Not Just Java

Have you heard about the new way to refinish furniture and cabinets?  You can avoid the messy, difficult and time consuming task of first stripping your piece down to bare wood.  Instead, with this technique you only need to lightly sand the surface and then coat it with a dark gel stain that covers the surface in uniform color.  The color is solid but the grain texture will still show through.  Java Gel is all the rage and it started with a Pinterest post. The process continues to be widely used and circulated on the internet.

The only problem with the Java Gel process is that not everyone likes that dark color.  When we wrote about the technique a while back, the conventional wisdom was that Java was the only color that would work; you needed dark stain to get good coverage.  We decided to do a little experimenting and discovered that not only will other gel stain colors work effectively, you won’t need to settle for a solid color that looks as though the surface had been painted.  Using some of the medium gel stain tones you can get a look similar to stain applied to bare wood.   The picture shows a red oak door that has a section covered with General Finishes Antique Walnut and another done with Georgian Cherry.

Even if you have never worked with stains, you can do this.  The process is easy, inexpensive and requires no experience or special skills.

Here’s the basic process:

  1. Clean all the surfaces to remove any grease and grime.
  2. Lightly sand all the areas to be stained with 220 grit sandpaper.  You’re not trying to remove the finish – you just want to rough it up enough for the stain to adhere.   Vacuum up the dust and use a tack cloth to get all the particles off before you stain.
  3. Use a rag or a brush to apply the stain.  Be sure if you use a rag that it’s lint free.  One easy solution is to wear a rubber glove and then pull an old sock over it.  That way you can avoid having coffee colored cuticles for weeks.
  4. Apply the gel stain in light, even coats.   Wipe it on with the grain and remove any excess with a clean rag.  Your first coat will probably not look very good – expect it to be streaky.  Plan on two to three coats – just keep going until you have the effect you want.  Let each coat dry thoroughly, overnight or longer.  If you see any bumps in the stain you can sand it lightly with 400 grit sandpaper to remove them.
  5. Finish.  Put on one or two coats of polyurethane top coat like General Finishes PolyAcrylic.  Satin or semi-gloss will give you a subdued, elegant look.

As long as the gel stain color you select is slightly darker than your old stain, it will probably work.

Experiment!  Bring some new life to your cabinets or furniture.

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