Gel Stain Banister and Hand Rail

It’s a new day and thus, something else needs fixing… Actually, that’s not true. Even if the day never changed, my list of things to do would be no shorter, but I digress…

Our previous landlords introduced us to a very cool product called Gel Stain, by Minwaxยฎ. I don’t have a lot of experience with staining wood, but I do know enough to say that this product was amazingly simple to use!

Step 0: Preparation

Even before getting the tools for staining ready it is VERY important to tape off what you are about to work with. If possible, the best option is to remove the wood and take it into the garage, where a little dripping wont cause a problem.

Lower banister

Upper banister

Upper banister meeting wall

Make sure that you give yourself plenty of buffer room between the wood and the wall. I use 2” blue painter’s tape, with 2 overlapping passes.

The tools

  • Gel Stain
  • Stirring Stick (in my case, an old wooden spoon)
  • Application tool (foam brush, fine bristle brush, or lint free cloth)
  • Old rag
  • Box for everything to sit in

Mobile workspace

When first opening the can, the Gel Stain will look like pudding. While it looks like an evening time snack, I don’t recommend trying it, the smell should be off-putting enough. Stir thoroughly and just leave the stir stick in the stain, it will need to be remixed every so often. I put everything in the shoe box so I could move it all at once and not worry about getting any stain on the carpet.

Step 1: Application

One reason I like the Gel Stain so much is because it’s just that, gel. The concoction is so thick, you almost don’t have to worry about dripping :). Simply dip your applicator in, wipe off some of the excess on the rim of the can and you’re ready to go. I used a bristle brush so that I could get into all the nooks and crannies.

I used a method of dabbing on the stain in a large area and then brushing it back and forth. This prevents thick and overly dark spots.

Dabbing on...

...Brushing out

Repeat this across the entire area. You can use the old rag to wipe up excess. As you go, you may find spots that look a little lighter. If the stain has become “tacky” then you can add a little to the lighter area and brush it in to match.


It’s that easy! once you have an even coating across the entire surface, you’re done.

Upper banister finished

Lower banister finished

I read that it only takes 24 hours for this stuff to dry… It’s more like 3 days! In 24 hours, it the stain will still be tacky to the touch, but after about 3 days, it will feel like real wood again.

If the color is not dark enough, or you find some lighter patches after you are finished, simply apply another coating. Which leads me to a good tip:

Leave the tape in place until the stain is dry and you are happy!

Posted in Home Ownership, Projects.