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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys,
I finally finished the book cases and have them ready for staining. I put on some blotch control from Charles Neil which requires two light standings, one at 340 grit and one at 600 grit.
After that I started applying some General Finishes Java gel stain but my results were poor. The stain had light streaks all through it that looked like scratches and pretty uneven coverage on the plywood. I think the 600 grit may have created some spots that were too dense for the stain to penetrate, sort of like a glazed area. I looked at the rest of the unfinished surfaces and can see shiny streaks that match these areas.
I stopped and rewatched some of Charle's videos and decided to switch to a water based dye stain that he was using. I couldn't find Java so I settled on dark brown. I tried spraying this on the back of one case and again got awful results . I think I put it on too thin and it dried before I finished so I didn't keep a wet edge. It came out really bad with haze, uneven coverage, etc. then I tried one side using a rag. That started out ok but I think it dried before I could even it and now it looks all uneven.
I did another side with a sponge brush and was more careful to keep a wet edge but it still looks like brown mud smeared all over. It's so dark I'm not sure I can even it out with a second coat without it turning black. Is there a way to slow the drying time so I can even it out better or a better stain choice?
Any help is appreciated.
 

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Your problem was using a too coarse of a brush to apply the gel stain. The good news is you should be able to get the streaks off of it if you wash it down with lacquer thinner. It will lighten it up to where you will have to apply it again but if you use a very soft brush you should have success the next time. A wiping stain is a pigment mixed with a medium such as linseed oil and thinned. The gell stain on the other hand is a double dose of pigment mixed with a medium like varnish and not as thin. It more or less is thinned paint instead of stain. You brush it on and leave it. If you have a coarse brush the stiff bristles will scrape clean the double dose of pigments making light streaks in it. A softer brush will apply it more uniform because it doesn't scrape the wood. Using a gel stain you probably didn't need the wood conditioner. It is more intended for a wiping stain that is thinner.
 

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The gell stain on the other hand is a double dose of pigment mixed with a medium like varnish and not as thin. It more or less is thinned paint instead of stain. You brush it on and leave it. If you have a coarse brush the stiff bristles will scrape clean the double dose of pigments making light streaks in it. A softer brush will apply it more uniform because it doesn't scrape the wood. Using a gel stain you probably didn't need the wood conditioner. It is more intended for a wiping stain that is thinner.
Most gel stains work the same way. You can rub it on with the grain, and it can be applied to be wiped down. If it's applied and left, it will be darker than if wiped evenly to get the color you want. If the first application doesn't do it, it can be applied again. It's a type of stain that you can control how intense or how much color you want to leave.






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Most gel stains work the same way. You can rub it on with the grain, and it can be applied to be wiped down. If it's applied and left, it will be darker than if wiped evenly to get the color you want. If the first application doesn't do it, it can be applied again. It's a type of stain that you can control how intense or how much color you want to leave.










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That kinda defeats the purpose of a gel stain to wipe it off. A person would be better off using a wiping stain and if more color was needed suppliment the color with a dye stain. There is a lot of different ways a gel stain could be applied. It could be sprayed on but in the end it's a pasty thick coating that takes away from the beauty of the wood.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
That kinda defeats the purpose of a gel stain to wipe it off. A person would be better off using a wiping stain and if more color was needed suppliment the color with a dye stain. There is a lot of different ways a gel stain could be applied. It could be sprayed on but in the end it's a pasty thick coating that takes away from the beauty of the wood.
So what would be your stain of choice for birch veneer plywood with poplar trim? I'm looking for a dark brown British mahogany color to match some furniture from Pottery Barn like this:
 

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With birch veneered plywood and poplar I would treat the wood with a wood conditioner first so it doesn't blotch and use Sherwin Williams Wood Classics line of stain probably Bistro Wallnut SW3144-K. Using the wood conditioner it probably won't go that dark so I would suppliment the color with Mohawk Finishing Products Dye, ultra penetrating stain Extra Dark Walnut M520-209. It's available in powder form which can be shipped without the hasmat fees and can be mixed with dentured alcohol which you can get locally. The color number of the powder is M370-209. If you have a Rockler or Woodcraft store near you you could get some transtint dye which would do the same thing. It doesn't appear transtint has as dark of a walnut dye as Mohawk. You would probably have to mix Dark Mission Brown and Black to get a dark walnut in the transtint line of dyes.

Regardless of what products you use practice the finish on scrap wood before you put anything on your project.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
With birch veneered plywood and poplar I would treat the wood with a wood conditioner first so it doesn't blotch and use Sherwin Williams Wood Classics line of stain probably Bistro Wallnut SW3144-K. Using the wood conditioner it probably won't go that dark so I would suppliment the color with Mohawk Finishing Products Dye, ultra penetrating stain Extra Dark Walnut M520-209. It's available in powder form which can be shipped without the hasmat fees and can be mixed with dentured alcohol which you can get locally. The color number of the powder is M370-209. If you have a Rockler or Woodcraft store near you you could get some transtint dye which would do the same thing. It doesn't appear transtint has as dark of a walnut dye as Mohawk. You would probably have to mix Dark Mission Brown and Black to get a dark walnut in the transtint line of dyes.


Regardless of what products you use practice the finish on scrap wood before you put anything on your project.
One question Steve...when you say you'd supplement the color what does that mean? Are you saying to apply the supplemental color on a second coat or are you suggesting it's mixed in with the original stain in some fashion?
 

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That kinda defeats the purpose of a gel stain to wipe it off. A person would be better off using a wiping stain and if more color was needed suppliment the color with a dye stain. There is a lot of different ways a gel stain could be applied. It could be sprayed on but in the end it's a pasty thick coating that takes away from the beauty of the wood.
The whole purpose IMO, of a gel stain is to simplify coloring. For a hobbyist to experiment between a wiping stain and a dye, might be a bit trying, until there's some experience with the process. The gel stains I've used don't work well when sprayed...too viscous, and that would defeat the purpose of it's ability to be wiped out to get the color desired.






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One question Steve...when you say you'd supplement the color what does that mean? Are you saying to apply the supplemental color on a second coat or are you suggesting it's mixed in with the original stain in some fashion?
When you use an oil stain you must wipe off the excess and not leave any on the surface. A lot of times when a person stains a project and it isn't dark enough they will apply another coat and just let it dry on the surface. Then when they topcoat with their finish the finish adheres to the layer of stain on the surface instead of the wood and weeks or months later it starts flaking off. Now a dye is more similar to ink. You can go over a stain and add color with a dye and it penetrates into the wood and leaves virtually nothing on the surface. In that way the finish is allowed to get to the wood and bond to it. You could add the dye to the stain but I prefer to have more control spraying the dye on. Wood accepts the stain in different amounts depending on how dense it is and varies in color and if you apply dye in a separate step you can just add dye to the lighter areas making the project more uniform in color. Even after you start with the finish if there is some minor places that need more color you can spray the dye between the coats of finish however you have to be especially careful sanding between coats not to sand into the layer you added color. When I add color between the coats I try to do it early on when perhaps I just have one coat on. I first sand the first coat as much as I dare and then apply the dye. Then I normally put two coats over that before I attempt to do any more sanding.
 

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The whole purpose IMO, of a gel stain is to simplify coloring. For a hobbyist to experiment between a wiping stain and a dye, might be a bit trying, until there's some experience with the process. The gel stains I've used don't work well when sprayed...too viscous, and that would defeat the purpose of it's ability to be wiped out to get the color desired.










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Well the gel stain was concocted for people to stain textured fiberglass doors to look more like wood. Any gel stain I've ever seen makes wood look like fiberglass. Personally I don't see any reason for any hobbyist to learn to make wood look plastic. I think most people that take up woodworking for a hobby strive to achieve professional results and the gel stain isn't it. I encourage anyone that is wiping finishes to get the means of spraying. For about a hundred dollars a person could equip themselves to spray finishes on small projects and it is very easy and simple to spray dye. After all you never see any good furniture company using gel stain.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
When you use an oil stain you must wipe off the excess and not leave any on the surface. A lot of times when a person stains a project and it isn't dark enough they will apply another coat and just let it dry on the surface. Then when they topcoat with their finish the finish adheres to the layer of stain on the surface instead of the wood and weeks or months later it starts flaking off. Now a dye is more similar to ink. You can go over a stain and add color with a dye and it penetrates into the wood and leaves virtually nothing on the surface. In that way the finish is allowed to get to the wood and bond to it. You could add the dye to the stain but I prefer to have more control spraying the dye on. Wood accepts the stain in different amounts depending on how dense it is and varies in color and if you apply dye in a separate step you can just add dye to the lighter areas making the project more uniform in color. Even after you start with the finish if there is some minor places that need more color you can spray the dye between the coats of finish however you have to be especially careful sanding between coats not to sand into the layer you added color. When I add color between the coats I try to do it early on when perhaps I just have one coat on. I first sand the first coat as much as I dare and then apply the dye. Then I normally put two coats over that before I attempt to do any more sanding.
Ok...that sounds good. As I indicated in my original post, I abandoned the gel and applied a general finishes dark brown dye stain on the first bookcase by 3 different methods; spray, rag and sponge brush. None of the methods yeilded even acceptable results.
All methods left muddy looking dark streaks where it appears the finish is too thick. I actually was able to remove some of this with mineral spirits but now I'm not sure how to proceed to get an even finish. Any thoughts?
 

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You might try washing the piece down with lacquer thinner and see if you can cut the remaining gel stain off the surface. It would have been better if done when it was fresh but give it a try. Depending on how much trouble you are willing to do if the lacquer thinner doesn't work you might use a methylene chloride paint and varnish remover such as Kleen Strip to get the gel stain off the surface. It is what is making the streaks. Then a little light sanding it should be ready to stain with conventional methods. On post 10 I said to wipe the excess stain completely off the surface for adhesion reasons. A gel stain has a binder in it which allows the stain to lay on the surface and a clear finish will bond to it. That is the reason the finish looked muddy and had streaks in it because the brush wiped all the gel stain off in places. The gel stain is like you took a quart of brown paint and mixed a quart of clear varnish with it. It's clear enough you can see the wood but it leaves enough pigment on the surface it looks like paint too. When you use an oil stain it colors the wood the finish is clear which is a more fitting finish for furniture. It shouldn't have the muddy look.
 
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