gets. I like the color though so no complaints and I had to use some of the lighter wood in making the legs so it should allow me to blend it in a bit more.

I will do a couple of test pieces on scraps tonight. JAA I’ll follow your procedure on one and try a no base coat on another and see how it looks. Then finish it with a few shellac coats see how I like it, I’ll start with no shellac since my color sample was done that way last night.

My intention was to brush the shellac on, I hadn’t heard the gel stain will pull from shellac though. That’s a concern for sure. I know some people have had bad results from minwax gel stains but it seems the general stuff is better. Test pieces will show it I guess.

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