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Thread: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

  1. #1
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    I'm not typically a fan of staining wood, preferring the natural color of wood as it ambers with most finishes, but I am considering staining part of my current build. I'd love recommendations for stains or dyes that are compatible with oil varnish (Epiphanes) for instruments.

    In the past with non-instrument related woodworking projects, I have always found that whatever stain I used would be pulled out considerably by whatever oil based finish I used. I always found this annoying because I would reach whatever color I liked and it would change significantly when the pigment was pulled to by the clear coat. If thats just an inevitability, thats fine... just curious what you all prefer to use and why.

    In this case I'm not thinking of any kind of sunburst, I am just thinking of applying a color to the back and sides so there is a little contrast between the back/side wood and the spruce top.

    Thanks in advance
    aka: Spencer
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  2. #2
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    Test of scrap.
    I'm making that the first statement of this response because it is rule number 1 when trying any unfamiliar finish process.

    Now, with that out of the way... In instrument work, what we call stains are are actually dyes (I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but few I suspect). Colors that are commonly called stains in the furniture and cabinetry world are often oil based stains. If you have been using oil based stains under brushed oil varnish that could explain the problems that you describe.

    As for my preferred method of coloring instruments, it depends on what I'm working on and what I want it to look like.
    In my usual new mandolin work, I prefer to hand rub dyes (currently using Transtint dyes with reasonable success though they are not my favorite) directly onto the prepared wood.
    Sometimes dyes are sprayed onto the surface. The look is different from rubbed, so if I want that look, or if I'm doing repair/restoration work on something with sprayed color then I spray the dyes.
    Dyes can be sprayed directly on the wood or over a sealer. The look is slightly different, so sometimes I do one or the other.
    Dyes can also be rubbed over sealer but I'm not able to do that with acceptable results so I avoid that method.

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    By "Prepared wood" I assume you mean sanded to finished grit (+/- 320#)?
    aka: Spencer
    Silverangel Econo A #429
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    "You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage
    to lose sight of the shore, ...and also a boat with no holes in it. -anonymous

  5. #4

    Default Re: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    I also use Transtint dyes. As Sunburst warns, you definitely need to test each mix on scrap. Dye soaks into the grain of the wood pretty much instantly (as opposed to stains that can lay on top) so you won't have to worry about the finish moving the color around. For an even coloration without lap lines from a brush, spraying with a broad fan works best for me. Always start lighter (less dye) than you think you need, you can always go over it again to darken it. Lightening it back up? You really don't want to go there.

    I like to hand blend sunburst finishes. For that I use a medium of acetone cut ~30-40% with flow enhancer which gives me more time to move the color around. Probably not a recommended method but it's what I've made work for me. Just a heads up, Transtint is very concentrated, measured in drops per pint of medium. Definitely a learning curve but very color fast.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    Quote Originally Posted by soliver View Post
    By "Prepared wood" I assume you mean sanded to finished grit (+/- 320#)?
    Yes, that is the short version.

    What it actually means is:
    -sand to about 120 grit and wet to raise the grain, let dry and then sand away all those scratches that rise up and show themselves
    -sand to about 220 grit and wet to raise the grain, let dry and then sand away all those scratches that rise up and show themselves
    -sand to about 320 grit and wet to raise the grain, let dry and then sand away all those scratches that rise up and show themselves
    -re-sand very lightly with 320 grit
    -start rubbing on dyes and then stop and sand away all those scratches that rise up and show themselves
    -continue rubbing dyes until done
    -apply finish and lament all those scratches that somehow made it through the whole process

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    ".......apply finish and lament all those scratches that somehow made it through the whole process...."

    Truth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Many folks will tell you it takes about a half dozen years to learn how to build a decent mandolin and then the next 20 to learn how to finish it consistently well....

    There is a reasonably detailed article from the workshop I gave at the GAL convention printed here and you can also watch my video over at finewoodworking.com . I think you'll need to sign in for access but there are no charges for the first 14 days or so.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #7

    Default Re: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    I prefer using dyes over stains, and I have never even heard of the brand of varnish you suggest. I've been using Keda aniline dyes for a long time. They can be mixed with alcohol or water before application, and I only use them before applying a sealer or other finish. Lately, the trend my clients prefer is using TruOil as a top coat, but I've used Watco Danish Oil or shot acrylic lacquer over the dyed woods. Depending on the texture the client wants, I may fill the grain - although of late, non-filled is quite popular.

    I refinished this Yamaha bass a couple years ago after removing what was left of the factory finish (black). The client opted for a bright red, with no grain filling, and a TruOil topcoat buffed to a satin finish. He loves it, and frankly - I was surprised how nice it looked.

    I should add that I also stripped the factory clear coat from the neck and stained with Keda amber (I mixed brown and yellow), and applied numerous coats of TruOil for a hard finish.

    https://i.imgur.com/KBz6UjW.jpg

    https://i.imgur.com/XgJuyHz.jpg
    Last edited by NotMelloCello; Jun-22-2021 at 3:00pm.

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    If you apply too much dye some may be left on the surface and if it is suspectible to the solvents of the finish it may cause the OP problems.
    Sealing with "dry" coat or two of shellac makes application of most oil varnishes problem free.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    Thanks guys. So it seems like transtint is a good option. I've seen a guy use leather dyes before. Anyone tried that?... just curious
    aka: Spencer
    Silverangel Econo A #429
    Soliver #001 & #002: A double stack of Pancakes.

    Soliver Hand Crafted Mandolins and Mandolin Armrests
    Armrests Here -- Mandolins Here

    "You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage
    to lose sight of the shore, ...and also a boat with no holes in it. -anonymous

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    Quote Originally Posted by soliver View Post
    ...I've seen a guy use leather dyes before. Anyone tried that?... just curious
    Once at the customer's request. I understand leather dyes to be aniline dyes, though I'm not sure they all are. They work fine for coloring but I'm told they can penetrate deeply into celluloid bindings and make scraping bindings more work and also make level (with the wood) bindings a challenge. The time I used it I was also using ebony bindings so I didn't have a negative experience with them.

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  18. #11
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    Default Re: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    Thanks John, and everyone else always a wealth of knowledge!
    aka: Spencer
    Silverangel Econo A #429
    Soliver #001 & #002: A double stack of Pancakes.

    Soliver Hand Crafted Mandolins and Mandolin Armrests
    Armrests Here -- Mandolins Here

    "You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage
    to lose sight of the shore, ...and also a boat with no holes in it. -anonymous

  19. #12
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    Default Re: What's your preferred staining or dying method?

    The color of dyed or stained wood always changes when you apply finish over it.
    An old time cabinet maker told me that the colors usually get lighter after finish is applied.
    I have found test boards to be invaluable, but not 100% reliable.
    A trick that can sometimes give you an idea of what will happen when you add finish is to wipe a little naphtha on the surface, and observe the results before it evaporates. If you're doing this on dyed, unsealed wood, make sure the dye has had plenty of time to soak in and dry.

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