Tag Archives: gel stain

From New York to London

I’d been on a suitcase kick and I wanted to try a trunk. As it happened, there was one waiting for me at a thrift store! I decided on a fantasy excursion to the birthplace of the Beatles.

I gave the whole trunk a light sanding and filled in some nicks with spackle.

I used a foam brush to apply black gel stain to the trim and hardware, and while I was at it, I went ahead and coated the whole exterior. Gel stain doesn’t cover metal completely. It leaves a bit of a distressed finished that I like. The trick always, when using gel stain, is to give it plenty of time to dry.

On Pinterest, I found a guide to painting the Union Jack.

To prevent painting over my treated trim and hardware, I had to tape it. I used an exacto knife to trim the tape so that the tape only covered the metal. This had to be done in two steps: once for the lid, and then again for the base.

I started with a coat of Annie Sloan Napoleonic Blue on the lid. For the red and white stripes, I chose Emperor’s Silk and Old Ochre.

It sure was easier pulling the tape off the trim than it had been applying it. And that was just for the lid. I still had to tape up the trim before I painted the base!

When the trim on the base had been taped, I continued the stripes down the front, back and sides, even painting the front handle.

I decided on bun feet for my British box. I purchased the mounting plates and the feet at a home improvement store. The mounting plates are designed to be used with different styles of “quick mount” feet or table legs.

Since the wood bottom of the trunk wasn’t thick enough to hold the mounting plates, I cut triangles of scrap wood and glued them to the corners with wood glue. (The paint cans pressed the wood together while the glue dried.)

From the bottom, I screwed the mounting plates into the trunk and through the wood triangles glued inside the bottom.

I gave the bun feet two coats of Emperor’s silk and screwed them into the plates.

I coated all of the painted surfaces on the outside with clear wax. The Emperor’s Silk on the interior pressboard didn’t need a sealer.

Closed, the trunk is a fun coffee table or linen chest.

Open, it’s a display and storage piece for an entryway or mudroom. Either way, it’s a treat for anyone who loves Great Britain or the Beatles!

From New York to London, “With Love From Me to You.”


The Golden Touch

My King Charles Cavalier didn’t seem impressed with the royal treatment the middle child of this nesting table family received in If at First You Don’t Succeed, so I decided to dress the eldest for a coronation.

With gold spray paint.

It looked as if King Midas had come for tea.

King Midas and the Golden Touch by Al Perkins, Pictures by Haig and Regina Shekerjian, Scholastic, 1973

To tone down the gold, I experimented with a wash of Annie Sloan Old White. The paint beaded on the glossy surface and I let it dry like that. It was an interesting effect but still left too much of a Midas touch.

Out came the Black Gel Stain. I applied it to the surfaces as if it were paint. Gel stain is oil-based and thick. I doesn’t behave exactly like paint but if you’re patient and let it cure between coats (in this case, two days), it leaves a rich and solid finish. It’s blacker than Annie Sloan’s Graphite chalk paint and it doesn’t need wax or varnish.

I learned from A Cup of Joe to Go to wear gloves and use a foam brush.

I wouldn’t take all the gold away from this rich little table. The metal base and pull, as well as the inside of the drawer, stayed golden.

The random raised pattern left by the beaded white wash gave this little prince some depth.

Quite regal.


A Cup of Joe to Go

No one is sure how a “cup of Joe” came to mean a “cup of coffee” but the source of a different nickname for the popular brew is clear. When coffee became popular in the 19th century, the primary source of those magical beans was in Indonesia, on the island of Java.

coffee-3   map-of-indonesia

You’ll never confuse a can of Java Gel Stain with a cup of coffee. I had anticipated something like dark jelly, but it was more like sludge.


But hey, I’d had three babies. There were worse things than sludge. It was time to sludge a table.


The materials and construction of the table I had were Ikea-like, but it looked like it had been assembled before Ikea had been born. It was sturdy little thing and had the advantage of a smoked glass top that was in pretty good condition. I had to be extra careful with that glass because if I broke it, the table wouldn’t be worth saving.

This was a total, off the cuff experiment. I mixed the primary colors, Napoleonic Blue, Emperor’s Silk (red) and English Yellow. I thought this combination of colors would make brown. Good theory. Yucky color. I wasn’t going to waste the paint I mixed so I used the yuck as a base.


[This was before Annie Sloan’s brown,  Honfleur, was available AND before I found an Annie Sloan video where the basecoat of her faux wood table was an eggplant color created by mixing  blue and burgundy.]

Continuing on in ignorance, out came the Java gel stain. What a mess! I wiped it on with one rag wiped it off with a clean one. I didn’t seem to have much control as far as how much came off. I had to keep reapplying stain to the bare spots.


I was in serious need of a cup of Joe, but didn’t dare approach the spoon, the coffee, the pot or the cup.


In retrospect, I should have applied less stain and used lighter touch as I removed it. Proof that I had applied too much was the frustrating fact that the stain took two days to dry.

The table didn’t looked stained but it looked better in brown. The particle board couldn’t have been concealed more thoroughly. No waxing or sealing, just a whole lot of mineral spirits to clean my hands.


Quite a nice coffee table, I think. Care for some Java?

What I learned:

  • Wear gloves.
  • The color of the basecoat matters.
  • Apply the stain with a disposable brush
  • Use light strokes when wiping off the stain with a rag.
  • Java is an island, a word for coffee, and the name of a color.