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I have read that gel stain sits on top of the wood, rather than soaking into it, and pre stain helps with uniform absorption of stain.

Does this then mean that pre stain is not necessary when using gel stain?

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Does this then mean that pre stain is not necessary when using gel stain?

Correct. One of the prime purposes of gel stain (or "gel stain" as I prefer to call it) is that it sidesteps issues with blotch-prone woods.

"Gel stain" is not stain in the conventional sense, it is coloured varnish that has been gelled with an additive to give it a thicker, less-penetrating consistency. As a result it should never normally be thinned, if you need a thinner coating wipe it on thinly, or wipe a heavier coating partially off with a clean cloth.


On "pre-stain conditioner", for any readers unaware these are generally some form of finish in highly dilute form. Its purpose is to soak into the more-absorbent areas of blotch-prone woods and partially seal them off — reduce their absorbency — so that they don't absorb too much stain (these areas would otherwise be dark blotches in the stained wood).

Given "pre-stain conditioner" is heavily diluted finish it should be easy to see you can use finish you have diluted yourself. There are numerous advantages to making your own, the first being the one you might foresee which is that it's much cheaper.

The second is that you can use the final finish you've already bought to complete the project, saving buying another product that may sit on the shelf for a long time between uses.

Lastly, you can tailor the mix to best suit the wood you're working on, rather than hoping that a one-size-fits-all product will work equally on every wood.

  • Agree, gel Stain is basically thin wood colored paint – Bob The Janitor Dec 16 '15 at 21:30

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