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"The USA's finest full-line manufacturer of wood finishing products"

General Finishes, based in Wisconsin, USA, have created a great range of specialist finishes which are not widely available elsewhere. These include milk paints, gel stains, urethane modified oils, polyacrylic varnishes and a range of applicators.  Details are listed below, alongside the relevant products. Application notes are included at the bottom of this page.

NB:  Certain of these products cannot be shipped overseas due to 'hazardous substances' regulations.  These items will be indicated by a "pop-up" warning as they are selected.

Water Based Finishes: General Finishes have developed an ever-increasing range of Environmentally Friendly Products. Most of the General Finishes and Enduro Water Based products now meet four of the American green standards.

Environment friendly PolyAcrylic finishes are easy to apply, durable, and simple to repair. Their special waterborne formulae deliver extraordinary depth and vibrancy of colour that cannot be achieved in any oil based product. If you are looking for colour - use General Finishes Water Based products! Whether you want bold and luscious or traditional and classic, General Finishes has the finish.

General Finishes water based products are also ideal for spray application.

Oil Based Finishes:  The General Finishes oil based products which we stock are their Gel Stains, which provide the simple answer for staining more porous woods (e.g. pine and oak), Orange Oil and Butchers Block Oil.

Milk Paints (Water-based)

Anyone who has ever looked at Shaker furniture must be familiar with this type of finish.  The General Finishes milk painttraditional milk paint was made using lactose - hence the name - but modern versions from General Finishes are based on acrylics for performance, durability and environmental protection reasons.  The paints are pre-mixed and ready to use straight from the can.  However the beauty of these paints is the variety of ways in which they can be used as the basis for other finishes to give an antique effect, ageing, crackled finishes - an application note is supplied with the products giving more information on these techniques.  Milk paint can be used directly onto fine grain timbers but an undercoat is recommended on coarser grained timbers.  Drying time is normally 2-4 hours dependent upon conditions and depth of coat.  The finish is a low-lustre sheen and a harder and brighter finish can be created by applying a topcoat of acrylic such as the Polyacrylics, shown below.

Whilst it is almost impossible to display a reliable colour chart on-screen due to technical variations with equipment and settings, the following chart may serve as a comparative guide to the range of colours available.

Paint colour chart - General Finishes milk paints.

Glaze effects are transucent colours applied over a base coat, for example of milk paint, which is then rubbed back to give a decorative "antiqued" effect.  There are many ideas of how to create such finishing effects on the General Finishes website.

If you'd like to learn more about how to create some of the fascinating effects made possible by the use of these water-based finishes, we also stock a DVD from General Finishes showing the methods used.

 
 
 

Gel Stains (Oil-based)

Gel Stains have the most "finishing feel" of all General Finishes products. Woodworkers love the lustrous finish that shows up when rubbing out the 2nd and 3rd coats. Gel Stains are formulated with a combination of pigments, oilsGeneral Finishes gel stains, and urethanes to produce a durable and beautiful "hand-rubbed" finish. They are heavy-bodied, and so do not penetrate as deeply into the wood as liquid oil-based stains do. Because of this, they are often less affected by the condition of the wood, and can help you get a more even appearance on difficult woods such as aspen or pine. These easy-to-use stains simply wipe on with a cloth or applied with a foam brush - see below - obviating spills and splashes. Gel Stains are available in: Candlelite, Nutmeg, Antique Walnut, Brown Mahogany, Georgian Cherry and Java..   Our colour chart gives an approximation of the shades when used on American oak.  (The accuracy of the rendition of this image is dependent upon such things as your computer and display settings, so always test stains on a sample before using on the job.).

 

Wood Stains (Water-based)

General Finishes Water Based Stains have all the advantages of oil base stains: they spread easily, can be repaired, can be blended effortlessly, and have plenty of 'open time'. However their thicker formula allows controlled penetration, which will reduce blotching on hard-to-stain woods such as Aspen, Pine and Maple. This stain formula will make wood staining an enjoyable experience for you. Use Natural W.B. Wood Stain (clear finish) if you need to pre-seal the wood.

If you struggle to understand the different attributes of Dye Stains and Water-Based Wood Stain then maybe these notes willhelp.  WB Wood Stain is a pigment stain. Pigment particles are larger than dye stain particles so will tend to stay on the surface of the woerkpiece and highlight the grain. These stains are typically available in natural/wood colours. Because of its smaller particle size, dye stain penetrates more deeply into the wood and will nto change the appearance of the garin.  Dye stains also permit the creation of brighter colours. Some professionals first apply dye stains, followed by pigment stains, to give greater depth to the colour.

Water based Wood Stains are available in the following colours: Whitewash, Natural (clear finish), Country Pine,  Golden Oak, Antique Oak, Pecan, Shaker Maple, Early American, Antique Cherry, Black Cherry, Rosewood, Cranberry Red, Walnut, Brown Mahogany, Espresso and Black.

 

Dye Stains (Water-based)

General Finishes water based dye stainsDye stains are unique, water based, ultra penetrating stains designed to work like solvent-based stains. The deep rich tones enhance the wood grain and produce vibrant colors especially on woods like cherry, walnut and maple. Dye stains can also be used as a toner when mixed with General Finishes water based topcoats (e.g. Polyacrylics).  The dyes can be reduced in intensity by the use of Dye Stain Reducer whilst, conversely, the colour can be built deeper and darker by applying multiple coats when used as toners in water-based finishes.

Dye stains offer these key attributes:-

      • Ready to Use
      • Water Based
      • Fast Dry
      • Excellent Lightfastness
Amber Light Brown Cinnamon Medium Brown
Dark Brown Merlot Ebony Empire Red
Vintage Cherry Orange Yellow Green
Blue
 

Water-based Urethane Enduro-VAR

Enduro VAR Urethane

Enduro-Var is a self crosslinking polyurethane that looks more like an oil varnish than a water coating. It ambers slightly, is GF's most durable coating, is highly water resistance, and is both sprayable and brushable. It is our top of the line coating and should be used when you need the very best. Suitable for floors, cabinets and millwork.

Enduro-Var ADHERES WELL over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD. However, it will adhere over an oil stain ONLY if the stain is completely dry (minimum 4 days drying). Use Enduro-Var over any other surfaces at your own risk!

Available in Flat, Satin, Semi-Gloss and Gloss sheens.

 

Water-based Wood Turners Finish

Wood Turners Finish is a non-toxic water/oil urethane hybrid for use on wood turnings, salad bowls, and other lathe turned projects. It produces a rich amber tone and dries ready for recoat in minutes.

(NB: I reckon it is the product which is water-based, not the woodturners. I'm sure that this will work just as well if you have a land-based workshop or if you're based on a barge - or even a narrow boat) ;-))

General Finishes water based  finish for woodturners
 

Finishing Oils

Orange Oil - excellent for cleaning and maintaining grubby furniture

Orange Oil is best classed as a finish maintenance product. It can be used on any finish and does a superb job of removing everyday dirt and dust. It is often compared to lemon oil - however the big difference is that lemon oil contains mineral spirits. Orange Oil is all natural, non-combustible and made from real orange rinds. We love its fresh orange scent.

Butcher Block Oil provides an excellent protection for all butcher block surfaces. It is approved by the US FDA for protecting wood surfaces that come in contact with food: Simply wipe on, allow 5 minutes to penetrate and wipe off the excess. Use it on cutting boards, utensils, bowls, butcher blocks, etc. Odourless and non-coloured.

 
Butchers Block Oil

Finish Application Equipment

General Finishes applicators, pol brushes, paint pads, stirrers and snading pads.

Many finishes, and certainly the General Finishes Oil & Urethane topcoats, are better applied using a foam brush than with a conventional fibre brush.  Hence we offer a range of applicators ranging from a 1" Poly brush to a 6" Handi-Painter pad so that you can get the very best performance out of your finishes.

To complete the list of requisites we also offer fine abrasive foam-backed sanding pads for rubbing down between coats and stirrers to ensure that the finish is properly mixed prior to use (no more excuses for using a screwdriver and then forgetting to clean the blade!)

 

*NB: Prices quoted in pounds sterling. 
Value Added Tax will be added to invoices to EU residents unless
a valid VAT registration number is quoted when ordering.

Review Current Basket Contents 

Water Based Finish Application Guide

Attributes of General Finishes Water Based Finishes

This information has been developed to assist you in selecting the best finish for your project. Application techniques differ between oil based and water based products. There are several factors that may influence your choice.

 Strong, Clear Vibrant Colours:  Nothing produces beautiful colours better than water based finishing products. Red, blues and greens and everything between produce vibrantly in water based finishes. Whether you want brilliant hues to enhance a neutral room, a touch of whimsy or the comfort of classic colours; furniture colour is the perfect venue for self expression. With unfinished furniture, the possibilities are endless. If you struggle to understand the different attributes of Dye Stains and Water-Based Wood Stain then maybe these notes will help.  WB Wood Stain is a pigment stain. Pigment particles are larger than dye stain particles so will tend to stay on the surface of the woerkpiece and highlight the grain. These stains are typically available in natural/wood colours. Because of its smaller particle size, dye stain penetrates more deeply into the wood and will nto change the appearance of the garin.  Dye stains also permit the creation of brighter colours. Some professionals first apply dye stains, followed by pigment stains, to give greater depth to the colour.

 Top Coat Colour:  Water based top coats are milky white in the can, but dry to a crystal clear finish, and will remain clear throughout the life your project. Oil based top coats have a slight amber colour in the can, and dry to a clear finish which can darken over time.

Clean Up:  Water based finishes clean up conveniently with water.

Non-Combustible:  Water based products are non-combustible, unlike oil based products.

Recommended Finish For Open Grained Woods: Water based products are a surface finish. We recommend using them on any woods that penetrate easily, such as pine or birch, to produce a more even looking finish. Conversely, oil based stains tend to penetrate the wood more, and can bring out more variation in the final result. With that said, remember you are applying finish to parts of a tree, and every piece will look different! To test the hardness of the wood, just use the fingernail test. If your fingernail dents the surface, you have a soft wood, like pine or birch.

Sun Light:  The sun affects everything. If left in strong sunlight, the pigments and dyes in Wood Stains will fade like everything else. However, water based Milk Paints paints are an ideal exterior product and hold colour quite well over time.

Grain Raising:  Water based products produce more grain raising than oil based finishes - they do require a different finishing technique. Before applying the finish, spray the project with water or rub down with a damp cloth. Allow the wood to dry and then sand lightly with #220 sandpaper to remove the raised grain. This conditions the wood to accept water based finishes. The amount of grain raising is dependent on the wood species.

Drying Time, Temperature & Humidity:  Water based products dry faster so your project can be completed faster. Drying times are temperature and humidity dependent but is normally 2-4 hours under ideal conditions (70F/21C and 70% humidity).
Cooler temperatures or higher humidity will prolong dry time to 8-10 hours. Water based finishes must be applied at temperatures above 65F/18C. Cooler temperatures will adversely affect how the finish will level and harden, causing fish-eyes or craters. If it is cold enough to wear a sweater it is too cold to apply a water based finish. Good ventilation, air movement and higher temperatures will accelerate dry time. If working in high temperatures or low humidity, water based finishes may be thinned with 10-20% water or General Finishes Extender (3 to 6 oz. per quart) to improve open time for application. High humidity can extend the dry time but will not harm the final finish.

Mixing Custom Colours & Tinting:  You can create unique colours by mixing any two shades of water based products. Be sure to write down exactly how much of each colour is in the mix and mix enough to complete the entire project.
Tinting may be accomplished by adding 2 oz of Wood Stain and 2 oz. of water to a pint of Top Coat (or 4 oz. of each to a quart). Mix the water and stain together first, then add this mixture to tint the Top Coat. Stir well.

Do not mix water based products with oil based products.

Cure Time:  Allow the final Top Coat to cure for a period of 14 days to reach optimum hardness. You may use your furniture sooner. Just treat it with special care during the curing period.

Maintenance: To maintain the finish clean surface with a damp washcloth and wipe dry. Cleaners such as Pledge are not recommended because they may leave a dull residue on the finish. Water based surfaces may be cleaned with a damp cloth or General Finishes Orange Oil. Do not use household cleaners or window cleaners. Paste wax is not recommended because it builds up and yellows, thus becoming a maintenance problem.
Top Coats may be recoated at any time in the future. Remove any grease or dirt, lightly sand with #320 or finer grit sandpaper, and then apply another coat.

Coverage:   15m per litre / 150 sq. ft. per quart.

Storage:  Keep from freezing.

Spraying:  While both oil based and water based products can be sprayed, water based products really spray like a dream with water clean up. Water based topcoats are self leveling and dry quickly.

Surface Preparation: For more details regarding preparation, supplies, work area tips, etc. visit the General Finishes website, www.generalfinishes.com.

All surfaces should be clean and free from all dirt and oils.

Sanding is a progressive procedure. Do NOT start sanding with very fine sandpaper on unfinished wood. Prepare the surface by using medium sand paper first, and then proceed to finer grades. Water based finishes need a smoother surface than oil based finishes, but do not over sand or you may seal the wood so much that it will not take a finish. Sand raw wood in the direction of the grain starting with a coarser grit sand paper such as #120 sandpaper, and finish the final sanding with a fine grit sandpaper such as #180 or #220.  On soft woods such as Pine, Aspen or Alder sand first with #120 and finish with #220. On hardwoods such as Oak, Maple, Birch or Parawood sand first with #120 and finish no finer than #180. End-grains (areas where the wood has been cut against the grain), such as the front side of a table, tend to soak up more stain than other surfaces. Give end-grain areas an additional sanding to control the absorption of stain.

We recommend minimizing the grain raise, especially on hardwoods such as Oak and Ash. After completing preparation sanding and before applying the finish, spray the project with water or rub down with a damp cloth. Allow the wood to dry and then sand lightly with #220 sandpaper to remove the raised grain. This conditions the wood to accept water based finishes.

Option for wood stains: Soft woods such as Pine and Aspen absorb wood stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. A natural (clear) stain can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter. Always test your colour on a hidden part of the furniture! Allow the natural clear stain to dry 1 hour before applying your final stain colour.

Remove dust with an air hose, damp cloth or "oil free" tack cloths. Do not use oil based tack cloths when using water based finish. Most tack cloths contain oil and will contaminate the surface.

Do NOT use steel wool when preparing wood for water based finish, as steel particles will cause rust spots.

There are two methods to fill nail holes with wood putty: 1) fill holes before you stain using putty that dries hard and can be sanded and stained, or 2) stain the wood, apply one Top Coat, and then use water based colour putty that matches the stain.

Supplies Needed:

Lots of good quality paper towels or lint-free cloths for wiping. Do not use tee shirts with water based products they do not absorb water based products well.

Foam brushes or latex paint pad applicators and a bristle brush to pull stain out of corners. You must brush or wash paint pad applicators before use to remove loose bristles. Note: purchase a brush that will fit in the can.

#120, #180 or #220 grit sandpaper for sanding raw wood. #320 or #400 grit sandpaper or superfine sanding sponges for buffing between Top Coats. Do not use steel wool because steel particles left behind will rust.

Soap and water for clean up.

Paper plates and aluminum foil to make disposable paint trays.

Application of GF Water Based Wood Stains: Helpful Tips:

Remove hardware from furniture. Taking a little extra time to remove backs of cabinets, drawer fronts etc, will make staining much easier.

To minimize grain raising, complete surface preparation sanding and prior to applying Top Coat, dampen the wood with a wet sponge or spray bottle. Allow the wood to dry completely and lightly finish sand again with #180 to #220 grit sandpaper. Do not sand through the grain raise layer. This conditions the wood to accept water based finishes.

To get a consistent stain on soft woods such as Aspen, use Natural Stain as a pre-stain conditioner. Apply Natural Stain, wipe off evenly, wait 30 to 60 minutes and apply your stain colour. Always test the colour on the underside of the project before you begin. It is your responsibility to insure that the colour is what you want.

All top coats (water, oil, lacquer, wax, etc.) may be used over Water Based Stains if they have dried properly.

All Wood Stains may be intermixed to create custom colours or may be lightened by adding Natural Stain.

A second coat of stain will produce a slightly darker colour.

If working in high temperatures or low humidity, Wood Stains may be thinned with 10-20% water or General Finishes Extender (3 to 6 oz. per quart) to improve open time for application.

Tinting may be accomplished by adding 2 oz of Wood Stain and 2 oz. of water to a pint of Top Coat (or 4 oz. of each to a quart). Mix the water and stain together first, then add this mixture to tint the Top Coat. Stir well.

Use only tack cloths made for water based products (containing no linseed oil).

Hand Application of General Finishes Water Based Wood Stains

Always stir the contents well. Stirring reduces the thickness of the stain and distributes pigments that may have settled to the bottom of the can.

It is essential to apply a wet, liberal amount of stain with a foam brush or a latex paint pad applicator to insure easy workability. If too little stain is used, the surface can dry too quickly causing an uneven appearance.

Divide your project into manageable sections (top, side, drawer, door).

Stain a complete section and wipe off the excess evenly with the grain using paper towels or a clean cloth. Check for missed spots and lap marks before moving to the next section. Immediately correct lap marks by rewetting the entire working area with stain and wiping the excess off.

Sanding between coats of any stain or top coat is referred to as Buffing. We do NOT recommend buffing between coats of stain because you may remove an area of stain that cannot be re-blended. If you must buff because you have imperfections that need to be smoothed out, do so with caution using a superfine sanding pad or #320 or #400 grit sandpaper. Do not buff prior to the first application Top Coat.

On most projects three or four coats of Top Coat is just right. On projects receiving extra wear such as table and desk tops, additional coats will add more protection. Tip: use our High Performance Polyurethane for even more durability. For more instructions about applying Top Coats, click here.

Application of General Finishes Water Based Top Coats

If you are applying Water Based Top Coat over an oil based stain, allow the oil stain to dry a minimum of 48 hours under ideal conditions.

Water based top Coats are milky white in the can, but will dry to a crystal clear finish. Stir contents well to insure that all the ingredients are mixed together.

Apply with a foam brush, latex paint pad applicator, or by spraying.

Apply Top Coats liberally using smooth even strokes working in the direction of the grain. Use enough material to provide a wet film. Do not over brush! Top Coats self level beautifully.

Top Coats have "burn in" characteristics and may slightly lift some of the colour during the application of the first coat (particularly red colours).

On most projects three or four coats of Top Coat is just right. On projects receiving extra wear such as table and desk tops, additional coats will add more protection. Tip: use our High Performance Polyurethane for even more durability.

Dry Time of Top Coats:

Dry time is normally 2-4 hours under ideal conditions (70/21C and 70% humidity).

Cooler temperatures or higher humidity will prolong dry time to 8-10 hours.

Good ventilation, air movement and higher temperatures will accelerate dry time.

Buffing Top Coats:

It is important to buff in between each application of Top Coat for the smoothest possible finish.
After Top Coat has dried, buff between each application with #320 or #400 grit sandpaper or superfine sanding sponge. Remove dust with a clean cloth. Do not buff prior to the first application Top Coat. It is not necessary to buff final Top Coat.

1997-2011 P. Hemsley.  The information on this website is the copyright property of Peter Hemsley & ToolPost Ltd.  Coeur du Bois and The ToolPost are trading styles of Peter Hemsley.  Whilst reasonable efforts are made to ensure the accuracy of information presented, no liability can be accepted for errors in this information nor for contingencies arising therefrom.  If you are inexperienced in any aspect of woodworking, we would strongly counsel that you take a course of formal instruction before commencing to practice