How to dye wood blanks

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mtgrizzly52

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I have looked in the Library, in a lot of the individual forums here, page by page, and did a couple of searches, but never did find anything substantial on how to dye wood blanks. I have a special order for a pen and they want the blank to be the colors of the University of Montana Grizzlys, which is burgundy and silver. Since I haven't been able to get sucked into the casting side of this crazy hobby yet, I thought the best solution would be to dye a light colored wood such as maple or birch to the right color.

The only problem is, I can't find anything substantial on how best to dye wood, or what dyes work best, so if anyone can help point me in the right direction, I would appreciate it very much.

Thanks!

Rick (mtgrizzly52)
 
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ldb2000

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There are several different dyes and ways to dye wood . The simplest way is with Food Coloring . Just do all your finish sanding (MM or whatever) then mix the color you want and apply it to the wood . This only dyes the top layer of the wood so you can't sand the wood anymore , just put your favorite finish on .
You can use Aniline dyes the same way , even Rit Fabric dyes work this way .
"If you want the dye to penetrate deep into the wood you will need to use Vacuum and Pressure to get the dye into the wood .
The Burgundy is no problem but there is no Silver dye that I know of .
 

mtgrizzly52

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There are several different dyes and ways to dye wood . The simplest way is with Food Coloring . Just do all your finish sanding (MM or whatever) then mix the color you want and apply it to the wood . This only dyes the top layer of the wood so you can't sand the wood anymore , just put your favorite finish on .
You can use Aniline dyes the same way , even Rit Fabric dyes work this way .
"If you want the dye to penetrate deep into the wood you will need to use Vacuum and Pressure to get the dye into the wood .
The Burgundy is no problem but there is no Silver dye that I know of .

Actually the burgundy is what I need to use as a dye, and then I plan to segment the blank (actually will do this first) and use aluminum to represent the silver portion of the colors. I think it would look pretty good.

Thanks for the information on how to do the surface dye. I think this process will work for what I need to do. Just curious, how many coats of dye would you put on, do you immerse the blank in the dye and leave it for a period of time, and how long does it take to dry before you are able to put a CA finish on it for example?

Finally, I would be interested in the vacuum and pressure process for future projects if you have any information you could share on that process.

Rick (mtgrizzly52)
 

ldb2000

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Im curious, is there a way to use pressure/vacuum without a pressure pot? Please advise. I want to start doing this, minus the dangers of pressure pot..

Not really . You need some kind of vessel to contain the vacuum and pressure . There are other types of pressure and vacuum chambers but most of them cost thousands of dollars and can be even more dangerous .
The standard HF pressure pot is fairly safe if used with in the specifications .
 

ldb2000

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Actually the burgundy is what I need to use as a dye, and then I plan to segment the blank (actually will do this first) and use aluminum to represent the silver portion of the colors. I think it would look pretty good.

Thanks for the information on how to do the surface dye. I think this process will work for what I need to do. Just curious, how many coats of dye would you put on, do you immerse the blank in the dye and leave it for a period of time, and how long does it take to dry before you are able to put a CA finish on it for example?

Finally, I would be interested in the vacuum and pressure process for future projects if you have any information you could share on that process.


I forgot to add , the food coloring is not lightfast , it will fade if exposed to bright (sun) light . The Rit dye is a little better but it will fade if exposed too long . Analline dye are the best for keeping thier color but , for me anyway , they are the hardest to apply . Mine always come out blotchy .

Rick (mtgrizzly52)

It depends on the dye you use . I use food coloring most often and can get the color and saturation I want with just a coat or two .
Apply it on the lathe , on slow , with a paper towel to spread it out and just add a drop at a time till you get the color you want .
I have also used the Rit fabric dye on several occasions and applied it by dipping the paper towel in the dye and wipe it on with the lathe spinning slowly . The Rit dye is very powerful so be careful about how much you put on or dilute it a little to make it easier to work with . I do believe they make a color they call Burgundy , might be worth a trip to the local supermarket or fabric/craft store .
 
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nava1uni

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I use Ph Martin liquid watercolors, food coloring, Rit dyes. I turn the blank down to where I want it to be then use a foam q-tip(get them at a beauty supply) and apply the color with the lathe off. I slowly turn it by hand and apply dye until I get the color I want. I let it dry overnight. I then lightly sand with 600 grit to remove any fibers that may have been raised by the dying. I then apply another coat and let it dry again overnight. I then micro mesh starting at 6000 lightly up to 12000 so not to remove any dye, just smooth the wood. Then I apply a CA and again let it dry overnight before I assemble the pen If you practice on a similar piece wood you will be able to achieve exactly what you want and learn about dying.
 

greenmtnguy

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There is a gel food coloring that is inexpensive. Sugarcraft makes it. I have dyed curly Maple with a variety of colors. Turn the blank and finish sand. Apply the gel with a paper towel as the lathe is running. I apply CA over the top in 7 coats so as not to sand into the dye.

1_Green_Maple.jpg
 

mtgrizzly52

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Greenmtnguy, that pen is awesome looking. I want to thank you all for your comments and help. I have picked up a ton of ideas from you all and now I can't wait to get back home to get to work on the blank. I did look this afternoon at a local store for a burgundy Rite dye and they had one that looks really close to the color I want. I'll share the results with all if I'm successful. If I'm not, then I'll slink off into the snowy Montana mountains in shame! *LOL*

Any other ideas out there would be fantastic to hear about!

THANKS ALL!

Rick (mtgrizzly52)
 

dankc908

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For vacuum I use my wifes food saver, really helps suck the dye into the wood.

Can you describe how you use this? My wife doesn't use/want her Food Saver and if I had a use for it in "the shop" she would let it go (in fact, she'd probably do the dyeing for me)!

Dan
 

Rick_G

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Can you describe how you use this? My wife doesn't use/want her Food Saver and if I had a use for it in "the shop" she would let it go (in fact, she'd probably do the dyeing for me)!

Dan

Foodsaver has a special lid designed to be used with mason jars. I fill the mason jars about 3/4 full with an alcohol based dye and drop the drilled blanks in. Pull a vacuum with the foodsaver and let it sit a few hours. Doesn't work as well for hard solid woods like maple, I think you would need pressure for them to force the color into the wood.

For the harder woods I turn and sand to the point where I would add finish and put them in the dye for a few hours. When I take them out I let them dry for an hour or so then put them on the lathe and rub with a paper towel to warm the blank and wipe off any surface dust. Then finish with CA as usual.
 

holmqer

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Is it possible to dye thin strips of materiel before turning them and get color all the way through?

I do this with full size pen blanks, for harder woods I might drill them undersize first.

Vacuum / Pressure is especially effective with burls. With a burl due to the variable grain orientation and density, you get a mix of dyed wood and undyed wood in the burl pattern which can look quite nice.

For burls, the vacuum / perssure method results in a very different look than rub on. Each look has it merits and it's really just a matter of personal taste. I personally prefer the look of vacuum / pressure on burls.

For curly woods, the rub on method results in much more vivid colors than you get with vacuum / pressure. Once again it is a matter of personal taste.

For more plain looking wood, the vacuum / pressure method tends to look fairly drab for my tastes.

A down side to Vacuum / Pressure is that wood will color shift the dye more than the rub on methods do, so it is more difficult to predict what results you will get.

The dying method you use should be driven by the visual effect you are trying to get.
 

glycerine

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Im curious, is there a way to use pressure/vacuum without a pressure pot? Please advise. I want to start doing this, minus the dangers of pressure pot..

I've seen vacuum chambers online that people have made from PVC pipe. I would be careful if using it for pressure though. I guess it all depends on how much pressure you're using.
 

KenV

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Dan -- The Wilton colors that we have around are in a sugar base, but are diluted with water or alcohol so the concentration is not high. Wood does have some sugars in it, so that does not seem to be an issue.

Food Colors are not especially color fast, and will fade pretty fast in extended exposure to sunlight. My wife uses the wilton colors to dye fibers for spinning/weaving where color fast is not a concern. The Dharma Trading colors are more complex to use, but are long long lasting, even with a pretty good dose of sunlight over time.

Some neat effects can happen with dyes being sanded back and re-dyed with a different color. The wilder the grain, the better the contrasts.
 

SavageMind

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wood dyeing

I have a chamber vacuum sealer that I use for my culinary exploits. Would this be effective to force ink deep into the wood? They would be in individual bags vacuum sealed.
 

chrisgeeo

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I'm in the process of learning to dye blanks too. I have tried the alumilite dyes in Cactus juice trying to stabilize and dye at the same time with little luck. Has anyone tried the alumilite dye dissolved in Isoprophyl Alcohol? Was thinking of trying to make up a enough in a small container to cover the blank and put it under vacuum to get it to absorb into the blank better.
 

JPW062

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I use dye from this company. http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/3796-AA.shtml?lnav=dyes.html
They work well on wood and come in a lot of colors. Instead of mixing with water, I use DNA and get good results. For vacuum I use my wifes food saver, really helps suck the dye into the wood.
Does anyone know how powerful a vacuum this pulls compared to a Harbor freight pump? I think part of the issue might be the strength of vacuum. I have a food saver and could use it with a trap type jar without worrying, but I don't think it really pulls much vacuum.

Does anyone use the large Ball jars as a primary container with small ball jars as a secondary? I was thinking something like a 1 gallon or half gallon pickling jar for the primary, the a smaller one for secondary. It looks like the lid size may not vary much between sizes so it might not be possible to drop a small jar into a large one.

I want to dye pieces for a cutting board type glue up that will then need to be milled flat and square. I can lose the dye in places for a worn effect, but need it to be deep enough most of the wood will retain the dye color.
 

JPW062

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Well, I ordered the foodsaver mason jar adapter set, some 64 oz mason jars, and will use some DNA based dye. Maybe transfast since it has both colors available. Transtint does not have grey.
 

JPW062

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Well, that didn't work. At all. I was very hopeful when I started the process. A fair amount of air was bubbling out. I re-engaged the vacuum several times over the course of about 1.5 hours as the jar did not hold vacuum with the foodsaver adapter attached. Maybe if I took it off and put the ring on. The instructions indicated the top would seal wuth just the vacuum. More air came out each time I engaged the vacuum, so I thought that would have better results. I then left the blank out for 3 hours while the DNA evaporated. Once dry I split the blank using a chisel and mallet. The dye had only heavily penetrated, maybe 1/32 through the heartwood. The sapwood had a thorough penetration, but very light in color.

I grabbed a piece out of the scrap box to test. I believe it was hard maple. That may be part of the problem. Maybe a large part. I have some pine around I will repeat with. I suspect I will be ordering fixtures and a vacuum pump shortly though.
 
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