Finishes for Figured Woods

Glen’s Dye Finish Method

Flame or curly birch, tiger maple and other hardwoods with heavy grain embellishments are best finished, in my opinion, using aniline dye. It’s the best finish I know of to highlight any grain characteristics. I used a variety of colors depending on the woods I’m coloring. For any light woods I use a 50/50 mixture of Moser’s golden amber maple and brown walnut dyes.

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Aniline dye is sprayed on the project and kept wet for five minutes so it can soak into the grain. Any excess is then wiped dry.

The process is easy. Sand all the parts to #180 grit.  Knock off any sharp corners using #120-grip sandpaper, so the dye better soaks in and so any film finish rolls around the edges – sharp edges inhibit a continuous film from covering the corners.

If the piece has many wide flat surfaces, wet the entire piece using a water-soaked rag. Water raises the grain, so after the surface dries completely we need to sand the surface a second time. And by wetting ahead of the dye, we hope that the grain raises less when the water-based aniline dye is applied. If your project is something else – turned, perhaps – forgo the water-raising step.

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6 thoughts on “Finishes for Figured Woods

  1. Enjoyed reading these !

  2. I was previously unaware of the “sanding while wet” method. I’m definitely gonna try that on my next project.

  3. You both used water-based dyes. Why not alcohol?

    1. To clarify–does the finish look different using water vs alcohol?

      1. It’s been such a long time since I used alcohol dyes – they dry way too fast for many application, and cause lap marks. But at the end, if I remember correctly, the look is not different when using the same colors.

    2. Mike,
      Using a water-based dye makes the mixing, application and clean-up easy. The only thing you need to remember when using water-base dyes is that the dye application raises the grain. How and when you knock down that raised grain is where Chuck and I differ. Sometimes. If we’re working on figured grains, we knock down the “fuzzies” then apply a coat of BLO.

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