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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know almost nothing about would working. My wife and I just purchased our first home, and after watching and reading everything possible on how to gel stain cabinets, we decided to attempt refinishing our old honey colored oak cabinetry.

The prep work we did included taking the doors off, and giving them a good wipe down with clorox kitchen wipes. We then used score pads and TSP to give them a really good scrub down, and rinsed them twice to make sure there was no residue on the surface. The next day we gave them a light sanding, cleaned the dust off and started with the back and sides using General Finishes Java Gel Stain.

After two coats (24hrs apart) and 24+ hrs of dry time the backs were dry, but the sides were still tacky. We gave it another 24 hrs. The sides remained tacky. We then wiped the stain off the sides with mineral spirits, sanded down to bare wood, and wiped them down with mineral spirits again.

I did a tester early last night, and as of now one of the sides is still tacky without any sign of it drying any further (tried a blow dryer with no luck).

The most problematic areas are the top side of the doors which sit above and to the side of the stove. I'm assuming 23 years of grime is the culprit, but we are now down to bare wood. I'm not sure what else to do.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

On a side note, we took down a section of the cabinets so I had 4 doors to experiment on. We settled on the Java color, but I have not been happy with the top coats. We've tried GF's Gel Topcoat wipe on urethane, and Minwax's Fast Drying Polyurethane (brush on), both in satin. They're both a bit too glossy for our tastes, and wondered if there is something you could recommend that sits in the middle of Matte and Satin. We love how they look with just the stain.

Thanks!
 

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Is the gel stain applied to raw wood or a old finish?

Sometimes chemicals get so deep in the wood it's really difficult to get off. There maybe enough bleach or TSP left on the wood to react with the gel stain. If you didn't stir the gel stain enough that could be a problem. 24 hours drying time may not be enough if it was cool and or damp where you are. The instructions for these products are for particular weather conditions. Usually if it is really hot and dry the drying time could be much less. If the weather is bad it may take days per coat drying time.

As far as sheen I think if you would go to a real paint store such as sherwin williams they could fix you up with a finish that has the sheen you want. If not you might try to find one that is too flat and one that is a little glossier than you want and carefully mix them. You would have to carefully measure the amount you mix to get the formula right. Another option is you should be able to just buy the flattening agent to add to your finish. These take a great deal of stirring though to get it to suspend right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for the response!

The stain was put on top of the old finished cabinets with light sanding per instructions. However, the sides have been the only issue. The entire backs of the cabinets dried quickly (most dried to the touch within a few hours). The coat on the sides was no thicker than the backs, so I don't believe dry time or weather is the issue. If it were, would the sides vs the backs have such an extreme difference in dry time?

As far as the bleach and the TSP, this was done before sanding. Do you think it could've soaked deeply through the original finish into the wood? Since then we've sanded, and scrubbed with mineral spirits twice.

Anyway, what I think odd is there were absolutely no issues with the backs (or the fronts of the test doors) which dried perfectly. It's just the sides.
 

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Thank you for the response!

The stain was put on top of the old finished cabinets with light sanding per instructions. However, the sides have been the only issue. The entire backs of the cabinets dried quickly (most dried to the touch within a few hours). The coat on the sides was no thicker than the backs, so I don't believe dry time or weather is the issue. If it were, would the sides vs the backs have such an extreme difference in dry time?

As far as the bleach and the TSP, this was done before sanding. Do you think it could've soaked deeply through the original finish into the wood? Since then we've sanded, and scrubbed with mineral spirits twice.

Anyway, what I think odd is there were absolutely no issues with the backs (or the fronts of the test doors) which dried perfectly. It's just the sides.
The bleach and the TSP isn't the problem. At the time I was picturing raw wood which could have soaked into the wood. .

Since the gel stain is dry in some areas and still wet on the edges the only answer is a chemical contamination. There is some unknown substance where it isn't drying. You're going to have to strip the gel stain off in that area at least. It will eventually dry however when you finish over it the finish will eventually peal off. Personally I would strip it all off and start over. The doors may have at some time or another been waxed or it may be cooking oils or even hand oils. Even mineral spirits can leave a residue which can cause problems. When I put a finish over the top of another finish I start by washing the finish with Krud Kutter Gloss Off. Then I use a wax and grease remover such as Dupont Prepsol Solvent frequently changing rags. All of this is done before any sanding is done. Sanding just smears everything around. There is just no telling what might be on a old finish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks again for the replies.

It seems that cooking oils and hand oils over many many years is most likely the reason for the trouble with the sides. After we stripped the stain from the sides, cleaned, and sanded again, the gel stain dried in under 24 hours. Keep in mind that we also stained the backs of 22 doors, which all dried quickly and to the touch in around 8 hrs without issue The sides are the only thing that didn't dry on the first go.

After testing the different techniques (rubbed on/brushed on), we decided we liked the look of the gel stain being brushed on. So, there was no wiping. After reading GF's recommendations (and many other tutorials on GF's Gel Stains) brushing on is a fine method as long as we give ample dry time between coats (48hrs). We also plan on giving them a week before putting on the top coat.
 
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