Just the Stools of Us...

... we can make it if we try.

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Kris and I moved into our home, a 1969 tri-level ranch, in October 2009.  It came with a well cared for but older 1980s kitchen (the tag on the inside of our cabinets says they were installed in 1988).  The cabinets are that defining shade of honey oak you see so often in middle-aged homes.  It is "fine" but "fine" isn't good enough for me.  After a few years, I'm starting to see that the cabinet surfaces are dulling and the style isn't really going with the rest of our home.

WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH STOOLS?!  Well, after doing lots of reading about how to approach my dated cabinets without getting new ones (they are in mostly good shape and I don't want to spend gobs of unnecessary money), I've decided I want to use a gel stain to update the look.  Before I rush gung-ho into staining the kitchen, I wanted to practice.  Lucky for me, the previous homeowners left these two honey oak stools behind- they are the same shade of oak as our cabinets.  

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I found a lot of love online for this particular product- General Finishes Gel Stain.  I selected a "Java" color that will go with a lot of our darker wood furniture and I bought a quart of it.  A lot of the reviews said "a little goes a long way" but I figured that if it works as well as it seems, I can use it on more than just my kitchen.  And, for $20 at the time I bought it, it is a truly inexpensive way to give my kitchen a face-lift and extend its life for years to come.  

The first step of the process is to lightly sand the surface to be stained.  Although I pride myself in following instructions, I totally used the WRONG grit of paper.  I mean, really wrong.  320 instead of 120.  But, it didn't end up really mattering.  Some instructions say you don't have to sand at all if you don't want to.

The second step is to apply the stain!  This is not your typical drippy brush-on stain.  It is gel so you just take a teeny tiny dollop of it onto your applicator.  I used a couple old socks to apply it this time and it worked well to do all the round parts of the stool legs but I will probably use foam brushes when I do the cabinets.  Just rub it on in a thin coat.  It does not look stunning after one coat but it looked better!

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After a few hours drying time, I added a second coat in the same manner.  Then I applied the third and final stain coat the next day.  In order to get it to hold up over time, I then applied two coats of a water-based polyurethane I had lying around from a project last year.  I have no pictures of these stages because I totally forgot.  I do have the picture of the final product, though!  I think they came out pretty great which is amazing because it was so easy.  TA DAAAAA!

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It is especially exciting to see them against the still-honey-oak cabinets.  I plan on doing the rest of the kitchen in July when I have some time off.  In addition to staining, I'll be painting and doing some other minor-ish updates like a new light fixture and perhaps a backsplash.  Pictures of the full kitchen and project plans to come!

Has anyone else used a gel stain?  Anyone doing kitchen updates on a super budget?   Tell me about it!