Gel Stain Cabinets - stain coming off when sanding Top coat

melizzaJanuary 3, 2014

I finally got my 3 coats of Java Gel Stain ( General Finishes ) done. I am so happy with the results and then DISASTER STUCK when I tried to sand the Arm R Seal. I let them dry for over a week and put on 1 coat of the Arm R Seal ... let that coat dry for 3 days ...put on a 2nd coat.... let the 2nd coat dry for 3 days and then started to sand SUPER LIGHTLY with 400 grit and MY STAIN CAME OFF IN SOME AREAS !! I have no idea what I am doing wrong. Help please : ) Not sure if you can see the missing stain spots in this photo ...but also do you see how much stain came off on my sand paper !?! I used no pressure at all with the 400 grit just rubbed as lightly as I could over the surface 3-4 times.

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Sophie Wheeler

WHY are you sanding? 1 topcoat should be sufficient and you shouldn't ever sand gel stain.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 7:53AM
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I did gel stain in the same finish on my bedroom furniture. I did three coats of poly over top. I didn't do any sanding though.

I have had to do some touch ups on the furniture and it seems to blend extremely well. If I were you'd I'd probably do another coat of stain and then 2-3 more of poly on the spots where you sanded off the finish.

I just wanted to add that I can feel your pain! I painted my kitchen cabinets and seemed to hit every roadblock imaginable. We had to sand most of the drawers and door fronts down to wood when we were almost done due to errors. It'll end soon and then you'll be so proud of your work!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 9:11AM
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Are you sure that Arm-r-seal is the correct top coat for gel stain? I used the Gel Top Coat (blue can).
However, I would call General Finishes. They will be able to give you great advice.

Here is a link that might be useful: General Finishes Top Coats

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 11:06AM
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Thank so much everyone for helping !!
I had a minor set back with Christmas ( was DEFINITELY the wrong time of year for me to have started this project : )

So the reason I was sanding ( after the 2nd coat of Arm R Seal ) is because:

1. that is what the guy at general finishes told me to do
2. it is what I have read several times now on different web sites what other people were doing
3. I had few very tiny tiny tiny bubbles ( I read that this was because when I applied the top coat I guess my "swipes" were to fast allowing some air to get in ?? not sure )

and when I say "sand" I mean I literally took a sheet of 400 and just barely "kissed" the top of the door ( because I was terrified of scratching my finish )

Every single coat I have done on these doors has had at least 3 days of drying time ( and almost 2 weeks for stain it self )

I used the Arm R Seal because that is also what they told me at general finishes. And I was told 3-4 coats ( which the thought of makes me want to set all of these cabinets on fire right now ! : )

Since they are going in the kitchen with 4 kids I assumed I needed as much protection as possible.

AND THANK YOU "BROWNEYES" SO MUCH for your SUPPORTIVE KIND WORDS !! I really needed to hear that right now. I don't think my husband ( or anyone who has not gone through this experience ) has ANY IDEA what a NIGHTMARE this is !!

Anyway... I am in the middle of the job, have -- 33 CABINETS and Drawers -- a torn up kitchen and can't stop now. I just emailed the General Finishes guy my photos and he is going to call me soon. I just wanted to post to thank everyone for helping, supporting ! and just in case anyone else has my same issue should they choose to go down the infamous " Java Gel Stain" path :)

Here is a side by side photo of the "sanded / chipped door" and one on the right that had not been sanded. ( The color is of course EXACTLY the same just different lighting in my dining room and kitchen )

Thanks again to all - so much appreciated

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 2:30PM
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Just FYI this is what I started with - after stripping down to bare wood - BEFORE I discovered that it's not necessary to strip when using Gel Stain : (

Maybe that's my problem ?? Starting with bare wood ??

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 2:37PM
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I had a GF gel stain failure on a desk. In a nutshell, the first coat went on relatively well, but the second coat caused the first to randomly lift off the wood (oak). I ended up chatting to a nice guy at GF, then stripped the desk completely and used their conventional oil-based stain and water-based top coat.

My understanding is that gel stain is more like paint and doesn't really penetrate the wood at all. Even oil stain doesn't penetrate nearly as well as ink dye does. I was worried about sanding down through my stain, so I waited until I had two coats of water-based poly. Then I used a 1000-grit (or was it 2000?) sanding sponge I bought at The Auto Zone. Although the poly went on and leveled really well, I still had the odd dust nib that needed to get knocked down. No problems sanding through the stain. I needed multiple coats of poly because the desk surface gets a lot of wear and tear.

I hope you call GF and report back what they have to say. I know how very upsetting it can be when something goes wrong after you put a lot of hard work into it.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 3:46PM
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How frustrating! And yes, please report back from GF. Maybe if you're down to the bare wood, it would be better to use a penetrating wood stain rather than gel stain?

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 4:02PM
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Hey, I more than feel you! It's SOOOO hard to do some of these DIY things. I tend to see that "everyone" (on the internet) can paint their cabinets/build a fridge surround/tile their own backsplash, etc. and think I can too - with little to no experience! I'm also the spear header in my family and my DH has no idea about all of these things!

My kitchen is SO much smaller than yours (10 drawers and 12 doors) and it almost killed me! It took me almost 3 months of working on the weekends to do all the prepping/priming/painting (and then fixing my mistakes!). I feel you too thinking you're doing all the right steps and then still having issues. It's really frustrating. I didn't have anyone around me with experience to advise or help me so I was also getting all my information from researching here and other sites as well as from the sales people helping me.

I used a GF poly over my furniture and I applied everything with those sponge brushes. I didn't strip my pieces before I used it, I didn't have too much trouble with it but I did notice that it seems to be kind of easy to scrape it/ding it. I sure hope that you get it figured out! I know I had a near breakdown when I thought the paint wasn't adhering to my cabinets!

Best of luck!! We're here to help and listen!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 10:24AM
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I just wanted to add that the color looks great - it'll be like a brand new kitchen when you're done! Another thing I wanted to add is that with my GF furniture it's pretty easy to touch up any dings :)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 10:26AM
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melizza, you stripped down to bare wood? The photo you posted of the stripped door looks like there is still something on the wood, i.e., stain. When I stripped my desk, everything came off and it looked way lighter and not golden at all.

When I called General Finishes, I had already stripped the wood. The guy I spoke to was very nice. He wasn't sure what had gone wrong with my application of gel stain but by then it didn't matter, I knew I was done with it. He said that since I now had bare wood that their oil stain would be what *he* would use. It was a dream to apply. I used a foam brush for both the stain and then 3-6 coats of poly. I'm a believer, not a single bubble.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 10:35AM
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Hi Melizza. I was wondering what the final outcome and solution was to the problem of color coming off after sanding the protective top coat. I've just started the same project in my kitchen....doors are off and everything is sanded and ready to go. And now I'm scared :-/. Thanks in advance for sharing your experience and insight.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 2:05PM
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