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Gel Stain Instructions

posted by: buehl on 01.03.2011 at 05:28 am in Kitchens Forum

How to Gel Stain Your Cabinets

From CelticMoon...

You just need time, maybe $50 in supplies, and patience. No skill.

Here's more than you need to know:

My cabinets are frameless, good condition and good layout. But the finish had gone orange and ugly, with the oak graining too busy for me. Cabinets are 18 years old, very poorly finished oak veneered slab doors. Plain with no crevices. They didn't even take the doors off to finish them!!! No stain or finish on the hinge side edges. Cheezey, huh?

I looked into changing out cabinets, but that was way too much money, since my layout was OK. Painting didn't seem right because the doors were plain slabs. I considered new doors but that still meant a lot of money. For a few years I tried to figure a way to add molding toward a mission look, but the rounded door edges made that impossible. Then trolling in a kitchen emporium showroom this last year I noticed dark wood slab doors, kind like mine, but darker. That was the answer.

First I tried Minwax Polyshades. Dicey product. Hard to brush on neatly, then gummy, then seemed to leave a sticky tacky residue. I did a thread on the Woodworking Forum "Evil Polyshades to the Rescue" which elicited a lot of conflicting "expert" opinions and arguments that one must strip to bare wood.

(Thread may still be around as that Forum moves slow.) I properly stripped acres of woodwork in an old Victorian when I was young and stupid. Never again! Jennifer-in-clyde (in the same boat) and I stumbled around on that woodworking thread to get to this method.

Shopping List:

  • electric screwdriver or screw drill bits
  • mineral spirits to clean the years of gunk off the cabinet
  • miracle cloths (optional)
  • fine sandpaper
  • box-o-disposable gloves from Walgreens or the like
  • old socks or rags for wiping on coats
  • disposable small plastic bowls or plates, and plastic spoons or forks for stirring/dipping (optional)
  • General Finishes water base Expresso stain (pretty thick, but not quite a gel) This one may not even be a needed step if the Java gets it dark enough.
  • General Finishes Java gel stain (poly based)
  • General Finishes clear top coat (poly based)
  • old sheets or plastic sheeting or newspaper

    Rockler woodworking stores are a good place to find the General Finish products. Or some larger hardware stores. Quart of each was more than enough for my 60 doors and drawer fronts and goes for $12-14 at Rockler. There are smaller sizes if your project is small.

    Setup and Planning:

    You will need a place to work and leave wet doors to dry overnight - I set up 2 spaces, garage for sanding/cleaning and basement for staining/sealing. Use newspaper or plastic to protect the surface and floor. Figure out how you will prop doors to dry.

    Plan blocks of 20-30-minutes for sanding/cleaning bundles of, say, 6 doors at a time. Then just 10 minute sessions to wipe on coats. The coats will need to dry for about 24 hours, so figure that each section of the kitchen will be door-less for 4 or 5 days. Divide the job up into manageable chunks.


    • Take off doors and drawer fronts. Use screw drill bits on an electric drill if you don't have an electric screwdriver. Remove all the hardware. *Mark alike things so you know what goes back where.*
    • Clean the doors thoroughly. Not with TSP but with something pretty strong and scrub well. There's years of grease there.
    • Sand LIGHTLY, just a scuffing really. Just enough to break the finish and give it some tooth, no more than a minute a door. A miracle cloth is good for getting most of the dust off. Then wipe well with mineral spirits to clean and get the last of the gunk off.


    • In order, we're gonna put on:
      1. General Finishes Expresso water based stain (1-2 coats) - optional
      2. General Finishes Java gel stain (couple coats)
      3. General Finishes Clear urethane gel topcoat in satin (couple coats)

    • But first put on work clothes, tie up your hair (Tom, you may skip this step, LOL) and pop your phone into a baggie nearby (you know it will ring).
    • Glove up.
    • *First do a trial on the back of a door and check if Java coats alone suffice. If the Java alone is to your liking, just skip the Expresso and return it.*

    • Open and stir up the Expresso stain, then spoon some into a plastic bowl.

    • Close the tin so it doesn't get contaminated.

    • Slide a sock over your hand, grab a gob of Expresso and smear it on. Wipe off the excess. Let it dry well - overnight is good. It will lighten as it dries, but then darken again with any other coat or sealer. A second coat can end up with a deeper tone at the end - though it might seem like the second coat is just dissolving the first. YMMV.
    • Repeat with Java gel. This is thicker and poly based (*not water cleanup!*=messier). Color is a rich dark reddish brown.

    • Wait for the second coat to judge if the color is deep enough for you. I wanted a very deep dark color, like melted dark chocolate. So I went pretty heavy on these layers. *I did not sand between coats*.
    • Repeat with clear gel top coat. This will give you the strength you need in a kitchen.
    • Do the same process with the cabinet sides, face and toekick area. Might need to divide that up also, and stagger the work: doors/cabinets/doors/etc.
    • NOTE: The cloth or socks used for the gels are very flammable! Collect and store them in a bucket of water as you go and then dispose of them all properly.

    Finishing and Reassembly:

    • I suggest you put the doors back up after one clear coat, then you can check everything over and darken an area with more Java if needed, followed by a clear coat.

    • When it all looks right, go over it all again with another clear gel coat. Or two.

    • Install your hardware.

    • The feel of the finish should be wonderful, really smooth and satiny. Color deep and rich - way nicer than that faded, beat 80's oak color.

    Final Thoughts:

    • Definitely experiment first with the back of a door or drawer front to be sure it is the look you want.

    • Yes, this takes a couple days to coat, dry, re-coat, dry, etc but you may discover that the Java alone does the trick and this will save you A LOT of work.

    • Front end patience is worth it.
    • This is a pretty easy project to do. Hard to screw it up. The worst is the prep - relative to that, smearing on the coats is cake. I had over 60 pieces (big kitchen) AND island sides and book shelves, etc and I admit I lost steam partway through. Had to push myself through the last of it. But it was worth it. Folks think I got all new cabinets - it looks that good. Now the finish will not be as durable as factory finish - go at it with a Brillo pad and you WILL abrade it. But it has held up pretty well. And after a year of pretty heavy use, I've just had a few nicks, easily repaired.
    • I added smashing hardware, raised my pass-through, resurfaced the Corian (also simple but messy and tedious) and replaced the DW and sink. It looks gorgeous to me and I really enjoy the space - how it sits all quiet, clean and serene, then gets all crazy with the food and folks du jour. I couldn't be happier, especially that I didn't have to work another year just to pay for the update!!

    Link to cabinets in progress: cosmetic update project/kitchen during/

    Link to almost finished cabinet pix: cosmetic update project/finished bit by bit/?start=20n

    Good luck with your project!! Feel free to ask me any questions as you go.
    And let me know if you try it and how it turns out.

    Thread: Celticmoon, are you out there? Gel stain question (OT)

    Thread: Celticmoon?

    Thread: Evil Polyshades to the rescue????

  • NOTES:

    clipped on: 10.28.2012 at 10:56 pm    last updated on: 10.28.2012 at 10:57 pm

    Sources of rustic tile

    posted by: Pintosmom on 10.03.2012 at 11:21 am in Kitchens Forum

    Having gotten over cabinet pricing sticker shock (and hence going over budget first thing out of the gate) we are moving forward with our kitchen remodel and cabinets are going in next week!

    I've selected both absolute black and volcano granite for the kitchen and am trying to come up with backsplash ideas that will complement both, since the volcano is a dramatic granite with a lot of movement. (I don't have a good photo from the granite yard, but it resembles Magma Gold on the Granite Guru's site)

    I like the Tatrum tiles by Sonoma Tilemakers and am thinking of using the black tile in a simple liner with possibly a small bronze accent tile - I am stuck on the field tile, which I think should be simple so not to compete with the granite. I am not fond of tumbled marble, but have found a few rustic looking tiles that I like the look of - Seneca, Motawi, and Trikeenan. I'd like to find other options and venders with this kind of look, that might be a little more cost-effective on the already stretched budget.

    Any advice or links much appreciated. I don't post much because I have to remember my password to log in - but read often and have learned so much that we have put to use in making choices. Thanks in advance


    clipped on: 10.17.2012 at 11:41 pm    last updated on: 10.17.2012 at 11:41 pm

    Lemon Pesto on my mind...Backsplash thoughts

    posted by: lisa_wi on 10.07.2012 at 06:57 pm in Kitchens Forum

    I've been thinking about my backsplash for a long time and can't seem to settle on anything. DH and I headed over to Ann Sacks yesterday. He is a Kohler employee and gets a decent discount so we were thinking it might be easiest to focus there. I go back and for on wanting color, then I though cream crackle subways for a while but I feel like I'm going to be disappointed if that's the route I go. I just want something interesting. Not too dark. Something that will tie all my colors together.

    Here's the kitchen:


    I found this at Ann Sacks - its a stoneware tile made for Ann Sacks by a different company. The color is called Lemon Pesto (sorry about the crap lighting!)


    With my cabinets:


    I found this image online, but I think the color looks duller than it really was in person:


    I don't think I'd use a deco tile unless they had something that would tie the stainless and black in?? I'd probably go lighter with the grout, a little closer to the upper cab colors.

    What do you think???

    Of course the guy at Ann Sacks didn't know the exact price and his guess puts it higher than I was thinking I'd spend even with the discount. Sigh.

    Other Ann Sacks favorites I should look at? Other non-Ann Sacks tile that would be decently priced ($10-$20 a sq ft) and would fit into my kitchen well?

    Here is a link that might be useful: My finished kitchen thread


    clipped on: 10.07.2012 at 06:57 pm    last updated on: 10.07.2012 at 06:57 pm

    Finished Kitchen ~ Green and Cream using Cliq Studios cabs

    posted by: lisa_wi on 09.28.2012 at 02:17 pm in Kitchens Forum

    Well I'm finally here! Just the backsplash left at this point. Our house was built in 1929, but the previous owners gutted and remodeled about 8 years ago. Unfortunately they went with oak, kind of a funky layout, and 30" uppers in a room with almost 9 foot ceilings. They cabinets hadn't held up that great either, so we decided to replace all the cabinets and change the layout. We bought this house 18 months ago when we decided to downsize so that I could stay at home with our 3 kids. With that said it was a relatively low budget remodel.

    Before in all its oak and cranberry glory ~





    and after ~ We pushed the refrigerator back into part of our front hall closet and turned a G into a galley. New 42" uppers and (almost) all drawers. I love the new layout!








    The details:
    Cabinets: Cliq Studios Tea Leaf lowers, Painted Linen uppers
    Counters: Black Pearl Granite
    Sink: 30" Kohler Whitehaven in biscuit
    Faucet: Kohler Simplice in stainless steel
    Ceiling Light: Rejuvenation Jefferson in black with glass shade from ebay
    Sink Light: Hi-Lite Manufacturing Warehouse Shade 8" in Vanilla Cream
    Undercabinet Lights: ProLED 1.5 watt strips
    Peninsula Legs and Apron: Osborne Wood Products St. Simons Island Post and beaded apron painted by me to match
    Hardware: Cup Pulls are Thomasville Garner 2 3/4" Cup Pull in matte black, Knobs are Liberty P40005C in flat black, both from Home Depot
    Stools: 24" Saddle Seat Stool from Walmart
    Flooring: Original maple with a little repair/replacement done
    Wall paint: Sherwin Williams Compatible Cream
    Trim paint: Sherwin Williams Creamy

    I think its helpful to have a budget breakdown especially for lower end kitchens so I thought I'd include that as well:
    Cabinets, crown, peninsula legs and apron: $5,500
    Granite Counters: $2,200
    Other Building Materials: $550
    GC's Labor (including installing cabs, framing new closet): $1,600
    GC Fee: $400
    Lighting: $310
    Plumbing Fixtures: $1,200
    Hardware: $170
    Plumbing: $1,285
    Electrical: $1,200
    Drywall: $1,100
    HVAC: $100
    Paint: $50
    Accessories: $150

    Total: about $16,000 which was pretty much the total budget we started with. Some things shifted back and forth - more on lighting, less on electrical sub, more on drywall, less on plumbing fixtures.


    clipped on: 10.07.2012 at 06:40 pm    last updated on: 10.07.2012 at 06:40 pm

    This old TV show should appeal to all kitchen aficionados here

    posted by: AlexHouse on 09.21.2012 at 01:23 am in Kitchens Forum

    Victorian Kitchen. Here is episode one on Youtube.

    The show finds an old, abandoned Victorian kitchen, then they locate an old lady who used to actually work as a cook back in the 1920s, then they renovate the kitchen and bring it back to a functional state and then they start cooking the way they used to cook in those estates.

    Bonus material is a walk-through on an old recipe - Spring Fruit Soup, which turns out to be a multi-day affair involving extraordinary complexity.

    If you want to watch more of the series, the remaining episodes are located on the Youtube sidebar.


    clipped on: 09.29.2012 at 02:59 pm    last updated on: 09.29.2012 at 03:00 pm

    lisa wi and Caspian 101 Cliq/Barker

    posted by: EAM44 on 09.04.2012 at 05:35 pm in Kitchens Forum

    I was wondering how your cabinet installations are going (or went)? Lisa, you were about to receive your Linen and Tea Leaf 6Square cabinets from Cliqstudios, and Caspian, you were installing your Barker cabs the last I heard. Can you tell me a little more about your experience from start to finish, and show pics if possible? Caspian, how did you decide to finish your cabs?

    I'm still trying to decide where to get my cabs. Thanks. E


    clipped on: 09.10.2012 at 02:16 pm    last updated on: 09.10.2012 at 02:16 pm

    RE: For those of you with white cabinets and white subway tile... (Follow-Up #17)

    posted by: worldmom on 01.01.2009 at 10:36 pm in Kitchens Forum


    I wanted to post a couple of links to Anchor Bay's colors. You can order samples for $2 apiece ($10 shipping, regardless of number). They're all handmade tiles; some are crackled, some are beveled, some are 2x4, some are 3x6, and some lines come in more colors than others. (I think we're doing Soho bisque with a celery listello). (46 colors for this particular one) (60 for this one) (6 for this one) (4 for this one)

    I'm not trying to push this company on you or anything, but they do have a few whites to choose from. They're great for me since I'm hours from a real tile showroom. It's fun to look at Ann Sacks' website, for example, but I have no way to actually order any of that stuff. I love that this is a direct order site.

    Anyway - I think you're wise to make a reasonable effort to get the two whites to go together (like not putting a cool one against a warm one if you can help it), but like Mary said upthread, it's not even possible to match all your whites and you'll drive yourself bonkers if you try. I know our fireclay sink is a different white than our tile and cabs, but at some point, I have to say that white is white and that's good enough for me. ;o)


    clipped on: 09.02.2012 at 11:54 pm    last updated on: 09.02.2012 at 11:54 pm

    The Finished Kitchens Blog (FKB) is back

    posted by: starpooh on 09.01.2012 at 12:02 pm in Kitchens Forum

    "Can't see the forest for the trees...."

    Yup, that's what happened.
    I had been so involved in the details of setting up a new FKB (with fancy categories) that I lost sight of the goal of the project..... adding kitchens.

    So I'm revamping the blogger setup so it is more user-friendly for both viewing and for adding kitchens.
    I will worry about the categories later.

    Click on the link below to view a preview of the new FKB.
    It's a "work in progress" since I haven't played around with the text or colors and many of the links in the navigation bar aren't working.
    Be sure to hover over "Dynamic Views" in the top navigation bar and select the various views: Flipcard, Magazine, Mosaic, Sidebar, Snapshot, Timeslide and Classic.

    What do you think of the basic functionality?

    btw.... can someone please verify the page displays properly on tablets and smartphones?

    New format for Finished Kitchens Blog (FKB)


    clipped on: 09.01.2012 at 10:16 pm    last updated on: 09.01.2012 at 10:16 pm

    Our new house is finished! My white kitchen...

    posted by: nini804 on 09.22.2011 at 10:01 pm in Kitchens Forum

    Hi Gardenweb friends!
    You all have been so kind and I have learned so much from this site! I have been off-line the past month as we have been moving in to our new custom home. I joined GW this past winter, after our plans had been finalized by our architect...but I have incorporated so much from here into my finishes! We have a kitchen that is open to our breakfast room and family room, with a small butler's pantry between the kitchen and formal dining. I call the layout a "broken L with an island because I thought the architect was very cleaver to make the "corner" a little office space that also has the door to the pantry in it. This way, there is no "dead corner" in the kitchen. Maybe some people just starting could use this idea! :)

    Anyway, here are the details:
    Appliances: all KitchenAid, except for the Sharp MW drawer
    in the island. Range is 36" dual fuel, with a
    Cabinets: Mid-Continent, maple painted white, with soft
    close drawers and doors. We chose all wood
    Perimeter counters: Honed Carerra marble
    Island top: Dark walnut, with a mineral oil finish
    Floors: 5" wide white oak, stained 75% jacobean, 24% dark
    Lighting: Pendants, Quiozel, I think. Breakfast chandy is!

    Things I love so far: 1. Soft close!! Love!! Although we have it on all the drawers in the house, we only did the doors on the kitchen and butler's pantry cabs. Wish we had done it everywhere.
    2. KA dishwasher and range...both of these have been wonderful so far, DW is so quiet and cleans really well. Range and oven are very easy to use and have nice, consistant heat. Plus, I think very pretty! :)
    3. MW awesome, love it to pieces!
    4. Under cab lights...never had these before, we have them on a dimmer, they are wonderful.
    5. Walnut top...everyone who visits swoons over is a wonderful, warm surface.

    Things I DON'T love:
    1. Fridge! Counter-depth french door is awful! We had to buy an auxiliary fridge for the garage, and I am contemplating adding a fridge drawer to the island.
    2. The distance from the range wall to the island seems a scooch too big, I think it is 48". I could have moved the island a few inches closer to the range.

    I will do a seperate post about my experience with honed vs. polished marble (I have polished in the master bath.) There are pros and cons to each, I have found.

    Anyway, Nini's kitchen!


    clipped on: 08.31.2012 at 10:59 pm    last updated on: 08.31.2012 at 10:59 pm

    Will you PLEASE post a link to your kitchen??

    posted by: susied3 on 05.22.2012 at 04:20 pm in Kitchens Forum

    I have to say, I've spent the last 4 days probably over 20 hours of searching, here, google, FKB, every way possible, as to NOT bother you with this, BUT, I can't find MANY kitchens that I have notes on, with questions, and thought maybe if people would post the link to their original kitchen reveal, or progress pics, it might help others with questions as well.

    I have a list of TWENTY SEVEN names that I have specific questions about your kitchen! I thought maybe the link to a thread with info might answer many without having to bug everyone personally!

    In addition to those 27, I already have 32 threads saved in my favorites, some have the answers, some not, so will probably have to "bug you" for those. :)

    So, if you have it, will you post it? PLEASE??

    And, THANK YOU!!


    clipped on: 08.31.2012 at 10:54 pm    last updated on: 08.31.2012 at 10:54 pm

    Oh please post a photo of your backsplashes...

    posted by: berardmr on 07.13.2012 at 04:50 pm in Kitchens Forum

    I need some inspiration. The cabinets will arrive soon and the contractor is scheduled to begin his work in a few weeks and I don't have a clue about a backsplash. I'm open to anything and everything. Somebody rescue me with some good ideas before I scream!! The backsplash is the last choice I need to make!


    clipped on: 08.31.2012 at 10:39 pm    last updated on: 08.31.2012 at 10:39 pm

    MIng Green Marble Backsplash?

    posted by: westtoeast on 02.12.2012 at 09:30 am in Kitchens Forum

    I have fallen in love with Ming Green Marble for our kitchen backsplash. I like that it is fairly neutral, with just a touch of color. The problem is, that when I google images of it, I only come up with bathroom photos! Now I am getting nervous that it might not be a good choice for a kitchen. Should I go with something else that has a similar feel? I love the pale greens, blues, grey and whites. I will just be using the 3x6 tiles...not the other sizes.

    FWIW, here are the rest of our materials:
    Perimeter cabinets: Shaker style, painted BM Mascarpone (Creamy white) with Honed Absolute black counters
    Island: Stained cherry (dark, but not quite espresso) with Costa Esmeralda counter
    Floors: a lightish oak- which run through the whole house, very similar in color to the photo below.

    Here is an inspiration photo...I realize this backsplash is not the Ming green...I'm just wondering if the ming green would work as a substitute?

    Two Time Award Winning Kitchen traditional kitchen


    clipped on: 08.25.2012 at 03:43 pm    last updated on: 08.25.2012 at 03:43 pm

    Cliq Studios for my new kitchen design?

    posted by: MuleHouse on 08.12.2012 at 03:57 pm in Kitchens Forum

    I'd looked at them on line before, but saw a good mention of Cliq here this morning. I've priced them now for my design and whoa, mama, what a difference in price from Lowes.

    Are those who have used Cliq Studios happy? Or have there been some disasters I should be aware of before going forward?

    I'm attaching a photo of the 18LX7W raw space from a real estate ad. The refrigerator will go in the room beyond. It still looks much the same except the carpet has been removed. That lowered ceiling area is ducting I can't do anything about except to work around it. There's only 70 inches of space beyond the ducting where the sink and dishwasher will be placed. Everything else has to fit under the 74 1/2 inches from floor to ducting.

    Would love any feedback.


    clipped on: 08.19.2012 at 07:34 pm    last updated on: 08.19.2012 at 07:35 pm