Gel Stain - Yuck

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Forum topic by richgreer posted 02-02-2012 09:53 PM 3221 views 0 times favorited 45 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4541 posts in 4084 days

02-02-2012 09:53 PM

First let me say that I really don’t like staining my projects PERIOD. However, sometimes it is unavoidable.

I’m currently working on a project for my Mother’s church (not my church). I’m building 3 chancel chairs. They insist that their oak should be dark like (in their minds) oak really is. They looked at samples at the store and directed me to use a stain called “Old Oak”. That stain only comes in gel form. This was my first exposure (and hopefully last exposure) to gel stain.

What disgusting stuff to work with. I found it very hard to apply a thick even coat and even harder to wipe it off cleanly. It was especially hard to get it out of corners. Properly applying it was very slow going.

I find myself asking – Why is this stuff made? Why do people buy it? What are its redeeming virtues (if any)?

Does anyone have anything good to say about this stuff.

FYI – This project has been a PITA from the beginning. I don’t think I will every be happier to complete a project.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

45 replies so far

View RONFINCH's profile


143 posts in 3934 days

#1 posted 02-02-2012 10:11 PM

Tried it….....HATE it for the same reasons!!!

View Nighthawk's profile


557 posts in 3366 days

#2 posted 02-02-2012 10:13 PM

Didn’t even know stains came in a gel form… learn something new every day…

-- Rome wasn't built in a day... but I wasn't on that job? ...

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5341 posts in 4970 days

#3 posted 02-02-2012 10:26 PM

Rich, that’s why I use dyes like TransTint, etc.
Gels might have a purpose, but I haven’t found it yet.
Remember they old saying, “This too, shall pass”.

-- [email protected]

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3497 days

#4 posted 02-02-2012 10:33 PM

Rich, they make it to teach you humility and to be humble!

”I find myself asking – Why is this stuff made? Why do people buy it? What are its redeeming virtues (if any)?”

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Tennessee's profile


2936 posts in 3524 days

#5 posted 02-02-2012 10:43 PM

In 40 years of woodworking used it once…threw the can out, never again. I’m basically a Minwax guy, or tints.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3979 days

#6 posted 02-02-2012 10:56 PM

Bet you’ll be glad to see the back of those…

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 4084 days

#7 posted 02-02-2012 11:02 PM

May I add that, relative to liquid stains, gel stain is more expensive.

I’m thinking that there a bunch of fools out there (not woodworkers) who say, “It costs more – it must be better” and they are the ones who buy this stuff.

Opportunity – - I have about 3/5th of a quart of this stuff left that I will gladly send to anyone willing to pay the shipping.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 4730 days

#8 posted 02-02-2012 11:05 PM

I tested it once when staining poplar. It seemed to prevent the blotching. However, it was a real “hands on” project!

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

View TheDane's profile


5940 posts in 4672 days

#9 posted 02-02-2012 11:18 PM

Rich—I have used it on some small things (e.g. plane totes and knobs) with satisfactory results. I tried to use it on a bigger project (computer monitor console) and had exactly the same reaction you did … I hate the stuff.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 4722 days

#10 posted 02-02-2012 11:18 PM

There ARE some gel stains that are good, and have none of these issues. I don’t stain much, but I’ll do it on cheap wood, and I have a Varathane brand cherry gel stain which I’ve applied more or less generically to anything that needed a stain instead of a normal finish process, and it was about the easiest thing to apply…ever. Additionally, using a gel stain on pieces with lots of vertical surface areas reduces runs and drips very nicely.

So it sounds like you had a bad time with whatever brand you had to use, but those reading who’ve never used it shouldn’t be too terrified at using it, it’s actually pretty easy.

Now that said, those with a choice….I don’t like to use ANY stains, a possibly exception being as a glazing color over some shellac and under another finish. I’d prefer to just use the usual tung oil wiping varnish and hit it with wax afterwards.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View Ripthorn's profile


1459 posts in 3995 days

#11 posted 02-02-2012 11:29 PM

I have never used gel stains, but have used a gel varnish before. I thought it was fine, but I have since discovered such finishes as fresh shellac and drying oils, which I greatly prefer.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View SnowyRiver's profile


51458 posts in 4490 days

#12 posted 02-02-2012 11:31 PM

I found the same Rich. I used it on a chest I built a few years ago and hated it. I finally got the job done, but what a mess.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4313 days

#13 posted 02-03-2012 12:42 AM

if you need that exact color, im wondering if you can add a little paint thinner to it to get it to a more usable state..Ive never used it, and never will, like you i don’t stain my wood, if they want dark wood, tell them to use walnut..its so funny how non wood working people think that when they see a chair that is oak and its some weird color that we know isn’t what oak looks like, they think its real…whoever made the new stain should be hung and dragged…lol….....

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

424 posts in 4092 days

#14 posted 02-03-2012 02:09 AM

Not meaning to hijack your thread, but what color is cherry? Is it a dark purpleish brown color like every factory made piece of furniture is labeled? Or is it a beautiful light brown with lots of grain and character?

-- Steve

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 4020 days

#15 posted 02-03-2012 02:15 AM

Prevents blotching compared to thinner stains and helpful when you want to go dark (pre-conditioner tends to prevent going very dark). Other than that, I agree, it’s a pain in the butt, and wouldn’t dream of using it unless I was trying to stain a blotchy wood.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

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