best topcoat on General Finishes Gel Stain

alertApril 23, 2014

I just finished refinishing my guest bathroom cabinets (builder's oak) with the Java Gel Stain. I used the 'Satin' Arm-R-Seal as the topcoat, but it left a 'frosty' finish because of the flatteners (not streaky, but frosty) -- It's ok for the bathroom, but I want to do my kitchen cabinets in the GF Georgian Cherry....but I don't want the 'frosty' finish...should I use the 'gloss'?? (I heard it is easier, because it doesn't have the 'flatteners' to deal with)...but not sure I want a high 'gloss' finish....or should I use another brand? They looked great until I put the topcoat on, that took away how great they looked....HELP!!

This post was edited by alert on Wed, Apr 23, 14 at 23:58

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You could use gloss, and even go through all the work of rubbing down to a satin (not easy because it's polyurethane).

However, streakiness is usually due to insufficient stirring to keep the flatteners in suspension. Because Arm-R-Seal is a wiping varnish* it's more thinned than a brushing varnish so the flatteners fall out of the less viscous liquid much quicker. Thorough stirring before and regular stirring during application is important. I'd stir about every 30 seconds. Another question is how did you apply? That may also contribute to the streaks. I'd stir, put in an open top container, then dip a brush in the container to apply. Throw away anything left in your distribution container once you're done brushing on.

* Despite the label saying, "Urethane and Oil Blend" (or at least it used to), it's simply a varnish. If you put a puddle on a piece of glass it will dry smooth and hard. An oil-varnish blend will dry with wrinkles in it. The more wrinkles, the higher proportion of oil to varnish. I've always said to people that this label is like putting "Flour and yeast blend" on a loaf of bread. The creation of varnish combines and cooks the ingredients (resins and oil) in a way to make a new substance, just like baking bread.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:51AM
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@bobsmyuncle, do you have a better recommendation? I'm staining the cabinets with the GF Gel Stain....

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:51AM
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I'm going to sand it down and try a different product...Minwax Clear Satin Poly....See if that makes a difference...

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 2:03PM
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I'm going to sand it down and try a different product...Minwax Clear Satin Poly....See if that makes a difference...

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 4:46PM
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That is a terrible idea. General finishes are the best of wood coatings. Minwax are the worst.

Try another GF product in satin. Read: Stir the can thoroughly with a wooden stir stick. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the can as you stir. All the flatteners settle to the bottom very quickly, where they sort of congeal. You can see if the can is stirred properly by scraping the stirrer on the bottom and then examining what is stuck to the stick. When stirred properly, there will be no more accumulation on the bottom or the stick.

The same applies to pigment based stains. The pigment settles to the bottom, and the can must be stirred aggressively before and during application to ensure an even color pigment.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 8:55AM
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For my kitchen cabinets (which were new/previously-unfinished), I used several coats of shellac over the stain, then a wiped-on coat of polyurethane gel varnish for water-resistance and cleanability. Been 7 years now with no issues.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 11:58AM
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I used the General Finishes wipe-on poly top coat.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 5:51PM
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