Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Easy Updating Magic Using Gel Stain

Today I am going to show you how easy it is to update furniture, or other woodwork, (that is no longer the "in" stain,) with only 1 coat of General Finishes Java Gel Stain.
I bought a table and 8 chairs the other day for $75. When looking for a dining set to re-sell, look for solid wood, and clean simple lines. I wasn't a fan that it was counter height, but know that some people prefer this style.

Step 1:  Clean & Sand

I used my Zep Citrus Degreaser to clean the table, but any other cleaning product works fine. If the table and chairs are particularly dirty or greasy, then I recommend something more powerful like what I used.

I then used a 220 grit sanding sponge I had, and did a light sanding in the direction of the grain. Do an extra good job on the table surface, edges of the tabletop, table legs, chair seats and backs, and the chair legs where people's legs and feet will always be. You sand to give the gel stain something to adhere to, so think of where the furniture will get the most wear and tear, and make sure you prep that area well.

Wipe off dust.
One of the table section's after I sanded, but before I wiped off the dust. See the white area on the other table section? Most likely an area that was damaged due to something hot being placed on it. I needed to use the stain to help cover this blemish.

Step 2: Wipe on Gel Stain

I always recommend General Finishes gel stain because it is a superior product that looks beautiful, lasts, and is easy to use. It goes a very long way too. This whole project probably used up less than 1/2 cup of it.
The most affordable place I have found for G.F. gel stain is at Woodcraft. It is about $17 for a pint (I think).
You will have plenty leftover for many, many more projects.

When applying gel stain, I put a sandwich bag on my hand, and then an old sock over it. I then dip the tips of my fingers barely in the stain, and wipe it on light and smooth in the direction of the grain. You do not need to wipe off gel stain like you do regular stain. Gel stain does not sink into the wood, but instead stays on the surface. So the way it looks when you first apply it, is how it will be when it dries.

Allow it to dry 6+ hours, or until it is no longer tacky feeling.

Before and after one coat of gel stain.
Before and after one coat of gel stain.

Step 3: Wipe on Protective Top Coat

When using gel stain, I always use General Finishes Gel Topcoat in Satin finish for protection my work. I apply it just like I do gel stain. It takes about the same amount of time to dry. For tabletops you want 2-3 coats of topcoat since you will be washing them often, as well as there is a lot of friction or heat that the topcoats protect against. I apply 2-3 coats on the chair seats and the chair rung that people rest their feet on too. For the other areas, 1 coat should be fine. This topcoat leaves your furniture looking professionally finished...I love it.

Step 4: Enjoy your Brand New Table Set

The whole project took me about a week, with just an hour or two spent each day. With drying times, you can't do much more in one day's time. For each chair, it took me about 20 minutes to put gel stain in every nook, cranny, etc. The table areas are much simpler to wipe stain onto, so that took less time. 

When everything is dry, it looks and feels like a brand new table. 

Hope the ease and affordability of this project encourages you to update an outdated furniture piece you already have.

Happy creating!


  1. Can you please tell me what color of stain from General Finishes that you used for this project? The picture of the can nor your article mentions it. I think it'll be the perfect shade for doing my own table. Thanks!

    1. I used the Java color. Best of luck on your project!


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