How To Use Java Gel Stain

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General Finishes is the creator of JAVA GEL, the popular stain that has been featured widely on blogs and social media pages dedicated to repurposing and up-cycling furniture and cabinets. Gel Stains are heavy-bodied and do not penetrate as deeply into the wood as liquid oil-based stains do, providing the deepest, richest colors of any oil based stain available.


In this post, we share a video of Deanna demonstrating how to use the Gel Stain in our Studio, and Kerri's documenting of her first-ever experience with the highly anticipated product.

We hope that these tutorials give you the confidence and knowledge to try out Gel Stains and repurpose your wooden furniture or cabinets!


How to Apply Gel Stains Video Demonstration by Deanna:

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How to Apply Gel Stains Video Demonstration w/ Color Comparison by Anna:

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Kerri's First Experience with Gel Stains Blog:


Before and After Java Gel Stain and Provence Chalk Paint™













Working with General Finishes Gel Stain Over Finished Wood

General Finishes Gel Stain is an oil-based stain that can easily create a lustrous finish. Initially, it was formulated to enhance raw wood, allowing a layering of colours but can also be used over existing finishes. Gel stains are thicker in consistency than liquid oil-based stains. This means no drips, runs or spills!

There are two methods for using gel stain over existing finishes:

1. Apply On/Wipe Off Method: 
Working on one section at a time, apply gel stain liberally and wipe off excess stain with a cloth or high quality paper towels. Wipe with the grain, blending any adjoining areas. Additional coats will darken the initial coat.

2. Painting Stain On:
 This method is normally used if a very dark painted look is desired. Dry brush on sparingly the first coat. Brush on the second coat heavily with a bristle or foam brush and then dry-brush the excess stain off with a clean brush. Using the flat part of a dry bristle brush (slightly angled) brush across and feather out in the direction of the grain pattern. Additional coats will give a darker color.

In the following photos, we show you how to achieve a stained finish using the “apply and wipe” method over an original cherry finish.

Start by ensuring your piece is free of dust. View our cleaning infographic here.

Lightly sand the piece only to scuff the surface, not to remove finish. Follow by wiping with a tack cloth or damp rag to remove fine dust.


How to Apply General Finishes Java Gel Stain

For this example, we have selected “Java” Gel Stain, though we carry several other gel stain colours. Mix the gel stain well with stir stick. It is best to wear gloves and an apron or old clothes as this product is difficult to remove from fabric.

Using a foam brush, apply a liberal amount of stain to the surface following the grain of the wood.

 Once the surface is covered, lightly wipe away excess product with a soft cloth, like a cheese cloth or high quality paper towels. You will see the original surface with this first application and you can choose to use the original colour to help create a grained effect.

How to Apply General Finishes Java Gel Stain










You can apply additional coats of the gel stain to achieve a darker, richer look that will look layered instead of solid (as achieved with the “painted on” technique). In this example, we used two coats of stain and allowed a bit of the original cherry finish to come through. General Finishes recommends 6-8 hours of dry time between coats.

How to Apply General Finishes Java Gel Stain How to Apply General Finishes Java Gel Stain


A top coat is not necessary due to the high amount of urethane in the gel stain that will provide protection. As an option for maximum durability on high traffic pieces, you can use General Finishes water-based High Performance Top Coat, but you need to wait 72 hours before applying when changing from oil to water-based finishes.


We completed our project by painting the remaining areas with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™ Provence and finished with Annie Sloan Soft Clear Wax. Also note that General Finishes does not recommend the use of Gel Stain over laminates or high gloss surfaces.


How to Apply General Finishes Java Gel Stain


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You can buy General Finishes Gel Stain, along with other essential furniture refinishing products at

If you have any questions about this tutorial, or about Gel Stains in general, please leave us a comment! We love to help you with your creative projects!