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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