General Finishes Java Gel Tutorial

Welcome back to the Indigo Lane blog! Today I’m so pleased to bring you a tutorial that has been on my mind for MONTHS now! Of all the products I use General Finishes java gel stain is absolutely my most used product & my most asked about product! On a weekly basis I’m asked several times, “What is Java gel? Where can I purchase Java gel? How do I use it for my own projects?” Well guys, I have listened and I am bringing to you today, in-depth answers to those questions and more!

What is Java Gel?

From the manufacturer: “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.”

My description would read more like: Java gel is a miracle in a can. It can be used as a regular wood stain or it can be “painted” on to items that are not real wood or wood that has been sealed without having to sand or strip to bare wood.

Where do I buy Java Gel?

I have purchased Java Gel and other general finishes products on Amazon but you can also visit General Finishes website and purchase locally at a retailer in your area by visiting this website:  General Finishes Where To Buy.


How do I use Java Gel?

Today’s example piece I bring to you is a gorgeous pedestal table my dear friend Bri brought to me to refinish. (Thank you for entrusting me with such a gorgeous piece!)

Brianna is such a kind soul and one HECK of a photographer! If you are ever in the MS gulf coast area and looking for a photographer please visit her page Aspen Grey for more information and to see her amazing work!

Let’s get started!

Things you’ll need for this project: 

-General Finishes java gel stain

-General Finishes gel top coat (or other clear top coat)

-sand paper (I recommend about a 320 grit)

-cotton cloth

-disposable gloves

-paint stick

-2″ or larger foam brushes




Here is a shot of the table before: 

Let’s just acknowledge the fact that my garage is a crazy mess. I would pretend here that this is just a one time thing- but I prefer to keep it real. 😉
The first step is to sand down the table. You’re not looking to sand down to bare wood- just enough to slightly scuff up the surface so it gives the gel stain something to adhere to. Don’t skip this step! It will ensure your stain will stick and give you a long lasting finish! After sanding, take your cotton, non-shedding cloth and remove all excess dust and debris before applying your stain.



Make sure your stain is thoroughly stirred and put on those gloves (gel stain is messy & you will get it on your hands!!). Take your foam brush and dip it in the stain. You’ll want to apply a couple of thin coats of stain vs. one thick coat. We will start with small sections. While it needs to dry overnight it is only workable for a short time so you’ll want to work on small sections at a time. Here I started with the rim:


Next I went around the outer rim:


Next I took small sections within always going with the grain:

**Probably the MOST important things to remember when using java gel to ensure it gives a wood grain appearance is to always “strike off”. This is a painting term that refers to dragging your product (using the foam brush) in one LONG stroke from one end of the table to the other. You do not want to see lines so its EXTREMELY important you strike off when using java gel and this method of application or it will look blotchy and you will not be happy with the final product.


Here it is completed with one coat. It will look a little splotchy after just one coat. Its okay, know that your second coat will cover any spots & imperfections. I have yet to need to apply three coats. Two coats has always been my magic number!


Normally, you would need to allow it to dry overnight in cool, dry conditions. BUT here along the mississippi gulf coast this time of year it is HOT and extremely humid. So, I’ve had to let each layer dry a bit longer than usual as its out in the garage.


Here is the finally product with two coats applied:DSC_0903DSC_0901DSC_0905

Your final step will be choosing and adding a clear coat protective top. You have a few options however, I will recommend the gel top coat by General Finishes. I personally, prefer satin or gloss with a stained top table but they also have clear coats available in flat. When choosing a top coat its also important to keep in mind if you are working with a water based stain or an oil based stain. Our java gel stain is an oil based stain so its best to stick with an oil based clear coat. If you choose to put a water based stain on top of java gel, or any oil based stain let it dry at least 72 hours. Or, in cases like my part of the country I would allow for closer to 5 days to ensure its had enough time to cure.


What if you’ve made a mistake and you got some on your painted surface?  Do not worry! With a towel wipe away the excess stain and then just paint right over it. Luckily for me I had another coat of paint to apply anyway. Easy peasy!DSC_0870

This table was an absolute joy to refinish!

And here is the finished product back at home.


Thanks for stopping by!



**Have comments? Questions? Feedback? Leave a comment below!





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