Evil Polyshades to the rescue????

celticmoonSeptember 28, 2005

I've read the threads and understand this product is "universally despised". But I think it may be exactly what I need. (Kitchen forum sent me over here)

I have an otherwise perfect very large & bright kitchen, but I loathe the faded orangish color of the oak slab cabinetry doors. Cabinetry is also in mudroom, a whole wall of living room, dining room and both baths - AND the floor plan is open with sightlines of the cabinetry room to room. The cost of a tearout/replacement sickens me - the 90 sq feet of corian then would have to go too (color is discontinued and sections are too big - no one will agree to even try to get the long runs out safely). The cost is obscene just to solve a cosmetic issue.

I've scouted options for years, considered stripping, painting, refacing, etc. And meanwhile upper end kitchen design is just beginning to show more dark slab cabinetry and shiney finishes.

Call me crazy, but a couple coats of dark Bombay Mahogany Polyshades and my old door (from an upper tearout for the stove hood) looks pretty great!! I would leave the other rooms as is because they are less faded and don't have the corian color clash. So....

Yes, I know it is a surface tint, not a proper stain. Like I care, if it works.

Yes, the product gunks into crevices - but my surfaces are flat.

Yes, the color is uneven - but I'm going dark to darker and expecting multiple coats. The main thing is shifting the color tone and quieting the grain pattern.

Yes, the result is shiney - but that is actually a good look in this contemporary kitchen. The grain comes through enough that it is not mirror smooth and allows for dings.

Anything else I should consider? Any better products, like this gel mentioned in a past thread? If this works, we can retire a year earlier on the money we'll save (seriously), and have a drop dead gorgeous, unusual kitchen in the bargain. Yowza.

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The last lesson most DIYers learn about finishing/refinishing wood is that there are no shortcuts that work well.

Since the surfaces you have are flat, stripping/sanding will be relatively easy, you can buy a random orbit sander for $50 or so that has decent dust collection(not Ryobi) and the 'orange stripper' and get the finish off the cabinets. Take the doors off to strip/sand. Do a group each session so you are not trapped in a marathon stripping/sanding session of three days duration.

Since you are darkening the color, you do not need to remove the old stain---simply apply the new. There are water and/or alcohol based dyes which will work better than oil based stains. These dyes are available on line and in woodworking supply stores.

Look at the problem this way----you will be looking at the finished project for years---and you already know what it feels like to be dissatisfied with the color. Putting in several days of work and still being unhappy is not a good thing.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 11:46AM
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Thanks for your thoughts. I stripped and refinished (the right way) acres of oak - wainscotting, open turned double staircase, moldings, doors, etc. in my last 1920 house. And you are absolutely right: it is the only way to get it looking original and furniture quality.

But I have 60 cabinet doors/drawer fronts to consider (yes, that's just in the kitchen). And if I do like the shiney poly finish in this oddball contemporary application and the color is even enough - tell me more why I would do it the harder, multistep way. Does the Polyshades product have other flaws or problems I didn't cite??? -k

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 12:25PM
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One more thing HandyMac

These are veneer doors/drawer fronts with seams 1/4 inch in from the rounded edges. Does that make stripping more dicey?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 12:46PM
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Kitchen cabinets with several years of age have a thin film of grease on them---not because folks are not clean, but because frying disperses tiny droplets of it. If you ever waer glasses while frying, you will see what I mean.

Painting over that film is an exercise in frustration as a general rule.

However, I am a staunch advocate for trying the least expensive or easiest method first---so you might try the Polyshades on a door----give it about two weeks or so and rub it in the same way you clean the cabinet door faces---and see if the stuff still sticks.

As far as stripping the seams---a puitty knife blade will often get into a seam and clear it.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 5:03PM
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Thanks Handymac. The Rockler store guys are coaching me and I've cleaned my doors pretty good, finishing off with mineral spirits. They too are not keen on Poly, but their reasons don't bother me (it's just wrong, it's shiney, and my favorite: it's for people who just want to do it quick in one step)

I will compare cleaning/sanding/gel/finish with cleaning/Poly.

On the edge seams - I DON'T want to lift the veneer and there is no recess at the seam between the solid oak perimeter and the center veneers.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 4:14PM
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I'll post this followup of the MinwaxPolyshades vs. General Gel procedures and outcome.

Turns out the sanding/gel is the clear winner. Yes, there's some sanding but I took your advice and purchased an orbital sander which makes that part a snap. Wiping the gel is SO SO much easier than brushing the Polyshades - which is pretty sticky stuff. Secondly, the color is more even and deeper with the gel. And third - and the biggie - is that the wood feels so much better with the gel. Silky smooth rather than, what, kind of crusty maybe with the Poly.

So HandyMac - you were right. I was wrong. Polyshades is evil after all. Thanks again. -k

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 7:04PM
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Big winner is you liking the end result!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 8:29PM
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Spoke too soon. I'm not sure I can get it dark enough with this gel. Rockler recc. a General Finishes gel (NOT water based dye - as I see you did.) And I'm remembering pointing up to the display and telling them I really wanted the deeper ebony tones and they dismissed that option because it was water based (?). The next trip another guy gets befuddled my multiple coats of the gel aren't darkening further and I have to point out to him that the gel product has urethene in it, so it is probably sealing, yes? He isn't sure. I point out the large word "polyurethene" on the gel can. Hmmmm. He decides it is a sealer after all.

So what do you reccommend Handyman? Do I need to strip down to bare wood, e.g. no finish trace, to try a water based dye? Any way to get darker with the light sanding/gel method. I can try Japan pigment again, but it seemed a little gritty. With a light sand between, will it get darker with another gel coat? With a Japan tinted clear coat? Am I wasting my time with the gels?

Talk to me please? I'm just so confused now about whether the wood is receptive to more color once I do a gel coat.
It says use 2-3 coats - is that just for durability, not color? Do I need a final coat of clear at the end or not? Can I substitut a Japan tinted clear gel for one of earlier coats and be done?

I realy am confused and worried a third trip to Rockler will net me a third conflicting set of instructions....

Thanks for your patience

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 1:06AM
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Hi - I too am playing with parts of my cabinetry and am aiming for a very dark finish (not quite painted though in thickness/lack of transparency).

I spent some time in my local Rockler this week (they were great getting out and mixing different finishes for me to check color on similiar wood to my cabinets) and this is what I'm currently working with:

Stripped wood.
2 (maybe 3?) coats of General water based gel finish in Espresso.
Dry, don't sand in between coats.
Wiped off coat of Country Colors in Black (maybe 2 coats - both wiped).
Still debating if I want a layer of satin finish - then I'm applying a dark brown "wax" coat.

I havent' gotten the recipe quite right - but this is the best combo I've found so far to get the look I'm going for.

You have my sympathy - it's a big project - good luck!

(I looked into Polyshades year or so ago and came to your same conclusion!)

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 1:29AM
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Hi Jennifer. Welcome to my thread. I've been crashing yours next door (cf "black stain on oak" for the rest of you.)

I thought your island was new cabinetry. So we are in the same boat after all - and Brickeye's dye and rust ideas won't work for you either? My door/drawers are all slabs, no detail or crevices. Bad news is I have 60.

Thank you so much for the first hand description. Very helpful to benefit from your trial and error.

One question: Rockler steered me away from the water based. (Maybe because I wasn't keen on a chemical strip.)
Even though the General Expresso was the sample closest to what I want. The (poly) Java gel is nowhere near as dark.
Soooooo with slabs: Think I could just sand and then start with water based Expresso?? Did you have a trial like that or notice anything on a piece that wasn't well stripped but sanded? You may already know from your experimenting.

Thanks ever so much. This is all driving me nuts. -k

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 10:37AM
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Glad you don't mind me crashing over here too! I haven't tried the dyes and nails yet...Rockler was steering me to experiment with a little more stain first. They said I'd have trouble getting the color I want with dye...and the rusty nails will be a 'permenant' color - one that can't be stripped, only bleached. I'm still keeping those options open - but working with the water based gels first since they seem "friendliest"...and I was having NO luck with the oil based minwax (I should have known about the minwax!)

What I'm working with is existing cabinetry for the boxes and I'll be using new bare wood doors...my samples for experimenting are the old cabinet doors that I've sanded - not stripped, but I'll have to strip the cabinets since they are veneered plywood - and I don't want to completely sand through the grain. (not looking forward to the stripping - although everyone tells me it's not as bad as I'm thinking it will be).

So far I'm sanding doors and working with the water based and having okay luck - but I'm sanding to what I think is bare (or near bare) wood, and doing my experimenting on the "backs" of the doors - which were never coated as thickly with finish as the fronts. I'm not sure yet how it would work if there was more finish residue...

The espresso was absolutely the closest single color to what I wanted (I'm aiming a bit darker/blacker - trying to match a stain on mango wood we have in a stand alone cabinet that we love!)...Rockler opened the Java for us too - much lighter and "browner".

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 1:34PM
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Great to continue this conversation with you Jennifer.

Today I went to Rockler a third time for a consultation with their finishing/refinishing expert. He doesn't know why General doesn't have a darker Poly Gel like the water based Expresso color. We considered darkening those Poly gels with Japan and some other things, but they won't get me as dark as the expresso.

Bottom line per him (exactly what Handymac posted at the start pof this thread - cripes I'm pigheaded):

1)You have to get rid of ALL the finish to get maximum color with a water base. The stuff has to get into the wood cells. Sanding alone won't allow for that as well as stripping.
2)Finishes break down after many years and putting new layers on top of a failing old layer won't stop that process.
3)I have variation in color and integrity of the finish - pieces in wet areas are more worn and those in strong sun are more faded. Both variables will affect final color.

So do I settle for Java? Course not. Strip it all? No way.

He gave me a lead where I can get the doors stripped at a reasonable price. Leaves me only a few flat end panels to do myself. That stripping I can handle, but not 60 doors. Been there, done that once before - not again.

I'm attaching a slideshow. Oak is way worse than the long shots suggest - closeups tell that tale. You can see the Java on one door. Not dark enough.
Great layout and corian. I figure I can get many more years out of this kitchen with just a minor update: stage one is colors, backsplash, lighting and flooring. And knobs/pulls!!! Stage two is replacing the island.
For stage one I might do some funky color on the island oak - red maybe - and trade out the 9inch deep cabinet there for knee space. Nothing to lose: the worse it comes out the sooner I'd do stage two! Enjoy. -k

Here is a link that might be useful: drab oak kitchen

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 5:51PM
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Your kitchen would look great if you can get it to the espresso color! I envy all the space!

Getting someone to strip your doors leaving you with just the boxes sounds like it might be just the solution you need.

I'll be checking back!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 6:39PM
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Well, Rockler guy was way off on what he thought the door stripping would cost. It'd be 10 times what he said -$1000+. Stripper guy was wonderful, but also had concerns about the veneer construction. Even he didn't think it would be the right thing to do....Gotta love an honest tradesman.

Sooooooooooooo, drying in the garage now is Java gel darkened with black Japan pigment on a sanded door. Couple coats and I'll post a picture. -k

    Bookmark   October 3, 2005 at 7:13PM
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Jennifer - now I am being tortured on your thread. Help! -k

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 12:47AM
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k - I've put my staining experiments on the back burner for a couple days...dealing with running gas lines - which has required a lot more getting out of the way and time than I expected! I'll let you know what else I find out! (some folks really do make this sound MUCH easier than I'm finding it...I want to lessen the "impact" of my grain too - not just deepen the background color...that might be part of the problem!).

Have you thought about doing a "glaze"? I keep thinking about that as one of the layers (ie paint in glazing liquid - we're glazing the parts of our cabinets we want to paint...feels like it ought to add color and depth to the stained part too).

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 12:59AM
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Hey, celticmoon---I have asked a finishing wizard---on another forum of which I---and he---are a member----about your predicament.

He will get back to me today of tomorrow and I will post his recommendations here.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 11:29AM
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Ok, my wizard has this advice---

"Most of the issues and advice has been pretty good. The way to get the best stain job is to strip and remove all color. Then start over with the stain that gives her the color she wants. This is the only way that results will be consistant and top notch. Overstaining will not produce topnotch results generally.

Waterbased stains work best over virgin wood and I would not recommend using it as an overstain.

The other, easier solution is gel stains. Gel stains are practical solution in most cases. They are more like paint and can be applied in multiple coats which will lead to darker, more intensive color. Either a light prior sanding or just application over the prior coat will work. Gel stains stay on the surface so prior finish will have little affect on coloring."

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 5:15PM
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k - sounds like my experience is along the lines of what HandyMac's wizard is advising...

After a few days off I've gone back and tried the recipe I posted above (which was my best guess of what I'd end up wiht after my trip to Rockler).

I've gotten a very deep color and a lot of grain dimishment after a medium sand with 3 fairly heavy coats of espresso - wiped off, the last coat I wiped a little less throuroughly in spots leaving a thicker residue behind. It all seemed to dry just fine in a couple hours. I covered with the black and also wiped off a bit unevenly. So far I really like the color! I'm going to give half the door an extra coat of black and then clear coat the whole thing in a satin finish to see which (if either!) I like better.

I could tell where I didn't get the finish off quite as well - it didn't want to take the espresso stain as easily - I let it sit there a little longer and added the thickest coat on that portion when I did the third coat. In the end I can't tell that area from the rest - hopefully it will dry fine!

I'll keep you posted!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 8:01PM
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I recently used the minwax polyshades and it worked fine for me. I actually mixed up my own formula of 2/3 polyshades bombay mahogany and 1/3 regular minwax ebony. The mahogany alone wasn't quite dark enough to match my existing cabinets and flooring.

I applied the first coat with a brush, but subsequent coats I hand-rubbed with an old t-shirt. I finished up with a couple coats of the minwax hand-rubbed polyurethane. The project turned out fine - the color isn't perfectly even, but it has a slight distressed/glazed look rather than looking uneven in a bad way. What I might suggest to celticmoon is that you do a light sanding on your Java door and hand-rub a coat of the mahogany polyshades to see how it looks. You may get the color you're looking for.

Here's my project - it's the doorframe in this photo. I was trying to match the color of the kitchen cabinets - you can just see one of the cabinets above the fridge.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2005 at 12:12AM
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hefneil, lovely, lovely and interesting door there.

Jennifer, I see you over there in the kitchens forum asking about painting.

Hanymac, thank you for passing on the consult. But I remain confused. A "gel stain" that is NOT a waterbased stain? General finish has a water based (Jennifer's Expresso) and an oil based (my Java) but the latter has poly in it also....am I to seek an oil based that doesn't have poly??

Sorry if I am being dense.

Meanwhile DH looks at the last round and says "Geeze, seems kind of dark..." LOL.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2005 at 11:55PM
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celtimoon -

We're actually really happy with the stained color we got with the espresso/black combo...picked up some satin finish last night to I can coat it and decide whether I like the color best with one coat of black or two. Next it will be onto stripping!

We're planning to paint/glaze most of our kitchen a creamy white (with translucent expresso glaze)...but wanted to stain the cabinets facing the family room (a pantry and the peninula/island cabinets to make a bit of a distinguishment between our kitchen and family room since they are so open.

Not giving up on the staining idea!

I think you might want to try my espresso (water based gel) on a well sanded door...I know there was a little finish still on mine - but I got a good color that isn't "rubbing off" after a couple/three coats. This stuff dries fast and is easy to work with.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2005 at 9:39AM
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There is a difference between water based stains with the consistancy of water and water based gel stains.

The original thin water based stains did not cover evenly and caused wood fibers to swell, necessitating sanding after application in many cases.

Water based gel stains are much thicker(viscous) and do not cause swelling, since the stain does not penetrate into the surface as much as the thinner type stains.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2005 at 1:39PM
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They are laughing at me at the Rockler store. 5 visits in the last 7 days! Looks like another trip tomorrow, since I picked up oil based stains rather than water based gels today. (shifted the wrong variable) But I'm getting smarter: now I check back here before opening any products!!

Handimac, thanks for the timely clarification. I will now search out water based *gels*.

Jennifer I am happy for you and madly jealous at the same time. I did already try expresso stain and Java gels - but just one coat of stain. Came out uneven. Maybe between your multiple coat method and Handimac's water based gel recc, I'll get there too...though DH's "too dark" pronouncement is troubling. I reminded him the island is going lighter (Cabinet Coats eggshell?...one thing at a time...)

Hey, my kitchen is kinda like a photo negative of yours. Ha!

Endless thanks to both of you! -k

    Bookmark   October 6, 2005 at 11:25PM
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How funny, we do have a photo negative.

The espresso is a water based gel...so you may do well to try additional coats of it. My color was significantly more even after coat 2 than coat 1. The color definitely "builds" much more than it did with the oil based liquid stains I tried out first.

This has been an interesting learning process for me! Now that I've "gotten it" I need to strip my cabinet boxes...I'm sure this will be it's own learning experience!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 10:40AM
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Wow, thanks everyone! I am planning to stain my 1980's golden oak kitchen cabinets to something darker. I too have done the stripping and restaining the right way, and it's worth it for a piece that deserves that much time and patience. With that said, my cabinets do not. Yes, I know I'm lazy and looking for an *easier* way! I have gotten the minwax gel stains and planned to try them. This thread has been a wealth of information! I have a couple of questions tho: I was told that I should use a gray scotch bright pad instead of sand paper between coats, I'm not sure what the difference is. Also, I am under the impression that you ladies are not sanding between coats at all. Is there a reason? And Jennifer, what satin finish are you using? TIA!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 11:39AM
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Berlin 66 - I have not been sanding between gel coats...the General Finishes water based gel I've been using just says to allow to dry and recoat and do a light finish sand before applying whatever finish you choose. I haven't done much staiing in the past - so I've been going pretty much by the can directions and tips from here and Rockler!

I bought a can of the General Finishes satin water based poly. Thought I'd stick with the same brand since I've been happy with the the products so far - and I like the low enviromental impact/low fumes.

I don't know that full stripping is absolutely necessary when using this product - I've been testing on a well sanded cabinet door back - not one I've stripped. That being said my new doors are bare wood - so I'm stripping the boxes to bare wood in the hopes that my finish will be much closer! I don't know how the minwax gels work...I started the "black stain on oak" thread after 7 layers of minwax oil based stain hardly gave me any color at all on a sample door! Not sure if it was the type of stain being a problem - or if Minwax simply has a lower pigment level.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 11:48AM
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Well...i've just finished Minwax Gel stain on my island. It looks wonderful...a very deep expresso brown..even thought the stain is called Walnut. Very easy..just TSP'd and rinsed then applied. You do lose "graining" but you it still has a grain and stain quality to it....not like paint.

Here's a link to another thread about gel stain. You have to join(which takes seconds) to see the pictures..but it's a great forum. Just thought you would want to check it out.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 3:05PM
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I just caught this thread while looking for information on refacing some bath cabinets. Most interesting and I love chiefneil's door. I may try the blend on something I've been considering.

Since confession is good for the soul, here I go:

My Name is RED and I have used Minwax Polyshades. I KNOW that sanding and staining are what proper ladies do, but I needed a plan that I knew I could do. Painting high-ceilinged rooms does not daunt me. Sewing window treatments is a snap. Picking out just the right piece at an estate sale and working it over for my house is just plain fun. But sanding/staining? I just can't. Husband won't. So after I asked him if I could paint my kitchen orangey oak cabinets and got a Freezing Look, I found the Polyshades. Being young (47) and naive, I didn't know that decent people don't do polyshades. So one day I cleaned my kitchen cabinets really well and mixed a little Bamboo Mahogany with some Antique Walnut and applied near the toekick. Nothing fell off and there were no sirens. I still felt a little weird, (Have since gotton educated and know it's normal to feel funny when you do something wrong) so I rubbed it off right away. But then, the next day I came back and rubbed on some more. I did the same application process as chiefneil with the old tee shirt. My reasoning was, that if I rubbed it on, I would have more control and could rub it off fast if there were a problem. Later, I tried one cabinet with a good stain brush. The brush put the product on darker, but it was streaky so I went back to the tee shirt. In a couple of hours I had all my cabinets done. The next day I added a coat. The color changed subtley from a worn out faded orangey oak to more of a fruitwood color. They looked new. I still haven't upgraded to new handles/knobs, but I'm 50 now and move slowly. I'm truly sorry I did this Bad Thing, except for 3 things:
1)NO ONE in my house would have EVER sanded and stained.
2)It was super easy, went on great and has held up to abuse and 3 years of numerous cleanings.
3)It renewed my cabinets and still looks great.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 8:35PM
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Thanks to everyone's trials and errors on staining their cabinets, I thought that it would be easy to get my old oak cabinets an espresso color; however, I am having trouble finding a water based "gel" stain. The pros I talk to say there isn't such a thing. Even with the General Finishes brand that "jennifer in clyde" and "celticmoon" are using say that they are two different products. On General Finishes website, they list their gel stain under oil based. HELP, is there really such a thing as waterbased gel stain? If so where can I find this product and why are the pros telling me there is no such thing?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2006 at 3:36PM
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Redmond, just wandered back here and see your post now. The General Finishes Expresso stain is water based and is a gel - even though the can doesn't say gel. The Java is also a gel, but poly.

FYI, my cabinets have been done a while and I couldn't be happier. Holding up fine. Glossy silky finish, strong deep color, graining shows through mostly as texture. Perfect.

If you want more info, or a step by step, you can email me.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 1:16AM
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