Over the past many years Manufacturers continue to expand their product lines to offer solutions for the hobbyist and professional.
The product that we are looking at today is Gel formulated Polyurethane Topcoat.
It is important to understand this type of topcoat before you decide to use it. Many people have excellent results with gel formulated topcoats but only when they use it for its specific result.
Gel Coat Stains are often paired with Gel Topcoat products to reduce the skill needed while providing reasonable results. So lets look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of this product before we decide it is right for our project.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Gel Topcoats for Furniture Restoration
Ease of Use: Gel coats are easy to work with and can be applied with a variety of tools including brushes or rags.
Gel Topcoats can be used in pick list repairs where you are touching up problems at the last minute.
Unfortunately you are limited to a Satin or non-gloss finish no matter what tool you use to apply Gel Topcoats.
Gel Topcoats do not self level so you can not depend on it to fill small imperfections.
Gel Topcoats unless used for small repairs require multiple coats with sanding between coats. This is different than standard topcoats that suggest many coats but still work well in a single heavy application.
What type of wood or surface is best suited to Gel based Topcoats
Gel based Topcoat Polyurethane is best suited for surfaces that you expect to see a lot of wear and items that do not require the highest grade of professional results.
I say that with the idea in mind that this is a professional product but its application is not suited for items with very high value or in areas that will see a lot of moisture and rubbing over time.
For instance if you hand built walnut cabinets worth $30,000 or if you have some high grade furniture you would probably be better off using a standard oil based polyurethane of the finish you require. Remember you can not achieve a high shine with this product and it will still require preparation between coats to get good results.
If you have an old rocking chair that is distressed and you want to protect it with a non-glossy finish this product could be great. It would also be good for satin finishes on oak bathroom cabinets or small decorative items that need protection.
Applying Gel Based Polyurethane
Standard liquid polyurethane is normally applied with a brush or through a paint gun.
Gel based polyurethane is best applied with a clean lint free rag or possibly with a brush in specific locations where a rag would be unmanageable.
Your surface must be wax and oil free and prepared to accept the polyurethane with a 220 grit sandpaper.
When applying the finish with a rag you need to make sure that you apply it evenly. Your rag must be folded over enough to provide a thickness where your fingers will not cause surface thickness differences as you wipe. Although there are no runs with this product you must apply it evenly so you do not have buildup areas that are not attractive.
Once the first coat has had time to cure you can sand and then apply a second coat. Sanding will remove any imperfections and dirt that may have dried in the finish.
If a third coat is needed repeat the previous step.
Although Gel based Polyurethanes are a tool that you should have at your disposal they should not be expected to provide the same results of 20 coats of Japanese lacquer or even 3 coats of liquid gloss polyurethane.
The product is what it is and when used correctly it can save you many hours of work and it can be used on projects where liquid application is not reasonable without professional equipment.
If you have an old rocking chair, toy or even if you are rushing a repair in a bathroom then Gel based Polyurethane can give you dependable one application results that you can get done in a few minutes. And the best benefit is you won’t be called back because of runs in the finish.