I have a dye question.
First off, my goal is to get a consistent shade or tone for several white oak
built ins (entertainment center and hutch) that I am building and some trim
and ceiling decorations (coffered beams).
Here is the rub, the wood I'd like to use for the ceiling beams is from new
office doors that are veneered with a nice looking quarter saw white oak that
has a very tough clear finish (catalysed laquer or something). So what I
figure I need to do is establish a method to use some form of dye that can
tone both the new wood work (hutch, trim, and EC) and tone the pre-finished
panels for the ceiling beams. I doubt that I can strip or sand away the
finish on the door wood without screwing up the veneer so I am stuck with
what ever is already on there. I can scuff sand it to provide a good tooth
for whatever top finishes are applied.
Everything I read about the aniline dyes says to apply them to the bare wood.
I can't do this to the pre-finished stuff so I thought about adding the dye
to the top coat or some intermediate finish coat to get the tones right and
then top coat everything with the same (clear) finish. The topcoat for the
furnishings is yet to be decided but probably will be something tough like
varnish or lacquer (maybe even poly).
Can I do what I want and not end up with a mess? I imagine I'll have to use
an alcohol based dye if I use shellac as the carrier for the dye or
oil/solvent based if I add it to an under coat of lacquer or varnish (maybe
even in a poly topcoat?)
Is there a better way to achieve the same tone?
I like some of the colors shown in the J.E. Moser dye color charts, but the
only place listed as selling them is Woodworkers Supply which as posted here
the other day appears to be going belly up.....
Homestead finishing has the transtint stuff but not much in the way of
selection unless I'm missing something about how the color can be changed.
"Woodworkers' Warehouse" is going belly up. "Woodworkers' Supply" is not
Take a look at Jeff's TransFast powdered dyes. There are quite a few shades and
colors. They can be mixed to alter the tone. See:
As a side note, if you will be using a tinted finish consider spraying. It is
difficult to get an even coloring with hand applied methods.
Buffalo, NY - USA
(Remove "SPAM" from email address to reply)
I have used Behlens Solar-lux in shellac to achieve minor color changes on
qswo with success. Have never tried to make major color adjustments if
that's what you need to do. Different types of shellac of course will also
give different colors.
The instructions for dye call for it to be applied to bare wood because
unlike pigmented stains that contain a pigment that catches in the pores and
scratches on the wood and fixer to hold them in place while a finish is
applied it is meant to soak into the cells and color them hence no need to
Since your finish will act as a fixer and as long as they are like based,
water to water based, oil to oil based, or alcohol to alcohol, what you want
to do will work just fine. You're just making up a home brew glaze. It won't
be as user friendly as a regular glaze but it will work.
Try paint. Go to an art supply house and get artists oil paint, thin to
desired color and transparency. A little of the pigment goes a long way and
can be made to look like just about anything. Ask for help from members of
a local artists guild and you will get more then you believe.
I use the TransTint dye concentrates from Jeff Jewitt at
The basic colors can be mixed to give the shade that you want.
Jeff often answers the phone himself and this will give you an
opportunity to run your finishing schedule by him. Lacking that, you
can post an enquiry on his website and he will answer promptly.
Please note that the dye must be shipped ground transport, so make
sure that you allow for lead time.
I often do what you are planning on and here is how I go about it:
Sand the raw wood to 180. (On cherry, I go to 220.)
Use 320 or 4/0 steel wool on the pre-finished materials.
Apply two coats of clear (nitro lacquer) sanding sealer (to the raw
wood only) and sand lightly with 320.
Put TransTint into the thinned nitro lacquer (I use gloss, so as to
not lose clarity) and spray as a toner (don't try to bring your wood
to the final color in one pass, you have more control with a weaker
solution and multiple passes). (It's best to not have to denib the
color coats but, if you pick up too much dust, try rubbing lightly
with a clean white rag first, or a clean tack cloth, and then 4/0
steel wool (very lightly) if the rag does not work.)
When you have achieved your desired color, lay down your build and top
coats. I wipe down the piece with 4/0 steel wool before applying the
final top coat. If you are going to use a semi-gloss finish, only use
it for the final coat, as the flatting agents will muddy the grain and
color if used throughout. (The color coats should be well covered by
the build and topcoats but you should be a bit conservative with the
pre-finished items, so that you don't exceed the recommended final
You will need to make up test pieces before you spray, to make sure
that the topcoat does not kick the color out of the range that you
want - simply applying the toner solution to a test piece will not
tell the whole tale.
I would dab a bit of lacquer and a bit of dewaxed shellac (the closest
to water-white that you can find) onto an inconspicuous area of the
pre-finished material and then test them for adhesion (by trying to
scratch them off with your fingernail) forty-eight hours later. If
you have an adhesion problem with the lacquer, but not the shellac,
you can spray a barrier coat of dewaxed shellac before applying the
toner coats. It's very important to use dewaxed shellac for the
barrier coat, as the waxy versions may give you adhesion problems.
I use this technique to unify the color in cherry and can blend
sapwood into heartwood so that they are indistinguishable (but I wipe
the sapwood areas with a dilute solution of transtint, before applying
the toner coats.)
Make good test pieces, following the entire finishing schedule and
write down your formulas on the backs (even the failed ones).
Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker
Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania 19428
Thanks for the info guys!
My bad, Woodworkers Supply is not the company going under (woodworkers
As per the recommendation of oil based artist paints, I have tried that on
some small pieces and if it is used too much, it tends to obscure the grain.
I need to tint from raw oak to a darkish brown, almost the color of a light
walnut so I have a ways to go. It seems to be no problem using the homestead
dyes in a combination but the moser dyes had a nice pdf color chart that
allowed SWMBO to say exactly what "I" wanted 8^)
I do have spray equipment (automotive) that works very well with poly so I
think I can use that to get the required even coats with Lacquer. It seems
based on the replies that even coats will be my main goal (and pain) since I
need the dye in the lacquer. Watch out for lap marks and drips!
So how does this schedule sound to you pros:
Scuff sand my prefinished wood as much as I dare and apply a good
sealer/binder coat of the lightest (dewaxed) shellac I can find. Since the
prefinished wood is for the ceiling, abrasion resistance is not a requirement
as long as it doesn't peel off on its own.
For the raw wood, I'll seal it up with the same shellac so I'm starting off
with the same base on both wood types.
Mix the dye (solvent based, not oil or alcohol right?) into some lacquer and
spray on some samples of both woods until the tone matches (keeping records
of the concentration and number of coats). Once this is achieved, several
more clear coats to give me a bit of wiggle room for surface smoothing and
then put on the final clear coats with any flattening I need in the final
coat or via sanding with 4/0 steel wool or equiv.
I'm in no rush so I have time to dial the process in 8^)
On Sun, 7 Dec 2003 9:54:48 -0700, Tom Watson wrote
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