Starting Finishing

When I get the this point in a project I really can’t help myself, I’m so eager to start applying finish and see how the project is going to look.  With this table, I’ve been digging the ribbon stripe figure in the wood, but the color wasn’t right for the genre of the piece.  I wanted more of a deep red-brown color, and my typical finishing schedule involves a dye base coat followed by linseed oil and shellac with a colored wax topcoat.

All of the parts were sprayed with water and allowed to dry, then scuff sanded during construction to pre-raise the grain.  When I was at the store yesterday I picked up a couple of household squirt bottles.  I only needed one, but for some reason I got two.  Good thing I did, the first one came apart in my hands halfway through getting a coat of dye on the base.  THAT was relaxing, let me tell you.

I’m using Trans-Tint Red-Brown dye, one bottle dissolved into a half gallon of water.  This picture doesn’t really show the effects very well, although you can probably see how the figure is becoming more dramatic.

Just beginning to spray on the water-based dye - the right side has dye and the left doesn't

Just beginning to spray on the water-based dye – the right side has dye and the left doesn’t

I wet out the table base, which took a little while because the sprayer didn’t really work all that well.  I turned the table over to make sure I got dye everywhere, then I grabbed a rag and started drying it off.  I used an air nozzle to blow out the joints to make sure I got all the dye off.  I followed the same procedure on the top and shelf, shooting for about five minutes of “soak” time.  The color is pretty dramatic at this point, especially in the sun.

Dyed pieces drying in the sun

Dyed pieces drying in the sun

I knew from my previous experiments not to panic as the color will change more with the additional topcoats, but this was redder than I expected.  I’m glad I didn’t use the “Red Mahogany” dye, I think that would have been too much.

Once the parts were completely dry I burnished them with a white scotchbrite pad to remove any fuzzies and took them back into the shop for a coat of plain linseed oil.  I slathered in on nice and thick and let it sit for 10 minutes or so.  The color looks a lot more brown at this point, but part of that is the difference in lighting in the shop compared to the sunlight.

Linseed oil soaking in

Linseed oil soaking in

After the oil had a little time to soak in, I hoped the parts off and took them back outside for a comparison shot in the sun.  The color is not as red and the picture shows, it has more brown in it.  The sun really brings out the red for some reason.

Dye and Linseed Oil base coats applied

Dye and Linseed Oil base coats applied

Dye and Linseed Oil base coats applied

Dye and Linseed Oil base coats applied

I left the parts at this stage to dry overnight so the oil could soak into the wood and flash off a bit.  I plan to add a couple of coats of Garnet Shellac this morning, then rub it out with 0000 steel wool and apply a coat of black wax.  The color should get slightly darker and browner and have a nice even sheen.  Fingers crossed


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3 thoughts on “Starting Finishing

  1. Wow! That looks awesome. And yes, I can imagine the panic .. w/o any trouble at all.

    I’ve not ventured into useing dye, yet. I’ve been toying with the idea on my TV lift cabinet because the cherry ply and real wood seem to be coloring differetnly. Never thought about using a spray bottle … hmmm.

  2. Joe,

    Braver than I am. After that much work making buttons I sure wouldn’t want a dye job to mess it up :-).

    Looks good,


    • I’ve dyed other pieces — and I did some samples just to be safe. The Shellac is the hard part, it’s too easy to get it uneven and blotchy. With the dye, you just wet the whole thing and then dry it off. It’s hard to mess up (unless you pick a bad color or something).

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