About Gel Stains
A gel stain is a type of wipe-on stain product with a thickening agent that produces a heavier consistency. This thickener makes the product easy to apply. Gel stains stick well to furniture surfaces. They don't splash or drip like traditional stains.
Advantages of Gel Stains
Gel stains are very easy to apply, with fewer drips or splashes than standard stains. They also spread more evenly than traditional products. No special sprayers, brushes or applicators are needed. Gel stains will blend different grades of wood when they're used together in the same piece, so the overall effect is uniform. For types of wood that are prone to blotching, such as cherry or pine, the gel stain creates a more even finish. Gel stains can also be used as glazes over other colors of stain. The base stain coat is first sanded lightly, then covered with gel stain.
Disadvantages of Gel Stains
Because of gel stain’s thick consistency, it can stick inside cracks and crevices, making those areas darker than the overall finish. This effect can look good on country style pieces of furniture in which uneven finishing can be part of the folksy appearance. However, it may not appeal to finishers who are trying to achieve a more formal, even appearance. Extra care in applying and removing the gel stain from these areas will help to limit the buildup of the stain in these areas. Gel stains only remain on the surface of the wood and can become scratched with heavy use, such as on tabletops. They require the use of a clear topcoat product to protect the finish.
Using Gel Stain Products
Before applying the initial coat of gel stain, remove all hardware from the furniture. Clean the surface well to remove dirt and grease. Though you can stain over an existing finish, you must prepare the surface of the wood by sanding with 120-grit sandpaper, then finishing with 120- or 180-grit. After carefully removing all sanding dust from the furniture, apply the gel to the surface with a foam brush, removing excess stain as you go. Continue applying additional coats until you achieve the right color. Allow the gel stain to dry for 24 hours at least. Then apply a spar varnish protective coat.