How do I Gel Stain my cabinets?

buehlJanuary 1, 2013

How to Gel Stain Your Cabinets

Gel staining is frequently suggested/discussed on the Forum as a less expensive alternative to replacing existing cabinets that are still in great shape. But, how do you do it? Well, read on!

From CelticMoon...

You just need time, maybe $50 in supplies, and patience. No skill.

Here's more than you need to know:

My cabinets are frameless, good condition and good layout. But the finish had gone orange and ugly, with the oak graining too busy for me. Cabinets are 18 years old, very poorly finished oak veneered slab doors. Plain with no crevices. They didn't even take the doors off to finish them!!! No stain or finish on the hinge side edges. Cheezey, huh?

I looked into changing out cabinets, but that was way too much money, since my layout was OK. Painting didn't seem right because the doors were plain slabs. I considered new doors but that still meant a lot of money. For a few years I tried to figure a way to add molding toward a mission look, but the rounded door edges made that impossible. Then trolling in a kitchen emporium showroom this last year I noticed dark wood slab doors, kind like mine, but darker. That was the answer.

First I tried Minwax Polyshades. Dicey product. Hard to brush on neatly, then gummy, then seemed to leave a sticky tacky residue. I did a thread on the Woodworking Furum "Evil Polyshades to the Rescue" which elicited a lot of conflicting "expert" opinions and arguments that one must strip to bare wood.

(Thread may still be around as that Forum moves slow.) I properly stripped acres of woodwork in an old Victorian when I was young and stupid. Never again! Jennifer-in-clyde (in the same boat) and I stumbled around on that woodworking thread to get to this method.

Shopping List: electric screwdriver or screw drill bits mineral spirits to clean the years of gunk off the cabinet miracle cloths (optional) fine sandpaper box-o-disposable gloves from walgreens or the like old socks or rags for wiping on coats disposable small plastic bowls or plates, and plastic spoons or forks for stirring/dipping (optional) General Finishes water base Expresso stain (pretty thick, but not quite a gel) This one may not even be a needed step if the Java gets it dark enough.

General Finishes Java gel stain (poly based) General Finishes clear top coat (poly based) old sheets or plastic sheeting or newspaper

Rockler woodworking stores are a good place to find the General Finish products. Or some larger hardware stores. Quart of each was more than enough for my 60 doors and drawer fronts and goes for $12-14 at Rockler. There are smaller sizes if your project is small.

Setup and Planning:

You will need a place to work and leave wet doors to dry overnight - I set up 2 spaces, garage for sanding/cleaning and basement for staining/sealing. Use newspaper or plastic to protect the surface and floor. Figure out how you will prop doors to dry.

Plan blocks of 20-30-minutes for...

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