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Makeover on our counter stools with Java gel stain

I finally got a chance to try General Finishes Java Gel Stain

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and it was A-mazing.

I probably first read about it 6 years ago, when we were living in Egypt. Egypt is not like the US. Big box hardware stores are nowhere to be found and all of my tools were tucked away in Cincinnati awaiting our return to the homeland. Or at least my homeland, Phil’s from England. 🙂 But anyway, the gel stain pins made the stuff look great and easy. I had strangely never used it before. But added it to my mental must-do list. A decade or so ago, I flipped a few houses and I grew up watching or helping my dad on lots of DIY projects. Somehow, gel stain never came up. But I wish it had.


Disclaimer: Make sure to always read the directions for any products or tools you use while building. Always check for square and double-check those measurements too. Read the full disclaimer.

DIY General Finishes Java Gel Stain Makeover on our Counter Stools

Stools lined up and ready for their new shade

This stuff is great! It does take a bit of patience and attention to detail. But if you stay focused and really want to do a good job, then it’s pretty easy to use. Before I get into that, maybe I should explain why I needed it. We recently remodeled our whole kitchen. While designing it, I had visions of my sweet boys doing homework at the island while I made dinner. They’re just little now, but we all know they grow up too fast. I had to have counter stools on the new island to keep my guys near me as much as possible.

The island plans were made and color picked. The color was a bit unusual though. It’s a medium-dark wood with a chocolate glaze. The island looks beautiful, but it isn’t exactly a standard color. So, picking out stools that would work was impossible. I tried for weeks. Finally, I went to At Home and picked up 3 stools that matched in no way at all. They were a good style and seemed to hold up to abuse (because you know how 2 little boys are). After getting them home, I decided it was time to try General Finishes Java Gel Stain.

DIY General Finishes Java Gel Stain Makeover on our Counter Stools

The Java gel stain leaves a natural look that looks much better than the original finish

Like I said already, this stuff is great! No heavy prepping on the surface. I just followed the directions to lightly sand the surface with a fine grit. Then I wiped off the dust with a very slightly damp cloth. That. is. it. I was ready to stain. I put on an old pair of dish gloves and grabbed another piece of scrap cloth. After opening my tin of General Finishes Java Gel Stain, I gave it a good stir, scraped the stain off of my paint stick, and dipped my clean cloth in the stain. You just want enough for a small area because you don’t want to leave it thick and it will start to dry pretty quickly.

Just work in small sections spreading the stain with the grain of the wood. Keep double and triple checking  any areas you may have just touched with the cloth. You can’t be too cautious here. Work each area with a thin layer. After you finish you should leave it for 12 to 24 hours to dry, depending on temperature and humidity. My stain looked dry after just a few hours, but I did wait the full 12 hours, just to be safe. In my case, I decided to go for a second coat. It looked good after the first coat, but I thought a darker shade would look best with that island. For the second coat, you don’t need to sand. Just go through the staining steps again and wait 12 more hours.

DIY General Finishes Java Gel Stain Makeover on our Counter Stools

Up close, you can still see the wood grain. The look is very natural. And look at the super cute chunky baby hand!

The stools look beautiful. The finish is a gorgeous matte sheen, which I really like right now. The feel of it is so smooth and nice. You wouldn’t guess that it wasn’t the factory finish. After three weeks, my 3-year old has climbed on them dozens of times and covered them in all kinds of goo and gunk while helping mommy cook. Everything has just wiped right off. I can’t say for sure, but it sure seems like the finish will last for years. I am already picturing myself waiting up for teenage boys while working on a good book on those stools.

DIY General Finishes Java Gel Stain Makeover on our Counter Stools

Before and After on the Java gel stain makeover

I have to say one more thing, a couple years ago, I completely sanded and refinished our stairs. It was a massive, dirty pain in my side for three weeks. It was absolutely grueling. Especially when you have a one year old living in the house. After that first coat of General Finishes Java gel stain, I wished I could go back in time and use that gel stain instead of sanding. It would have probably saved me at least two weeks and a whole lot of cleaning dust off of every surface we couldn’t block off with plastic sheets. Oh well, next time!

DIY General Finishes Java Gel Stain Makeover on our Counter Stools

Don’t forget to Pin Me

Feeling inspired? Want to transform something with Java Gel Stain? Follow the links above to get the things you’ll need from Amazon. Have fun and let me know if you have questions. Or post pictures of your work and tag Abbotts At Home on FB, I’d love to see it!


Monday 17th of April 2017

Lovely! What a difference it makes :)

Carol ("Mimi")

Tuesday 11th of April 2017

Great post! I've never used the General Finishes gel stain before, so it's nice to read about how easy and effective it is. The stools look fabulous with your island. The finish is so smooth and lustrous.


Tuesday 11th of April 2017

Thanks so much, Mimi. I do love this stain!


Monday 10th of April 2017

I love the new color so much better. Thank you for sharing at Dishing it and Digging it link party.

Julie Christiansen

Monday 10th of April 2017

I LOVE LOVE LOVE General Finishes gel stain. I did my entire staircase with it last year. Your counter stools look fantastic!


Monday 10th of April 2017

I wish I had used it when I did my stairs. I'm still finding dust on the walls from all that sanding. :)


Sunday 9th of April 2017

What a lovely finish, it looks so professional!

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