Minwax Polyshades

This past month I’ve been pondering over the best product to use for our kitchen cabinet makeover. A few weeks ago I came across this post which really inspired me!  Although I usually play it safe, spend a lot of time reading and pondering before buying things like this, I was a bit more impulsive this time.  After a very short time reading up on the product (finding a fair amount of bad reviews, and a few good ones), I went out and bought some Polyshades to try out for myself – because really, you can read all you want, but the “proof is in the pudding” as they say.

Who knows – it might also be useful sometime for a quick and easy coffee table makeover, like the one shown here:

Coffee Table Before & After at ArtsyChicksRule.com
Coffee Table Before & After at ArtsyChicksRule.com

Here was what I’ve summarized from the various information I found online:

It sounds like Polyshades should not really be sold as a “stain and poly-in-one” solution, but more like a glaze that is painted on.  Many of the bad reviews spoke of stripped/bare wood, and using it in place of stain. Most of the good reviews and best results seemed to be from people who wanted a quick makeover of an EXISTING poly-based finish.  The best results seemed to be on these, supporting my theory that it is more efficient as a glaze/paint. I will report back once I’ve had a chance to actually try it out myself; please keep this in mind when deciding if this could be suitable for your refinishing requirement.

What attracted me to this product was that as I researched more into it, it appeared that it would go on sort of like a paint: you brush it on in multiple thin layers, with a very fine sanding in-between (switching to finer and finer grain with each consecutive layer), to achieve the best result. The finished product gives you a warm wood-tone, with wood grain still visible – which aside from being what we want for our kitchen cabinets is also exactly what I have been looking for to use for my sideboard project. Even better yet, they offer a Bombay Mahogany colour which looks like a very nice match to my existing dining room furniture!

I think my main reason for not researching or trying this product before was that I assumed it would be gloopy and messy like the Minwax gel stain I tried (a frustrating experience that you can read about **here**). Thankfully this is not the case – the “test” tin of Polyshades that I’ve purchased is very much a liquid like regular oil-based stain (be careful as it can be runny).  Just as you would with stain, make sure you stir it VERY well!  There is a lot of important residue that settles at the bottom and it needs to be mixed in well. Also, don’t shake the Polyshades as this will create bubbles.

On my first test patch on the sideboard, the Bombay Mahogany Polyshades brushed on like a charm! Here it is after a couple of thin coats (original colour along the top, new colour on the raised panel):


Judging by this, I will probably need at least 4 thin coats on this to achieve something similar to the darker colour of my other dining room cabinets.

There are a couple of key points I would like to add here, from my initial testing experience:

1. Use a bristle brush, not a poly brush. I made this mistake on one large test piece, assuming the poly brush, which says it is to be used for stains, would be fine. I was wrong!  The Polyshades went on waaaay too thick and I just couldn’t seem to thin it out.  The next test was done with a bristle brush and it was much easier to control.

2. As with any traditional stain, it is not the actual time involved in the work, but the wait time between coats that is lengthy (and frustrating to us impatient folks)! If you are a perfectionist who likes to refinish furniture, patience is definitely a virtue!

3. This stuff *can* take a long time to dry, so give it at least 6-12 hours between coats, and sometimes it may even need up to 24 (I left mine for 24, but that was mainly because I could not get back to it sooner).

Side note: If you are more a fan of gel stain, I also stumbled upon this inspiring kitchen makeover, including a very detailed set of how-to instructions!


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