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Gel Stains

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Here's when it makes sense to use a gel stain

Nonporous woods. Species such as pine, maple, cherry, and birch have relatively nonporous surfaces that don't absorb stains well. These woods have areas where edge or end grain pops to the surface. So, when you apply thin-bodied stains to them, you can get splotchy areas of light and dark staining because of uneven absorption.

As shown in the photo above, gel stains help you achieve uniform coloration on these woods. Although you can buy "conditioners" specially made for sealing hard-to-stain woods prior to staining with thin-bodied stains, that combination did not give us as good a result as gel stains did.


Woods of different species or grain appearance. Some-times you can't avoid combining woods of slightly different coloration or mismatching grain patterns in the same project surface. For example, various red oak boards may vary from pale white to pink in tone, and they may have flatsawn or quartersawn grain patterns. If economics dictate that you must use such boards together, you can help give the surface a uniform appearance by using gel stains.

Wood graining on man-made surfaces. Today, you can buy fiberglass and hardboard doors with a wood-grain embossed surface, and steel doors with nonembossed surfaces. Gel stains help you give both types of surfaces a grain-like appearance.

With embossed surfaces you simply apply a gel stain. Because it doesn't spread out, the stain stays on the flat surfaces and collects in heavier amounts in the embossed crevices of the grain.

This same nonspreading quality makes gel stains ideal for applying artificial wood grain to flat surfaces, such as steel doors, with a wood-graining tool. The photo above shows what happened when we used this tool with thin-bodied and gel stains.

Note: Zar wood stain, although not a gel stain, is thicker than thin-bodied stains and also works for wood graining. Zar products are made by UGL (800/845-5227).


Adding a patina look to country projects. Because gel stains collect in crevices, they also help you give country projects such as the candle box left a faux patina. You simply wipe on the stain, then wipe it off, leaving the stain in crevices and other spots where dirt would accumulate over the years.

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Comments (5)
gfgorman0345 wrote:

If you are going to stain fiberglass, use either Wood Kote or Olympic. Do not use MinWax. It's gummy and won't smooth out and leaves a blotchy appearance.

2/18/2014 10:58:39 AM Report Abuse
dagwat wrote:

These thick gel stains are HORRIBLE! I tried MinWax which IMHO is worthless. It is beyond gel, it is a PASTE and although supposedly oak, it was BLACK. The gel stains I've used which were Very Good was Olympic brand, especially Colonial Oak. Beautiful, great thinner consistency yet gelled for use over paint or metal. Works wonderfully, looks great. Unfortunately I can't find it anymore. It appears to have been replaced on everyone's shelves by Min Wax.

3/13/2013 04:03:09 PM Report Abuse
dchellis wrote:

Do not care for the gel stain, I have only tried the Min Wax product, but I always go back to the oil base stain. I would be willing to try from another manufacture.

3/7/2013 12:43:09 PM Report Abuse
harrywoodfinish wrote:

The gel wood stain can in the photo on the first page is Wood Kote's Jel'd Stain. I have used their wood stain many times before, it is a very high quality product.

7/7/2010 10:49:30 AM Report Abuse
jfoliveri wrote:

General Finishes is an outstanding gel stain and has a great wiping gel varnish

5/8/2010 07:55:28 PM Report Abuse

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