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Pick up most any woodworking magazine from the past and you can’t help but see advertisements for furniture kits. I know you’ve seen them, the reproductions from The Bartley Collection Ltd (today it’s Bartley Classic Reproductions).

In the beginning, with each cherry furniture kit, Bartley included a can of company-produced cherry gel stain. The stain caught on with kit buyers and Bartley promoted the idea that gel stains were easy to use with great results.

Gel stains made a big splash in woodworking. This stain could color a project easily and without significant blotching. They can also be effective glazes. I experimented with gel stains used as glaze, but because I like a quick application process such as spraying, I returned to oil-based glazes. But if time is your friend, gel stains do work as glaze.

So what’s the point of all this? In late 2007, Bartley Collection Ltd. sold its finishes division to the Lawrence McFadden Company. That company was the sole supplier of Bartley Gel Stains. Lawrence McFadden filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and completely shut down. As of now, there is no Bartley Gel Stains being produced. If you’re casual user or a hardcore devotee, you should buy up whatever inventory you can find.

While there are hopes that the company might reorganize and begin operations again, or that another company might pickup certain products from Lawrence McFadden, we may never see Bartley Gel Stains on store shelves again. Chalk another loss up to the economy. The list grows larger.

-Glen D. Huey

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  • Rob Porcaro

    Hi Glen,

    I’ve long been a fan of Bartley’s clear satin gel varnish. All may not be lost, judging by this post by Michael Dresdner on his site which gives more detail than is posted on Bartley’s site. Michael had been endorsing a Rockler-labeled gel varnish that he notes was the same as the Bartley-labeled product.

    General Finishes and Old Masters also produce gel varnishes, though I haven’t tried those brands.


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