Gel Stains

When you're staining a project with a lot of exposed end grain, the easiest way to get a consistent color is to use a gel stain. A gel stain is like any other stain — it's just a little thicker. So instead of spilling over the surface of a workpiece, a gel stain will just sit there, like a glob of pudding.

limited penetration. Because a gel stain is thick, it won't penetrate very deep into the wood, whether it's face grain or end grain, see photos at left. The result is that the end grain and the face grain end up with an even, consistent color.

You might think that gel stains are all alike; a magical formula that some finishing expert concocted. But while ^ all gel stains are definitely thicker than regular liquid stains, they're not all the same. When it comes to end grain, the biggest difference is their

here's one finishing problem that JL doesn't get a whole a lot of attention: end grain. Often after staining, the end grain will look much darker than the face grain.

Maybe the reason why this problem doesn't get much attention is that woodworkers have just learned to "live with it" Still, there are a few steps you can take that will prevent this from happening. But it helps to know why it happens in the first place.

open pores. End grain naturally looks a little different than face grain. But it also acts differently too. The reason for this is simple. The end of a board is made up of open pores that work like a bunch of straws. Whatever is put on the surface of the board won't penetrate very quickly. But any liquid substance (like glue or stain) applied to the open ends will be pulled deep into the wood.

staining end grain. Applying a stain creates a real problem for end grain. Again, the open pores suck up the stain like a kid at a soda fountain. But that's only part of the explanation; after all, end grain sucks up clear finishes just as deep as stains. What makes the stain different is that it isn't clear. And the deeper the stain gets pulled into the wood, the darker the color at the surface will be. The result is ends that are noticeably darker than the face of a piece.

Getting the end grain to match the rest of the project is a matter of stopping the stain from penetrating so deep. That way, the end grain and face grain end up with roughly the

k When staining end grain, a regular stain will soak deep into the pores of the wood, darkening the ends much more than the face.

One solution to evening out the end grain is to sand it finer than the rest of the board. Here, I sanded the end grain to 600-grit.

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