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William Polhemus

I'm a newbie woodworker who wants very much to become professional. Primarily to this point I've been developing my skills by building out my garage-shop and making some furniture pieces and cabinetry for my own home.

I read an article on aniline dye in Wood Magazine and decided to give it a try, purchasing a multi-color kit marketed by Keda on

i used the brown color (only) on a maple plywood cabinet I built to house my sharpening tools, which I designed with a drop-down front lid to provide a work surface for sharpening and honing using water stones and the like.

i applied the dye as instructed, three coats, and finished with spray-can lacquer. The result was breathtaking, even for someone who didn't know what the hell he was doing.

The grain of the maple veneer of the plywood (it is good quality material) just pops, a three dimensional effect. I'm now busy making some Mission-style baby cradles out of quarter-sawn white oak, and I'm planning to use some of the scrap to make up several dyed samples using various color combinations, with the aim of selecting the ones I wish to use going forward in my work.

I'm very pleased to have discovered this "secret" early on.

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I'd like to clarify a few points in this article and the discussion.

(1) The author implies that only pigments are "stains". Generally speaking wood "stains" use pigments and dyes for colorants, and many wood stains sold in the stores are usually some combination of the two--product labels rarely divulge this info. Pigments are opaque and relatively large sized particles so in deed they do not soak into the wood, but lodge into the surface pores.

(2) Dyes are translucent and absorb into the wood and color all parts of the wood's surface texture uniformly, and because it's translucent the excess does not have to be wiped-off before it dries.

(3) Aniline dyes generally fade somewhat in direct sunlight over a long period of time, so they may not be the best choice where bright sunlight occurs regularly.

(4) To better gauge the amount of dye for a given project, wet the dyed wood with water or mineral spirits, etc, and that will more accurately portray the final color after the wood is finished.

(5) The author mentions bleaching. Two-part bleaches are recommended
for lightening wood, but keep in mind that for some species like walnut,
the bleaching process removes relatively more of magenta color from the
wood, so you're left with an olive-colored (greenish yellow), albeit lighter, walnut. By subsequently applying dyes, and some color theory, the desired wood color can be achieved.

(6) @ William P (above): dye stains are used commonly for "popping the grain" of maple to exaggerate the "curly" or "bird's eye" figure in that closed-grain wood species. Just lightly sand between dye applications and the dye remains in the curly figure but is sanded from the rest. I recommend reading Bob Flexner's books on finishing.

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We used Lockwood aniline dye with Real Milk Paint Tung Oil on top for our kitchen floors. Did it in 2009 and still love the outcome.


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