First Coat - General Finishes Gel Stain

OyiwaaNoelaJuly 11, 2014


I am refinishing my cabinets with a General Finishes Gel stain. his evening, I applied the first coat with a foam brush and wiped it off as directed.

I am not sure I am doing right. Please, see the attached pictures, and if you can, point me in the possibly correct direction. Am I taking off too much of the stain? Or have I not applied it correctly? Is it usual to have some of the original wood still showing after the first coat?

I plan to apply the second coat on Sunday, and maybe a third before applying the top-coat (urethane). What can I do to improve my stains..

thanks Oyii

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It loos as though it is wiped off very unevenly, leaving streaks that will be very visible when finished, as well as deposits of materials in the corners. With these products you pretty much want to wipe off everything that has not thoroughly soaked into the wood. Once you've gotten down to the stage in your picture use a clean soft rag (think old T-shirt material) to buff off the remaining streaks, and to get the stain out of the corners, unless that is an "antique look" that you're going for (something extremely difficult to accomplish well without a lot of practice and experience, so I wouldn't try it).

This thorough wipe-off can sometimes have the unfortunate effect of differential capture of different components of the stain, resulting in unexpected color results. It's critical to test any stain/finish by completely finishing a test piece of the same material (say the back side of a seldom-used door in this case) to assess the outcome. That means use the same sanding regime, stain application and finish, in the same number of coats, with the same between coat treatment. Stained wood can change color a lot when finish is applied.

Commercial cabinet finishers typically spray a color or stain layer on and do not wipe anything off, allowing them to achieve better color uniformity and reproducibility, albeit at a cost to the clarity of the finish.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 8:30AM
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Thanks very much - I agree on the wipe off technique. I wasn't sure whether to wipe it off completely or not, hence I was light in some areas and heavier in others.

So what do I do next - re-sand each of the earlier pieces and reapply the stain?

or correct the mistakes in the second coat?

Thanks very much, Oyii

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 9:17AM
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Your stain is not leaving enough color, just smearing around. Try this: apply a thick coat to the back of a door, and figure out how much to leave on to get the color you want. Once you master the application/wipe-off, move onto the fronts.
It is evident that you need to pay more attention to wiping with the grain. What you have done is not going to be helped by another coat; you have wipe marks going across the grain.
For me, one key has been to not use a completely dry fresh cloth for wiping, but rather one that already has some stain in it. That means that you will not be scouring away the stain you have applied, but rather using the cloth to even out the color.

I much prefer to work with stripped wood, which makes me the exception around here; at least there is something for the stain to hold onto unlike when the existing clearcoat is left and only scuff-sanded. If I had to apply gel stain over existing clearcoat, I would pay a lot of attention to scuff sanding thoroughly, but never burning through to expose bare wood, because that's going to leave darker marks, as stain loves bare wood more than it does clearcoat. Equal scuffing everywhere will give a more even stain.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 12:41PM
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I think you need to get it even prior to a second coat. Stripping might be necessary (I'd use a solvent-based paint stripper to get it off rather than sanding), but if it's not dried hard you might get away with blending new stain in with steel wool. In a small, inconspicuous area try dabbing some stain on and then scrubbing it with the grain with a 00 or 000 steel wool pad, or perhaps a green scotchbrite pad to try to get rid of the streaks, then wiping off thoroughly. If it's dried hard this probably won't work, but it would be easier than stripping and starting over.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 12:48PM
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What was on the original surface (raw wood, paint, etc) and how did you prepare the surface? Chris - General Finishes

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 7:07AM
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Thanks very much for all your responses. The original surface is stained oak ... I am applying Georgian Cherry - I sanded it with 200 and 220 grit paper before applying the stain.

I've read through all the advice and will start over, and strip the paint off this evening. I plan to use a product as the CitriStrip -

Do you recommend it this kind of stripper?

Secondly, do I always have to wipe the Gel stain off or can I paint with a foam brush and leave it on?

Finally, since the wiping off is my main problem, I will practice at the back of a door until I get it right.

sombreuil_mongrel: I like your suggestion of working with a dry cloth (with some stain already in it) - but wouldn't that create further marks? Also, since I plan stripping the wood, instead of sanding - would you recommend the CitriStrip I referenced above?

Thanks - Oyii

Thanks - Oyii

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 11:08AM
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Going to be really difficult to get those looking good. You really need to get ALL of the old finish off before the wood will accept stain.

Really the only good way to do what you are trying to do would be to spray a toner over the existing doors. But that takes professional equipment and a some practice.

Have you considered buying new doors? They really aren't all that expensive.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 7:04AM
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