Gel Stain Hell

igloochicApril 1, 2008

Ok look....I Keep seeing these gorgeous transformations with Gel Stain (Min Wax) and so I have tackled my library wall...and after two coats, it barely appears to be touched.

I preconditioned following directions, and applied one generous coat of walnut, letting it sit 3 mins, then wiped off. THen waited 24 hours, and did another's still really light. WHAT AM I MISSING??????

Love me :oP

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Is the wood you're putting it on finished? If so, the gel stain can't penetrate it unless you've sanded it down to bare wood.

The few times I used the gel stain, I didn't wipe anything off since it was being used on a finished surface. I believe that's what others have done when they used it on stair railings.
For use as a top coat to make wood darker, it's probably going to work better on horizontal surfaces vs vertical.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 1:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Try changing brands- use Bartleys. I use it as a toner, multiple coats, over sanding sealer or shellac, etc. It's tenacious.
It set up very fast, I'll warn you.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 8:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yup, there's probably a lacquer or finish coat that penetrated the grain of the wood.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 9:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If it's finished wood or some cheap version then apply the stain and leave it. I have a wood cabinet in bath and did the process you mentioned and it looks great. But for my kitchen cabinets it wiped right off. So you have to follow the directions on the can for glass/metal. I applied mine, waited about 5 minutes then brushed it with a dry brush. This step spread it out and made it even and pretty.
Don't forget to do a couple of coats of polyurethane afterwards for protection.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 9:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OMG Igloochic, I am so sorry! That's a huge area to work with , and to have it turn out badly makes me shudder. Did you scrape it off or what? I've been reading any and all threads about using gel stain, as I was hoping to use it on our dining room table, chairs, sofa table and powder room cab. "Was" . . . now I'm not so sure. Keep us posted on what you do next, will you?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 11:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have used gel stain min wax with much success. Your mistake is wiping it off. It has the stain and varnish all in one. No preconditioning is necessary either because nothing is soaking into the wood. Just wipe it on to the desired darkness you want and you are done.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 11:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I remember the photo of your wall, I'm concluding the stained wood had a protective clear coat (poly or varnish,etc.?). I'm not a big fan of stain being applied over finished wood, it's not really designed by nature to work that way, as stain is meant to absorb into wood, rather than sit on it. Since a poly finish would prevent stain from absorbing into the wood, it's just going to sit there. But I am from the old school of wood finishing ;)

If others have used gel stain on finished wood with success, then more power to them! ;D

I suspect one of the potential issues might be the conditioner. The reason a conditioner is used before staining is so that it will allow stain to absorb evenly and prevent blotching on difficult to stain woods, such as pine for example. But it's meant for bare nekkid wood.;) A wood conditioner on finished wood with a poly protective finish would really have minimal impact, because the conditioner can't soak into the wood's pores as it's designed to do since any protective poly or varnish is creating a barrier. So the conditioner is just sitting there as well. Mineral spirits is the cleanup method for Minwax Wood Conditioner (the oil-based, not the water based). BUT, wiping with mineral spirits might compromise your existing surface and you'll have a worse mess on your hands. Did the surface feel dry to the touch after the conditioner but before the stain? Or did it have a bit of a slimy feel to it? Another option would be to lightly scuff sand that layer of wood conditioner off, but you'd have to be careful so you didn't start removing poly too, or you'll get into more issues with uneven coverage.

So before you do anything else here's what I would suggest as a trial. Apply the gel stain in a small inconspicuous area. If it's too dark, by all means wipe it, but do so lightly. (Remember, it's just sitting there, not absorbing into the wood, so heavy wiping will pull it right back off again). Let it dry at least overnight, better yet 24 hours. If it feels tacky, give it more dry time. Then, if color needs more depth, after the gel stain is completely dry and not tacky to the touch, reapply a second coat. You'll be better off in this case to do multiple light coats to build up to your layer of color depth, rather than the more traditional method of applying them wiping to remove excess color. (I'd use a sponge brush too, for even distribution.) If that works and gets you where you need to be, let it dry really well before applying a protective finish coat. (Which you'll have to do if you want to preserve it well and prevent it from scraping off due to items moving on shelves, bumps, etc.) Unless there's a product I'm unaware of, gel stains are straight stains without poly protection built in. Products like PolyShades are the ones with combination stain/poly in one step (that's a whole nuther nightmare to work with imho, you just don't get good control of color as you would doing it in steps).

Don't know what brand you're using, but check for gel stain and wood conditioner, click on the FAQ sections, there's a lot of good info there. ;)

By the way, speaking of brands, which brand and type of Conditioner did you use (there is oil-based and water-based conditioner, each is to be used with the respective based stain). Which brand gel stain are you using?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 12:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OK guys I did read the label and it said precondition (but I will admit they also said sand and I skipped that heh heh) but didn't think to treat it like glass or metal. I'll bet that's the key! I thought if you left it on it turned to gum (Didn't someone try that and had a mess on their hands?)

Anyhoo, since I know mineral spirits will clean it off if it does turn to gum from another thread, I'll go ahead and try leaving it five mins than brushing it.

Lynne, I'm working on just one of the squares in the wood wall. I figured I could try it in a defined area without leaving any significant damage and if it worked, it wouldn't leave any lines from my test section because of the wood trim framing the square, so don't feel too bad for me...I haven't been up on the ladder yet ;)

I'm guessing if you don't wipe it off Mariana, than you also don't use so much that you can't see the wood? (I used a BUNCH since it said be "generous"). How thick of a coat did you use?

I will be back at this on Wednesday, and if there is no success I'll give up and paint the wall. I just had to try :)

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 12:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I used a pretty thick first coat. After the dry brush, you couldn't see the oak at all (I also used walnut). The second coat was just with a sponge and it wasn't a full coat, I really just touched up the parts that were lighter than the rest (no brush on second coat). The amount you put depends I guess on how dark you want it. If you want it lighter then do a thinner coat. It will still make it darker but not as dark as mine. I recommend the dry brush because there is no way to make it even with a sponge full of stain. Does your wall show the wood grain? You will still see that through the stain no matter how dark you go (well, you will see the texture of the grain but not a difference in color-at least not with the walnut).
In my pic you can see and feel the grain but it's all the same color.

I have 16 doors/cabinets. I used two full cans and an inch of the third can. One full can of poly.
Your going to need a lot for your wall.

Don't you have shelves on your wall that you can remove? I would start with one of those. Give it a heavy coat that covers all but there is no excess left over. Then wait, then brush. Wait one to two days, then poly.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 1:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hey the good news is you didn't do the whole wall!! Did I ever tell the time I kept painting our small bathroom even though the first square foot of paint really sucked? My DH came home, opened the door and almost fainted. I wanted to surprise him. Not Good. I was still painting the second coat! Cause maybe the second coat would magically shift and be a perfect color?? or not. To put it mildly Orange pinky brick was not a good color choice for a tiny,old bathroom and was very very hard to paint over. Did I happen to mention it was orange pinky brick?? I did all the woodwork and the mullions in the windows too!
I am sure you will get it worked out and it will be gawgeous. You have good idears Sue

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 1:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Moonshadow we cross posted :)

I was using a minwax product and purchased it and the preconditioner at the same place with the help of the paint dept (little local store...they're good guys). I don't have it here but they've never sold me cross products (oil based with water based etc) before. They're pretty anal there. The two products didn't react against each other (nothing tacky...they both finished as promised on the cans).

I would agree that this isn't the "best" solution for this wall. The best is to yank it down and replace with real wood that can be stained to my satisfaction. Secondly would be to sand this wall, but it's just ply for the majority of the wall and there isn't much sanding that can be done. It would either take me years by hand, or cost me a fortune to pay the painter to do the same, so I'm gonna "try" to see if the minwax thing works, but worst case, I'm prepared to see the entire wall primed and painted.

I am no chicken to starting a project Sue :oP I prefer to do it in a spot that will force me to finish somehow, verses an inconspicuous spot LOL (But I'm putting all the brick pink paint away heh heh) I started on the section of the wall that gets the most sunlight, so I could see it with the full and harsh glare of mother nature on it. Doing a test spot on the bottom of a shelf won't give me that frank opinion and might lead to me working too hard, only to find that the spot mother nature likes to hit looks like uffda.

I'm going to shoot for a thin coat and see what I get. Remember, my worst expectation is that we paint it, so no biggie. :) I have no issues with waiting 24 hours for everything to dry (in fact I only get to the site every other day so no biggie). I don't rush paint (I rush everything else, but never paint).

My brain hurts...signing off (I have to get a homestudy done in two days..>ACK!!!) :oP

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 8:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Keep us posted, I'd really like to know how it comes out for you. Glad you got the products from a reliable dealer. I know a local big box store that 90% of the sales force can't find their way out of that big box ;D. They would have readily sent a customer home with incompatible water-based conditioner and oil-based stain. *rolleyes*

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 8:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
igloochic freaking contractor (who swore he did floors all the time) went to the big box store and purchased a oil based stain and water based stain (for the second coat) a water based finish (or was it oil based...anyway) my floors looked pretty til you walked on them and noticed the footsteps as the finish pulled off the floor. It literally pealed off like tape...lovely...that was his last job in my house. So believe you me...I looked at finish compatibility LOL

I'm going to go meet with the new tile guy...hopefully (I've been in tile hell as well) and get a coat on this sample spot again to see how it looks...maybe I'll find a camera LOL)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 3:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I will admit they also said sand and I skipped that heh heh...

Well, that-thar is your problem, ma'am....

If you don't sand, the color won't sink in, it will only sit on top. And if it sits on top, it will take a loooonnnggg time to dry completely. Once it dries, it will be prone to chipping and flaking.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 4:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I expect the sanding would be to open the pores so it would take, and the conditioner to lightly close them so they would not take up too much, like when you dye hair. If you bleach it first and then apply dark brown dye without using a conditioner (sotaspeak), it will grab all the green or blue underpigment and you will have, not brown or maybe black hair, but green or blue.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 7:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I used to wipe off, but had the same experience. So now I apply it like paint, and that works great. For these cabinets, which started life as 1980s style builder's grade honey oak, I first used wood filler to get rid of the grain (and can't thanks Mari enough for that suggestion). Then I primed (Kilz water based), painted with Behr Chocolate Mountain (satin) 2 coats, then applied the gel stain (Minwax, Walnut)in 2 light coats, NO wiping. I finished with 2 coats of satin polyurethane. You can't see in the picture the brush strokes that show a little of the lighter paint through the stain, which is what I wanted.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 7:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

meghane, I admire your work when I see that photo, truly a nice job! Just my very humble .02, but I think part of the difference between applying stain over the latex paint and applying it over an existing coat of poly is that the stain is still absorbing, even to some small extent, into the latex. Not to the extent it would with bare wood, but some. Because even tho it's a coating, the latex is still porous to some degree, whereas the poly barrier is not (which prevents absorption.) Just a theory, the pros in Paint could answer it better. I'm tired, hungry and loopy and for all I know my theory is about as valuable as a pile of horse hockey.

Actually, igloo, meghane's method might just be the ideal solution that saves you a world of grief?!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 9:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Today I tried the "paint it on" theory and went with the "drybrush" technique. I don't want the debth of color that meghane has (though that's gorgeous) because it's such a huge wall! But with just one coat (done in various areas to see how the sun hits it and how different woods take the finish since these are a mix of plys' and real wood). I like the first attempt, though the bigger squares are a bit blotchy, but I feel comfortable with the idea that I can even that out on a second coat if I keep it thin and isolated to the necessary areas.

Here's coat one:

Any tips for coat two are appreciated. I think I'll keep it quite thin...I like seeing some grain verses having a painted look. It's such a massive area that all dark dark dark would be too much.

I must admit...I got a bit adicted. Thank god Tile God showed up and stopped me. I probably would have drug out a ladder and finished the first wall if he hadn't. heh heh

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 10:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I like it (specially the second pic). After a few touch-ups it will look even better with the poly on it. You will get better and it will get easier as you go on. I could stain anything now!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 12:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

No comment. ;>

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 2:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That looks great, in fact, I think you just inspired me to try this on my kitchen cabinets. I currently have builder's cheap oak cabinets and I'd love for them to be closer in finish to the exposed logs in the house. Maybe when they look better I can even convince DH to let me get some pretty hardware for them too! So, did you sand at all? or not?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 2:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ronniroo, I finally posted my finished kitchen on the kitchen forum with pics of my stained cabs

Here is a link that might be useful: finished kitchen

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 2:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OOH, gorgeous mlraff! I'm definitely gonna do this soon. I have 2 bathroom cabinets that could use it as well. Having a log home with old (37 years) darker logs and new builder's cheap oak cabinets looks REALLY weird, heh. Thanks for the detailed instructions on your thread, that helped a lot.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 3:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

LOL KD NO! Can you imagine a whole wall of tortise? I bought tortise shell glasses instead...will that make you happy? sanding at all. I did wipe down with a dust rag since the room is swimming in dust (the floors on the level below have been sanded twice and there's also drywall dust everywhere...the whole house is a construction site.

I'll now pack up the crap I stuffed in these shelfs, and I think I'm going to finish it myself, verses the painter, but I'll chat with him and see how he feels. I will do the second touch up coat tomorrow and that will make the decision final or not...even as it is now, with a finish coat to seal it I'd be happier than the oak, but the room is meant to be a real show stopper, so it really has to look perfect.

It wasn't that hard to do really...just a very dry brush technique (hardly any paint on the stain brush) and I did use just a stain brush (natural bristle), no sponge. You have to watch your stroke marks carefully so you don't see them in the finish, and brush exactly with the grain (which will be fun on the smaller sections above the squares you see here, and the more detailed cut in's around the fireplace). Ahh well I love a project!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 6:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I guess I'll just have to settle for the alligator glasses (says, slouching away), but I thought you could use the alligator glasses to protect you from the glare of the faux tortoise wall!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 7:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok the second coat was the trick, and I love it.

The only variation in color here is due to the flash on the wall. The room has no lighting due to construction so I had to use flash since it's a cloudy day, but hopefully you can get an idea how good it looks. It's just a nice color, and you can still see the grain, which I wanted, due to the size of the project (if it was as dark as paint it would be overwhelming). For the second coat...if you called my first a "dry brush" this would be a "miserly dry brush" really just a very thin coat and it was all evened out :)

The doors only have one coat here...I wanted to see if I could glaze in place so I don't have to move my glass collection...It's way way too much to pack up and I worry about storage since some of it is pretty expensive. I can do it in place...which means that "I" will have to do the job...but I'm ok with that if I don't have to pack this cabinet away.

These are only test spots...the entire wall will be done and then I'll do a final sealent coat (any advice there?)

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 8:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Final coat - shellac! It comes clear, amber or garnet. Depending on the look you're after, I'd go with one of them. It's easy to apply and very forgiving. One more coat covers up any goofs on the previous coat.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 9:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ohhh amber :) Is the sheen variable (ie satin or shiny?)

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 9:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That is looking gorgeous- great job!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 9:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Shellac has a light sheen. It's not shiny shiny, but when dry it looks more like a glow to me.

Here's a good write up about it.

Here is a link that might be useful: shellac writeup

    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 5:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Looking good. I love the color.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 9:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Today I tried the "paint it on" theory and went with the "drybrush" technique"

Igloochic - I love how it's looking. Can't wait to see the whole wall. Just curious, are you using a regular paint brush to put the stain on? What exactly do you mean by the drybrush technique? I'm wanting to try this on my kitchen cabinets.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 11:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks everyone. I can't wait to see it with a finish coat ;)

msrose, "Drybrush" means that you barely dip your brush ends into the paint/stain, and then brush it on, spreading it quite thin. It's called "dry" as opposed to your normal technique where you dip the entire brush into the paint, wipe off the biggest mess of that and then spread a much more significant amount of paint around.

On that final coat, I really just touched the top of the stain a bit and spread it on. WHen you're all done with a "dry brush" technique, the top 2/3 of your brush really should be pretty "dry" because it never sees paint.

I used a brush specifically for stain and varnish, a white china bristle brush. The synthetics don't hold up to the chemicals in stain and varnish, so natural bristle is a must for a good finish. I prefer a white china bristle because the bristle is a bit finer than a black china bristle, but if you can't find a really high quality white china bristle, go with black (cheap white china bristles will not hold and you'll end up with bristles in your paint). I actually prefer an ox hair brush for the final coat, but I can't find I may have to buy another brush. They're best for clear coats to get a streak free coat because their bristles are so fine.

I umm sort of love paint brushes LOL I have dozens and always still "need" one more heh heh

    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 1:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I used Minwax Polyurethane in semi-gloss for my cabs (with a natural bristle brush). I did two coats.
I love the results. The poly was super easy.
I brushed it on, then after I did another door I came back to the first and brushed it again (without adding more poly). I did this to make it smooth.



    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 11:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dawn,are you doing all of the wall in the gel stain, or just parts of the panels? At DD's college yesterday we had a parents day for her sorority AOPi and b/cause it was raining, it was held in a study lounge and the paneling was like your wall but with the walnut surrounding panels of oak.It was very rich looking. (it was real walnut and oak though,since it is an old stately building) It reminded me immediately of your gel stain work!The walnut and oak worked so well together.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 1:11PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Office ready for window treatments - WWYD?
I finally hung the diplomas and DH's favorite print...
Ikea mattresses
We need to get a new twin mattress for my DS (9). ...
HGTV Fixer Upper show
I have been reading in blog land about HGTV's new show...
The size of toilet much smaller now!
I know, who wants to talk about toilet paper??? LOL!...
Do you like decor on the coffee table?
This relates back to our 'magazine house' discussion....
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™