A painting secret you NEED to know and a General Finishes Java Gel Stain table

Ok friends, I’m swallowing my pride here and letting you in on a very dirty, beat up little secret.  A’right, it’s not really THAT serious, but it’s definitely an ugly mess that I’m not proud of, especially being a painter. Friends, meet my kitchen table…Yup, this sad surface is where we eat our meals. Don’t think it looks too bad?


Look a little closer…Between our little one practicing how to write her name on the table, some random oil stain that ate threw the factory finish (and one of the littles so lovingly scraped off) and paint flecks from using the table as my work space, it was a hot dang mess! Add to that the horrifying state of the chairs (I’ll save your eyes from having to see the before of those!) and all crap that seemed to accumulate on the cushions despite cleaning them on a daily basis, I wanted to throw the set away…like seriously. I was just so disgusted.image

Aside from the obvious issues though, the table was in otherwise excellent condition. I decided to put my frustration aside and refinish the thing. I started by giving it a good cleaning and sanding.


Because the table top had a veneer and far to many dents and dings to sand out, I opted to use General Finishes Java Gel.

It can be used as a traditional stain in the apply and wipe away fashion. In my case however, I wanted it to perform more like a paint. In doing so, I was able to achieve about 60% coverage on the first application and was still able to see honey color peeking through. If you’ve ever painted or glazed a large surface or in this case, used a gel stain, you know how important it is that your paint strokes be perfectly straight. I’m going to let you in on my secret on how to do that…Ready!?? Do you see it??

Yes y’all a piece of scrap wood the length of the surface your working on makes the BEST ever straight edge!

I use Fusion Mineral Paint natural bristle brushes for almost everything now because they’re honestly the bomb dot com! For this project I used the small brush and moved my scrap wood enough so that I was overlapping the previous application of gel stain by about 20%.

Look at those pretty, perfectly straight strokes! Who woulda thunk!?

Here’s a side by side of the original color and the first coat of General Finishes Java Gel Stain.

I really wanted to richen up the color, so I applied a second coat of stain. Ahhhh, just right!!

Danny wanted in on the photo shoot. Isn’t he the cutest little dog!?

As you can see, I sanded back the edges some just to give it a less formal look. I used 4 coats of General Finishes Enduro in a flat finish to seal it. It’s a professional product, and meant to be sprayed, but I applied it with a 2 inch sponge brush and it worked magnificently! I did sand lightly between coats.

UPDATE!!!! The finish is still holding up, but if I had it to do over (and I will be doing so shortly!) I would have opted for Arm-R-Seal in a semi gloss finish.

I went through a matte phase and have found that I really do prefer a higher sheen for my table tops.




PS, I also did some, ahem, touch ups to the factory finish on our chairs and also reupholstered those suckers! Can’t even tell there was once purple marker on the side right!?

All I can say is AMEN for faux leather! I ordered the Nassimi Symphony Classic Chocolate Brown Vinyl from Online Fabric Store. The quality is really great, it matches our leather living room furniture to a “T” and is perfectly wipeable! I didn’t do a tutorial on how to reupholster since there are about a bazillion tutes online, however I would highly suggest purchasing THIS stapler. It attaches to your air compressor and seriously made stapling on the new vinyl a breeze!

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so make sure to leave a comment. Feel free to PIN and share too and as always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask! xo


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  1. Hi! So glad I found you! I’ve been wanting to paint my dining room table for Years! –question…what color stain did you use?

  2. I am going to paint my table and chairs also. I would also like to know what color you used as it is exactly what I have in mind. Also my table has a melamine top. Can you please tell me how to finish that Thank you so much for your help.

  3. Thank you so much for answering my question about how you applied the gel. I don’t have one of those brushes, but I am always willing to try new products. My question is how does it clean up? The brush i mean… I usually throw away my rag, sponge, or pad when I’m done with the gel. TIA Your table top is gorgeous!

  4. Hi Dorrie, Since you used the stain as a “paint” and not a “stain and wipe”, how long did it take to dry and harden? Have an oak kitchen table that has been very “loved” by 4 boys whom are now grown and would love to try your idea. Thanks for any help.

  5. Did you put a sealer over top of the stain. I’ve never stained anything, but I have a 25-30 year old table that needs it really badly.

    1. Hi Mary! I sure did. I used Enduro by General Finishes, however I’ve used their high Performance Top Coat many times and love it. That seems to be more readily available. Good luck!

  6. I just bought this gel stain and getting ready to use it. I’m a little confused on the application method. I’m looking for a heavy coverage on my piece. Do you recommend applying with a bristle brush or sponge tip. When or when not wipe away the gel? And should I always use a top coat?

    Your piece came out beautiful.

    1. Hi Sharyn! I applied mine with a natural bristle brush and then went over it with a 3 inch sponge brush. If you want more coverage and prefer gel to perform more like a paint, you won’t want to wipe away. You can use it as a stain also though and apply and wipe away with a lint free cloth, but your color will build up and deepen a bit slower. No matter which route you go, wait 24 hours in between coats. For a high traffic piece I would absolutely top coat. The high performance top coat by General Finishes is great and comes in several different sheens. Good luck and happy staining!

      1. I have “experimented with GF java stain, but mine turned out black almost! What did you do to keep it lighter?

  7. Dorrie…I have the exact. same. table. Crazy huh?! Ours is well loved too. Lol. I went on Pinterest to look up techniques and bam! Here you are. You did an AMAZING job! Totally my style too 😉 I have already purchased the GF Java Gel Stain and I picked up the GF Gel Top Coat to seal it. It’s a matte sheen also. Have you used the GF Gel Top Coat before? Also, what did you use to sand? The edges especially. I’m expecting it to be tough. Lastly, I have a similar brush, the Annie Sloan version ($$!-was yours more cost effective?). The technique you mentioned after you brush on the gel stain…witha foam brush..how does that go? Thanks so much for posting this project and again, a job well done!!

    1. That’s awesome! I’ve not used the gel top coat, but would have if I had it on hand. I used a 22 grit sand paper to do the edges. You could probably get away with using any natural bristle brush, the Fusion brand just happens to be my favorite. I use them for everything. I used the foam brush after the final coat of gel just to smooth it some. I worked section by section. So I did the leaf first and then the leaf sides. Then one side working from the middle of the table to the head of the table and then again, tackled the sides. Better to do it that way so you don’t ruin your clothes if you lean on the stain. I’d love to see a pic when you’re all done!

  8. Absolutely! I sanded today, used 80 grit all over with my palm sander. I used the point/edges for sanding the table edges. I think I might have overdone it a tad on the edges but I wanted a rougher surface for 2 reasons. Firstly, that veneer was soooo thick and gummy! Not sure if yours was like that but even when I wiped it down after meals, it never really felt smooth if you know what I mean. Secondly, I wanted the gel stain to really cling. It’s known for its bonding capabilities even on lightly sanded, ore finished surfaces…right? Geez, I hope it goes smoothly (no pun intended! lol). It’s in my garage awaiting the first coat tomorrow 😉

  9. I had to work the same pattern with the sanding so I didn’t get sawdust all over me 😛 I used 80 grit all over with my palm sander. I used the point/straight end for the table edges. I think I overdid it a bit but the veneer was so thick! It never really felt truly clean whenever I wiped it down…always a bit tacky if you know what I mean. That’s why I used the 80. It’s my first time using the gel stain but I got it for the same reason, it’s bonding capability to pre-finished surfaces and thickness to fill in dents, etc. It’s in the garage awaiting the first coat tomorrow! I hope it goes smoothly 😉

    1. Omgoodness, yes! I totally know what you mean. No matter what I did, the table top always felt a little sticky. I actually used denatured alcohol to degrease and then sanded mine with a 220 grit. Before you get to staining, I would take a good look at the top to ensure there are no swirls from the sander. Normally with an 80 grit, there might be. You would wanted to sand with a 150 and then a 220 to smooth. I can’t wait to see pics! Please feel free to send them to me at simplesoutherncharm@gmail.com and I’ll post them on FB!

  10. I’m so excited to try this gel stain after reading your ever helpful tips, thank you so much. Your table looks awesome and my inspiration.

  11. Just today finished an antique table with a veneer top, java gel’d it, painted the base white, and I’ll be on to the chairs hopefully soon. Twins I tell ‘ya but I don’t have a cute Danny dog, I do have a cute Danny son though!

  12. I can’t believe I found this. We have the exact same table and was literally searching for ideas to “renew” it and I love this. How did you re-finish the chair cushions?

    1. That’s awesome! I’m not even going to lie, the cushions were a painstaking ordeal. There were a zillion staples to remove. I ordered faux leather online (the link is in my table post) and just took the piece of fabric that was originally on the chair and used it to cut my leather to size. I did cut my piece slightly larger. After the removal, the recovering was a breeze. I used a pneumatic staple gun (best purchase ever!) of you can imagine a square, I stapled the corners first, then did the centers and then kinda worked my way around. There are tons of great tutes available. I’d love to see your table when you’ve refinished it. Good luck and happy painting! 🙂

  13. Hi Dorrie,
    Can you tell me what you used on the legs and rim of the table. It looks white. This is what I want to do to mine. Great Job!!

  14. Hi I am stain/painting my bathroom cabinets with General Java Gel Stain and was wondering if you sanded between coats? Also could I seal with Winmax Poly and should I sand between those layers?

  15. I’m about to do my first redo on anything! Scared. To. Death. But, the table I’m doing is so badly painted. It is almost black. I’m wanting to go with the vintage look. I was wondering what type of sander to use, and if you have the dark paint already on the table, is there a way to “cheat” and cover it with white and the dark show through? If not, how do I make the border look like yours? It’s lighter than the rest of the table. I want that whole look. Thanks!

  16. Hi! Im so happy to see this post, as I was looking into pieces that had Java gel stain, and then realized your table had a veneer top.
    -I had no clue GF Java can go atop veneer like a “paint” (just so happened to pick some up yesterday!).. I was going to get rid of my 80’s veneer-wood style desk (it’s that light peachy color wood look) because I thought for sure with a veneer top I couldn’t get a dark wood grain look on it.. Your table is exactly what I didn’t think I could do- so thanks for that!!
    Its not the prettiest of desks- but Ill send some pictures if it turns out halfway decent !:) Im going for Java on the top, and an AS old white’ish color for the bottom with some new hardware. Hooray for this post!! Beautiful table!

    1. Sweet! I can’t wait to see how it turns out! If your substrate is peachy, you could also paint your base gold first and then do your Java on top of that.

  17. I love this project & would like to do it as well! This would be my first DIY project so I want to make sure I have the steps correct.. Gel stain with natural bristle brush, let dry for 24 hours, gel stain with natural bristle brush, let stand for a few days, go over with top coat 4 times with 24 hours between. Do I only sand between top coats with 220 or also between the stain steps as well? You talked about using a sponge, did you use that immediately after each gel stain, after each top coat layer, or immediately after both. Thanks 🙂

    1. You can lightly sand between gel stwin coats, just make sure you sand I. The direction of your paint strokes and rough up your sandpaper so avoid scratching the gel. I like to sand between top coats with the 220. You can use the sponge as needed. If you’re seeing heavy paint strokes, go ahead and smooth them out 🙂

  18. Holy Cow!!! Im glad I found this on pinterest. I have that same exact dining room set and my table and chairs look like your before pictures… Wasn’t too sure if I could repaint the top.

    1. Wondering how your project went.? I also have this table set and looking to stain it dark walnut.

  19. Table waiting….Did you sand out the name engraving at all? Thanks SO MUCH for the specifics on how you did the leaf first, the two sides separately. That was a big part of it I can tell. Thanks again!!

    YES PAINT FOR THE CHAIRS question. Did I miss the answer????

  20. Love this! What color did you use to paint the legs? Sorry if you already answered this in the comments, but I couldn’t find it!

    Great job!

  21. Hi, I absolutely love your table and chairs! I am going to do this to mine. I have to ask though where you got your curtains? They are so pretty!

  22. I’m in love! Looks great and I’m about to restrain our whole bedroom set. Quick question.. What is the brand of your table?! I love it!

  23. Did you sand at all? Is gel stain thick enough to fill in scratches without sanding out at all? I have a table from Pottery Barn and the top is a mess, scratches and places where the finish looks like it flicked off. Not sure what the top is but I need to do something. Does it seem to you like your process would work for me? Thanks for any advice you can give me.

  24. I love this! I am looking to do the same thing. I wondered what color/paint/technique did you use for your chairs?

  25. I am so glad I found this. I decided to refinish my table and chairs. I had planned the light legs, dark stain top like yours. I finished sanding last night and sadly did not realize it is veneer and sanded through in a couple small spots. Do you think this method you used should work? I’m so bummed, I REALLY don’t want to paint the table top. I don’t expect the spots will be completely covered, just hoping it won’t be terrible. I’m okay with a few love spots. I have our only eating space all torn up until I figure this out.

    1. I realize this is pretty old post however i am curious what you ended up doing with your table? I am “researching” the same issue with a table i am refinishing. Thought we could take the veneer off however it’s not nice wood underneath so am not able to just stain it as i was planning. Looking for options

  26. So glad i found this! i have this exact table in black and the top desperately needs to be refinished. It was perfect before we had kids, but now is scratched up and the chair cushions are a mess. Glad to know there is hope for my table!

  27. Hi all,

    I just saw this on Pinterest and I am new at this. I would like to try your method (absolutely beautiful chairs and table btw) with three different pieces of furniture so that they all match. I have a china cabinet and table w/chairs (both veneer), and a dresser that I would like to turn into a buffet server. What should I use first before the gel so they will look like a set? Also, I have had people tell me not to touch veneer because it will devalue it. I know nothing about this stuff! Thanks for your feedback if you happen to read this. I am about a year late!

  28. Thanks for your very special tips, I will diffenitely be using them. Your table and chairs turned out fabulous!

  29. My jaw literally dropped when I saw the finished look! Amazing! Excellent job, secret and instructions! Thank you so very much for sharing!

  30. LOVE your table! Thank you for the inspiration to do ours! Used GF Java on a mantle and it turned out beautiful. What an amazing product!

  31. Hi, this is great! A few questions…you “painted” the stain on? Is it applied thicker and just not wiped off? How did you do that?
    I love the look, how long did you wait between coats?

    1. Sorry, I hit the button too early :). Last question…what do you use to clean your natural brushes? (they’re not cheap, I don’t want to ruin my brush with the stain). Thank you!!

        1. Hey Kim! Here’s my affiliate link to the product and color I used >>>>> http://amzn.to/2vToZfv I thinned it a bit just so I could spray it. If you’re looking for the best top coat, here is my affiliate link for that. You will NOT want to spray this though. It’s self leveling, very fluid and will drip. Trust me…I know 🙂 >>>>>> http://amzn.to/2ikfy47

          1. I too want to know what Kim asked. Did you wipe it on like the paint? is that why you needed the board to do a straight line? I’m confused? Other things I’ve saw online about putting gel stain over previously finished pieces are put on and then wiped off – please clarify thanks!

    1. Thanks so much Patty! Here’s my affiliate link to the product and color I used >>>>> http://amzn.to/2vToZfv I thinned it ever so slightly just so I could spray it. It really one of my favorite paints ever and gives such a nice factory finish! If you’re looking for the best top coat here is my affiliate link for that. You will NOT want to spray this. It’s self leveling, very fluid and will drip like melting ice cream if sprayed. Ask me how I know 😉 >>>>>> http://amzn.to/2ikfy47

  32. My java gel won’t dry. I want to try the method you used above but for my first time I used the wipe on / wipe off method about four days ago and it’s still pretty wet. I did sand off the old finish, the side tables are inside (it’s been a bit humid outside) with a fan blowing. I’m stumped and really afraid to try the painting method based on this. Didn’t know if you’d have any advice?

  33. The table and chairs are beautiful. As is your cute Danny. He looks very much like my Miss Ellie. What kind of dog is he?

    1. Thanks a bunch! Awe, I’d love to see a photo of Miss Ellie! We aren’t sure what breed Danny is. He was a rescue. He’s about 26 lbs, non-shedding and has a purple tongue though. We’ve been told golden doodle, which I don’t think is right. He’s much smaller than the golden doodles I’ve seen. The purple tongue and the tail that curls up make me think there’s chow in the mix. Maybe a chow doodle? Is that even a thing?!?

  34. Question about the faux leather you bought. How much do you buy? I have 6 chairs to do . I’m definitely going to try this out!!

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