I began applying the General Finishes Java Gel stain to the pieces of my bookcase project last week. At the beginning I had quite a bit of trouble.
The instructions on the can say to work in sections, apply the stain and with a clean cloth wipe off the excess especially the smudges (which I take to be overlaps).
I found I had to work in ever decreasing section sizes since as soon as I finished applying the stain and picked up the cloth to wipe off the excess, the stain was already tacky and there really was no excess that could be removed. I also found that all of the smudges occurred when I went from one section to the next and the fresh stain touched the previously applied stain (as it is not possible to prevent lapping over from one area to the next), and as before as soon as I finished applying the stain it was already tacky, not really any excess to remove and the smudges/lap marks would not move.
Another thing I found was when I tried to go over part of a section where the stain did not quite cover like the rest, when the wet stain touched the previously applied stain it removed a good bit of what was already there, so “touch-ups” were not really possible (at that time anyway).
In fairness to the product what I decided was the heat and humidity we have been having were working against me. Plus since there is no way we can work in our shop/garage without having a fan on, being so hot, that breeze was causing premature drying.
One thing that amazes me is removing the stain from your skin. I saw on the can that you could use either mineral spirits or waterless hand cleaner and since I have Go-Jo wipes I decided to try those and they took the stain right off. It so nice not to have to use mineral spirits.
I sent General Finishes an e-mail about the “trouble” I was having and they agreed with me that it was/is most likely the weather working against me plus the breeze from the fan. They recommended I add about 10% mineral spirits to the stain, and when I did that it made all the difference in the world.
The stain went on much easier, I was able to work in larger sections (so it took less time to finish each piece) and with exception of a couple of places (operator error I think) I did not have any smudges when I overlapped one area into another.
The color came out alright, and the second coat, drying darker, sort of hid the smudges I did end up with. I just do not know how those areas will look after I apply the General Finishes HP water-based (Satin) top coat.
I only have a few more pieces to stain, unfortunately they are the longest pieces (the sides and middle vertical section). I am going to have to use a different approach to do those pieces since they are heavy, and will have wet stain on them, I will not be able to move them by myself. Currently my thinking is to set up three sets of saw horses (side by side), apply stain to one side and get my wife to help me move that piece to another set of the sawhorses, then repeat the same thing for the next two pieces; well for one of them at least since I can leave the last piece on the sawhorses I stain them on.
It would seem to me for those of us in the Gulf Coast, where it is so hot and humid, that using gel stain should not be done during the summer (or without adding some mineral spirits anyway). And I would not being doing so if I was not matching my daughter’s furniture which is also that Java color.
So I am closing in on getting this project finished. There are some things that will prevent me from making as much progress as I want (doctor appointment, etc.) but I’m getting there.
As for the top coat I have decided to use a paint pad to apply it since the pieces are somewhat large and I do not want to have similar “premature drying” problems like with the stain.
The woman at General Finishes suggested I put panty hose or a nylon footie over the pad since they tend to leave fibers in the finish. They also say to apply a water-based top coat over an oil-based stain I have to let the stain dry for at least 48 hours, but that will not be a problem at all with the interruptions I mentioned above.