Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Gel Staining My Kitchen Table

UPDATE: (March 20, 2015)  Don't gel stain your table.  I may have done something wrong and you can read my process below, but within weeks, my gel stained (and multiple urethane coated) table had scratches and chips all over it. SO.  I decided to paint it; pretty much the same way I did with the base of the table, which had NO scratches from chairs banging into it, even after a year.

Process-I sanded the gel stained table top with an electric sander.  It came off SUPER easily, but I didn't even sand it all off.  Took about ten minutes.  Primed it with a coat of Valspar Bare Wood Primer. Painted a couple coats of Valspar Reserve satin interior paint, mixed to almost the same color as the gel stain.  Brushed on 4 coats of Minwax water-based semigloss clear polycrylic.  It has been a couple weeks and I can already tell it is MUCH more resistant than the gel stained table and looks the same as the final product pictured below.

**did you know that if you don't like the color of Valspar paint YOU picked out, you can return it for a full refund?  And then buy a different one to try?  Amazing!

Here is the gel staining process if you decide you still want to gel stain (written February, 2014).

I gel stained my kitchen table!  Special thanks to Monica at MonicaWantsIt for her tutorial on gel staining her kitchen cabinets.  You can find it here.  It is fabulous and well worth the read if you want to gel stain anything.  I used her method almost exactly.



First Coat of Gel Stain

After Second Coat

After Third Coat

Final product!
Table top final product-with  lights reflecting

I LOVE my new table!!  First I cleaned the table with denatured alcohol, and then sanded it lightly.  Gel stain is not for bare wood projects.  On the legs and apron of the table, I first used a primer.  I used white, but I understand there is black primer, which would have probably been a better choice.  Then I painted on two coats of Valspar Signature Hi-Def Advanced Color latex paint and primer in satin kettle black (didn't realize it had primer in it until I typed this, that's how I roll) mixed with Floetrol to help hide brush marks. I was later told that oil based is much better for furniture, but I liked working with this. I attempted to use a foam brush because I thought that would be easier than a regular paint brush, but the paint brush was actually much easier.  I followed up the paint (after letting it dry the appropriate time) with two coats of Minwax water based Polycrylic protective finish in semi-gloss.

For the top, I used the men's-white-sock-over-a-latex-glove method, described in the tutorial.  I tried to use a foam brush on part of it, but quickly went back to the men's sock.  Be sure to buy multiple white socks, so you can just toss the sock after each coat. I got mine at Dollar Tree. I used General Finishes java gel stain mixed half and half with General Finishes georgian cherry gel stain because I didn't want such a dark table top.  I used these for the first two coats and then just georgian cherry for the next two because it was still too dark.  I was looking for more of a red color.  They mix very easily.

*When I tried to find gel stain at Lowe's, they said it was discontinued.  I found my General Finishes gel stain at Woodcraft.  The guys there told me that the Minwax brand, sold at Lowe's, just didn't work, and that General Finishes gel stains are currently the highest selling item at all of the Woodcraft stores.  You can also order it online.

I LOVED working with the gel stain.  It has a pudding-like consistency and requires very little sanding.  However,  it doesn't penetrate very deeply, so I am anxious to see how this finish holds up. You wipe on the  gel stain until you have a thin even layer, and then DO NOT wipe off the excess (to get this look), except for little blobs, etc.  The first coat looks terrible and streaky.  But REALLY, the next two coats cover it all up, beautifully!  They even covered up uneven sanding and scratch marks for the most part (though I can still see the scratches if I look close). I ended up doing four coats.  IN MY REGULAR CLOTHES, IN TEN MINUTES for each coat.  It is that easy.  I didn't even put down a drop cloth (but I also have laminate floors).  Each time, I removed the sock and glove and threw it away, cleaned up little bits I got on my other hand using paint thinner outside, and was done!

The first coat took at least 36 hours to dry, but the other coats only took about 8 hours.  Next, I covered the gel stain with General Finishes Gel Topcoat, using the glove and sock method again. This is also a WIPE ON urethane.  Super easy, super simple.  I did 4 coats of this, with drying time about 6-8 hours in between.  I rubbed a couple coats of Gel Topcoat over the paint on the feet of the table for extra protection.

The tutorial uses Gel Topcoat on the cupboards, but the Woodcraft guys told me that General Finishes does not recommend this because of the heat in the kitchen.  They recommend General Finishes Arm-r-seal urethane topcoat instead.  I already had Gel Topcoat, so went with that. They said  Gel Topcoat is adequate for tables, but they also said Arm-r-seal is more durable, so I may do that if my table starts to show wear too quickly.

**Since posting, I had a couple tiny chips on my table that showed right through down to the yellow wood. I touched those up, but then got a scratch and a couple other chips. I have been thinking about this and studying it out, because I have two friends who have used gel stain; one on her table and cupboards; one on her mantle and banister.  They say those have held up beautifully, no chips.  The one who did her table and cupboards said they did absolutely NO sanding, and the stain held up beautifully.  The one who did the mantle and banister used a citrus gel stripper, then sanded, then hand sanded to get all the finish off.  She stained and did not even put a topcoat on.  They have also had no chips.  The Gel Stain can, as well as the video at http://generalfinishes.com/videos entitled "How to Repurpose Cabinets with Java Gel Stain" says only to lightly sand.  

As far as I can tell, the only difference between what all these people did and what I did, was possibly that my first coat (and maybe subsequent coats) was too heavy.  According to Monicawantsit, link above, I was supposed to put a thin coat on, and not wipe off the excess. But according to the stain can and the video, you are supposed to put on a thin layer, and then WIPE OFF the excess (like you would for a regular stain).  I think my first layer was too thick, therefore, the 36 hour drying time! When I do a test cabinet in my laundry room, I am going to try a much thinner layer with the excess wiped off and see if the final product ends up more durable.  Meanwhile, I think I will get a hold of some Arm-r-seal urethane topcoat and see if that helps my table.

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