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Choosing and Using the Right Wood Finish & Wood Paint

All General Finishes Products are designed with the professional and Hobbyist woodworker in mind.

Finishing is one of the most intimidating parts of a project for most woodworkers. We've all been there; super excited and happy with a build only to be let down by the final finish. Choosing the right brand and type of finish can make the difference between a heirloom quality piece and a mediocre result. With General Finishes, choosing and creating a beautiful finish on all your projects is easy. Lets take a look at each of the General Finishes Wood Finish & Paint Products we carry here at Infinity Tools so you can finish your next project with confidence.

General Finishes Stains are available in a variety of colors and styles allowing you to create the perfect color every time.

General Finishes Wood Stain
General Finishes offers three different types of wood stain; Oil Based Gel Wood Stain (pigment), Water Based Wood Stain (Pigment), and Water Based Wood Stain (Dye). If you've ever used stain it was most likely a pigment based stain. Pigment based stain contains pigments (small colored particles) to add the color to your project. Pigment based stains sit on the surface of the wood and will bring out the grain in the wood because the more porous areas of the grain will hold more of the pigment particles. Dye Stain on the other hand, uses Dye (colored liquid) to color the wood fibers. Dye Stain will produce a very consistent color on your projects and will "pop" figure in wood as it will soak deeper into the more porous areas of wood such as Curly Maple.

General Finishes Gel Stain is oil based and contains UV stable pigments and can be used on both indoor and outdoor projects.

General Finishes Oil Based Gel Stain is great for both interior or exterior applications because it contains UV stable pigments and can be top coated with both oil based and water based topcoats.  If top coating with a water based topcoat/clearcoat we recommend letting the Gel Stain dry for 24-48 hours. General Finishes Gel Stain gives excellent control during application and is the consistency of "pudding", making it easy to brush or wipe on with a rag. The chances of runs or drips is basically non existent.

General Finishes water based Wood Stain, is a traditional pigment based stain that is easy to apply and is fast drying.

General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain is a pigment based stain that is ideal for brushing or spraying. The big advantage to General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain is dry time. Rather than waiting a day or more, water based wood stain can be top coated in just a few hours. This also means if you are building multiple coats to create a specific look for your projects you can do so in a much shorter period of time compared to oil based finishes.

General Finishes Water Based Dye Stain Soaks into the wood, highlighting figure, and is available in a wide variety of colors

General Finishes Water Based Dye Stain is an excellent choice when a very consistent color is desired. General Finishes Dye Stain is the perfect choice to "pop" the figure of woods like curly maple because it soaks into the fibers of the wood and will penetrate deeply into the more porous areas. General Finishes Dye Stain can be top coated with General Finishes pigment based wood stain to create spectacular results. General Finishes Dye Stain can also be added to General Finishes High Performance Topcoat and used as a "toner" to darken and achieve a perfect color match to existing finishes.

General Finishes offer a variety of top coats in both oil based and water based varieties to suit any craftsman's tastes and needs.

General Finishes Top Coats
Choosing the right Topcoat is  very important to achieve your desired results. For exterior applications we offer General Finishes Exterior 450 Topcoat (water based). For interior applications we offer two water based Topcoats;  Enduro-Var and High Performance.  We also offer Arm-R-Seal which is an oil based polyurethane similar to Minwax. Each of these top coats comes in a variety  of sheens including; Flat, Satin, Semi-Gloss, and Gloss, and each top coat serves a different purpose. Lets take a quick look at each.

General Finishes Exterior 450 is a high quality topcoat that can be used to protect stained, painted and bare wood for outside projects.

General Finishes Exterior 450 is specifically formulated to protect exterior projects and can be used on wood and fiberglass. It's also ideal to use on outdoor projects that have been stained with General Finishes Gel Stain. It can also be uses to top coat General Finishes Milk Paint and to modify the sheen of outdoor projects. General Finishes Exterior 450 sprays and brushes beautifully. To apply this topcoat we recommend using a synthetic bristle brush or foam brush and do not recommend wiping.

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal is a High Quality Traditional Oil Based Polyurethane for those looking for the best quality finish in an oil based formula they have grown to know and love.

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal is a traditional, high-quality oil based polyurethane. It can be sprayed, brushed, or wiped on with a rag to produce a beautiful finish. Similar to other oil based finishes, General Finishes Arm-R-Seal will impart a natural looking amber color to the wood. Easy to work with and fast building, Arm-R-Seal is a high quality version of the traditional oil based poly many woodworkers have been using for decades.

General Finishes Enduro-Var combines the advantages of a water based top coat with the look of an oil based Poly.

General Finishes Enduro-Var is a water based urethane and is formulated to bridge the gap between a water based and oil based topcoat. General Finishes Enduro-Var combines the fast drying traits of water based finishes with the traditional amber look of an oil based poly. If you want a fast drying, low odor top coat that still produces a beautiful amber finish, Endurto-Var is a great choice. For application we recommend either spraying or brushing with a synthetic bristle brush or foam brush

General Finishes High Performance water based top coat is a crystal clear finish, giving the woodworker total control over both color and sheen.

General Finishes High Performance water based top coat is just that, a high performance finish. This is the topcoat we chose to finish the cabinets in our shop because we knew they would need a tough finish to hold up to life in a workshop. General Finishes High Performance is known as a water clear finish. Unlike an oil based topcoat, High Performance will not impart an amber color to the wood which makes it ideal for use over bright colored stains, when matching existing finishes, or over General Finishes Milk Paint and won't change the color of the finish underneath. The other big advantage to High Performance is that it can be "toned" or "tinted" by adding General Finishes Dye Stain. This is a method that professional finishers use to fine tune the color of projects to get a perfect mach every time.  As with other water based finishes, we recommend applying High Performance by spraying or brushing with a synthetic bristle brush or foam brush.

General Finishes Milk Paint is formulated with the furniture maker in mind. This high quality paint yields excellent coverage and is perfect for both interior and exterior applications.

Milk Paint
General Finishes Milk Paint is a great way to add color to your projects. General Finishes Milk Paint is a water based paint and unlike traditional milk paint does not contain actual milk protein. General Finishes Milk Paint is UV stable and can be used for both interior and exterior applications without a top coat. For additional protection or to modify the sheen, General Finishes Milk Paint can be top coated with either General Finishes Exterior 450 or General Finishes High Performance Top Coats. The natural sheen is somewhere between flat and satin. While this is a very thick paint right out of the can, it is easily thinned with water and sprays very nicely. For best results it can be brushed on with a synthetic bristle or foam brush. Don't forget to pick up a General Finishes Mixing Deck, this handy tool will help you mix your own custom colors of General Finishes Milk Paint.

Wooster Alpha Brushes have synthetic bristles and are perfect for applying water based stains, top coats, and paints.

Tips For Applying Water Based Finishes
Unlike oil based finishes, water based stains and top coats do not like to be wiped on with a rag. Rather, they respond well to brushing with synthetic bristle brushes or Foam Brushes. If you have had issues with brushing finishes in the past don't worry, all General Finishes top coats have excellent self leveling properties. Spraying is another great way to apply everything from General Finishes Water Based Dye Stain to General Finishes Milk Paint. A big advantage to the Water Based products from General Finishes is that they can all be thinned with water to adjust the viscosity for spraying. One of our favorite spray systems is the Earlex 5500 Spray Station. This HVLP system eliminates the need for an air compressor and all the other accessories needed for a traditional spray system.

The Earlex 5500 HVLP Spray Station is a great choice for spraying any of the General Finishes products.

Once of my favorite things about water based finishes is how easy it is to cleanup after use. Just use plain soapy water to clean your brushes and spray equipment, no need for harsh chemicals.

The best piece of advise I can give when using a brush to apply General Finishes water based finish or Milk Paint is to get it on the surface and leave it alone. Many people who are used to using oil based finishes will over-work a water based finish. This hurts the self leveling properties because the finish begins to dry much more quickly than oil. Don't worry about brush marks, focus on applying a consistent coating and let General Finished do the rest.


Items Featured
General Finishes Oil Based Gel Stain
General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain
General Finishes Water Based Dye Stain
General Finishes Exterior 450
General Finishes Arm-R-Seal
General Finishes Enduro-Var
General Finishes High Performance
General Finishes Milk Paint
Earlex 5500
synthetic bristle brushes
Foam Brushes.

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