General Finishes Gel Stain

Home of the popular Java Gel stain that has been featured across the nation's social media for upcycling furniture and cabinets. Gel Stains are heavy-bodied and do not penetrate as deeply into the wood as liquid oil-based stains do, providing the deepest, richest colors of any oil based stain available.

Need some inspiration? Visit the General Finishes Design Center or Pinterest Board for gel stain ideas.

Colors














The digitized colors shown are for reference purposes only. Always test stain on a hidden area to verify desired color.

Brochures/Instructions

Gel Stains are finely ground pigments oil in urethane. They wipe on and produce beautiful hand rubbed finishes. Gels are a thicker consistency than liquid oil base stains, so no drips, runs or spills.

USE: Interior
COLORS: American Oak, Antique Walnut, Brown,Mahogany, Candelite, Colonial Maple, Georgian Cherry, Golden Pine, Java, New Pine, Nutmeg, Prairie Wheat.
ALWAYS test color on hidden area to make sure it is what you want. Application techniques can vary, dependent on wheather the substrate is raw wood or an existing finish. Gel Stain was originally developed for raw wood applications, but has been successfully used over existing finishes, either by painting it on, painting and wiping off, or by dry brushing. However, there are many issues that can occur when applying over an existing finish. See our videos for several techniques and test to your satisfaction before proceeding.
SANDING: 120-150 grit on bare wood. It is otional to sand stains before topcoating.
COATS: Normally 1-2 (additional coats can be applied to deepen color).
 

RECOAT/DRY TIME: Ideal drying conditions are 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% humidity. If you are working outside ideal conditions, be cautious about dry time. Other factors are 1) the surface you are applying to and 2) the application method. On denser surfaces, such as an existing finish, the dry time will be longer. A "painted" finish is thicker, and will take longer to dry, than one that is wiped down or dry brushed. Prepping will affect this process - if there is wax on the surface, the finish may never adhere. And if Pledge has ever been used on a piece, there is silicone contamination, which is VERY difficult to remove.

These dry times relate to Gel Stain applied over raw wood.

  • Dry-time to touch: 4-6 hours.
  • Dry-time to recoat with stain: 12 to 24 hours. Do not recoat until you are sure the stain is dry. 
  • Dry-time to apply oil-based topcoat: 12 to 24 hours.  
  • Dry-time to apply water-based topcoat: 72 hours.
  • Dry-time for light use: 7-10 days.
  • Cure time: 21 to 30 days

These dry times related to Gel Stain applied over an existing finish. You must allow longer dry times when applying over an existing finish.

  • Dry-time to touch: 4-6 hours.
  • Dry-time to recoat with stain when "wiping off": 24 to 48 hours. Do not recoat until you are sure the stain is dry. If in doubt, wait longer. Humidity or cold temperatures will increase dry times.
  • Dry-time to recoat with stain when "painting on": 48 to 72 hours. Do not recoat until you are SURE the stain is dry. If in doubt, wait longer. Humidity or cold temperatures will increase dry times.
  • Dry-time to apply oil-based topcoat: 24 to 48 hours. 
  • Dry-time to apply water-based topcoat: 72 hours.
  • Dry-time for light use: 7-10 days.
  • Dry-time over laminate or other non pourous surfaces: At least 72 hours or more. Test to your satisfaction before proceeding.
  • Cure time: 21 to 30 days
  • CURE TIME: Cure time for all General Finishes oil based products is about 30 days. Dry time and cure time are totally unrelated. During the curing process protect your flat surfaces and avoid placing any heavy items on horizontal surfaces or sliding anything across the surface. 

APPLICATION METHOD ON RAW WOOD: On raw wood, you can apply by wiping on LIBERALLY with almost any applicator: natural bristle brush, foam brush, paint pad applicator, or roller. Remove the excess with a rag or absorbant paper towel such as a shop towel.

APPLICATION METHOD OVER EXISTING FINISHES: The surface MUST be thoroughly cleaned by scrubbing with a 50|50 mix of denatured alcohol and water, then scuff sanded with a 220 sanding pad. If wax or dusting sprays containing silicone have be used previously, these may be difficult to remove and the finish may fail. Be sure to test adhesion before completing your entire project. The stain can be painted on with a foam brush without wiping off, painted on with a foam brush and wiped off with a rag or paper towel, or dry brushed on. See our videos for more detail and test to your satisfaction.

TOPCOAT: Use Gel Satin Topcoat or Arm-R-Seal. You can also use waterbased High Performance or Flat Out Flat, but wait 72 hours before applying when changing from oil to water based finishes.
CLEANUP: Mineral spirits.
COVERAGE: 200 sq.ft/qt VOC:<550 g/l (4.59 lbs/gal).
RECOMMENDED USES:  Indoor wood projects, fiberglass doors and interior uses.
SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION: This is a combustible product. Dispose of product soaked rags for all oil base products in accordance with local ordinances.

STORAGE: Always store product in temperature controlled space. Partially used oil based products will start to oxidize with contact with air, forming a film or hardening. Gel stains will harden faster than most. If you plan on storing partially used product, clean the rim of the can completely, add Bloxygen to replace the air, seal tightly, and store upside down.

WARNING: TEST FOR COMPATIBILITY WHEN USING THIS PRODUCT WITH PRODUCTS FROM OTHER BRANDS. General Finishes products should be tested to your complete satisfaction before using. General Finishes will not be responsible for any failure if our products are used in conjunction with other brands of finishes. We do not test General Finishes products with those of another manufacturer and will not accept liability if there is a compatibility issue.

HOW TO APPLY OIL BASE GEL STAIN

See VIDEO on how to apply Gel Stain on raw wood and layer colors

  • Sand wood to 120-150 grit. Sanding between coats is optional.
  • Apply Gel Stain on liberally with a poly foam brush, Handi-Painter applicator, natural bristle brush, or a cotton cloth.
  • Then wipe off with the grain using a clean dry cotton cloth or even better, high quality paper towels.
  • Additional coats can be applied for a deeper, richer color.


HOW TO USE OIL BASE GEL STAIN OVER EXISTING FINISHES

See VIDEO on how to upcycle existing oak cabinets with Java Gel Stain.

PREPARE THE SURFACE

  • Cover any glass with blue painter's tape. Remove (or tape off) any hardware as the gel will stick to it.
  • Clean the surface with mineral spirits and scotch brite pad or a mixture of 50/50 denatured alcohol and water.
  • Sand the surface with 400 grit paper or a soft back sanding sponge. This is not a heavy duty sanding, but a light buffing.
  • Wipe off dust with a tack cloth or a water dampened rag. Let dry.


TWO WAYS TO APPLY GEL STAIN OVER EXISTING FINISHES
 

1. Apply On/Wipe Off Method:
Work on one section at a time. Apply gel stain liberally with a foam/bristle brush or Handi-Painter applicator. Wipe off excess stain with a cloth or high quality paper towels.  Wipe with the grain and blending any adjoining areas. Additional coats will darken the initial coat.
2. Painting Stain On:
This method is normally used if a very dark painted look is desired. Dry brush on sparingly the first coat. Brush on the second coat heavily with a bristle or foam brush and then dry-brush the excess stain off with a clean brush. Using the flat part of a dry bristle brush (slightly angled) brush across and feather out in the direction of the grain pattern. Additional coats will give a darker color.

Dry Brushing
Apply gel stain lightly with a foam/bristle brush or Handi-Painter applicator. Dry brush with a bristle brush and discharge the excess stain onto a mineral spirt dampened cloth as you work.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
 

Can I mix Gel Stains together to achieve other colors? Yes, mix like products together to make more stain options. You can also mix with GF liquid oil base stains to obtain a slightly thinner stain than the normal gel formula.

Can I use GF Dyes Stains under Gel Stains? Yes, many use dyes to achieve a depth of grain, an even base, and to achieve deeper colors. Use Amber or Yellow for a golden glow under any gel stain.

How can I tell if the stain is dry? If the stain feels cool to the touch, its not ready. If it is raining, cold, or humid dry times will be longer. If in doubt, waiting longer is always better.

What is the best top coat to use over Gel Stains? Oil Base GF Gel Satin or GF Arm R Seal.

Will Gel Stains darken with another coat? Yes, Gel Stains will darken with additional coats. See step by step photo instructions on how to layer Gel Stain Colors on the GF Blog.

Are GF products compatible with other brands? A good rule of thumb is Don’t mix brands. It might work, it might not. We can't troubleshoot results if you use another manufacturer's products with ours.

Can Gel Stain be applied over laminate?  The answer is no,  not much adheres to laminate very well. Folks have successfully put Gel Stain on more surfaces than we ever dreamed of including fiber glass but if you want to proceed, TEST your procedure on a hidden area first and let cure for 14 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc to see if the finish bonds to the surface. It might not adhere. The finish was developed for raw wood, and our concern is that some day in the future it would fail on you. We cannot vouch for application to other surfaces. A much better choice would be Dark Chocolate Milk Paint over a primer.

Can Gel Stain be applied over a high gloss paint finish on kitchen cabinets? Possibly but not recommended - the high gloss is an issue. Folks have successfully put Gel Stain on more surfaces than we ever dreamed of including fiber glass but if you want to proceed, TEST your procedure on the inside of a door first, let the door cure for 14 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc to see if the finish bonds to the surface. It might not adhere. If you want to proceed with your testing, the cabinets need to be de-glossed and then sanded with 150-180 grit sandpaper before attempting to apply either the gel stain or Milk Paint. You can buy a De-Glosser solvent at any paint store. We think Milk Paint would be a better choice as paint is more flexible and tends to adhere well to many surfaces, but test that the same way also. GF has several brown colors you can try, or you mix any of them to create your own custom color.

Reviews

GF Oil Base Gel Wood Stains Review 01/02/2011

5 years 5 weeks ago

I was having trouble finding the right stain to use on my eighties (and very orange) oak kitchen cabinets.  After much trial and error, I came across General Finishes online.  I tracked it down at Marty's Barn Cellar in Elbridge, NY.  The people there gave me some advice and I went home with the java gel stain and the arm r seal.  The cabinets came out exactly as I wanted are are STUNNING.  The stain was so easy to work with, and the top coat goes on beautifully and dries even better.  The sanding tips on your website were very helpful, too.  Even the professional we have helping us with the rest of the kitchen renovations was impressed.  I am telling everyone about your  stains as not many people in this area are familiar with them.  Thank you!  
Stephanie Reagan

GF Oil Base Gel Wood Stains Review 01/02/2011

5 years 5 weeks ago

Your Gel Stains work equally well on all the various woods we sell. Nome of the usual blotchiness or uneven results found with the products we carried previously
Wood You Opelika

Used Java on an oak dining table

4 years 26 weeks ago

This stain is truly amazing. It is user friendly. The best part about it is it can be layered to achieve the depth of color you like without looking like a paint. love, love, love it!

Customer Showcase