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Solution for dyes

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by Marc Snyder, Jul 4, 2020.

  1. Marc Snyder

    Marc Snyder

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    I am just getting started, experimenting with dyes. I am trying to figure out the advantages and disadvantages of using water, alcohol, acetone or other solutions for my dyes. I am eager to hear your thoughts and experiences.
     
  2. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    while other dyes may share some of these properties
    I like alchohol based dyes because

    dry quickly - can add more color to spots within minutes
    Colors mix easily on the wood for rainbow effects.
    A spritz with alcohol gets the colors moving again if you want to get them to mix differently
    Colors can be lightened by using an alcohol dampened cloth to take the color up
    Sands back nicely
    Colors are vibrant. Hard to beat the chestnut

    one disadvantage difficult to use over sandblast resist because it aggressively wicks under the resist. Have success applying Lightly with an airbrush.
    I now use airbrush paints. Not sure if transparent airbrush paint qualifies as a dye. The effect is similar.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2020
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  3. John Dillon

    John Dillon

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    I've used the Transtint dyes (Homestead Finishing Products) , liquids and powders, and mixed with water. Might seem kind of expensive at first, but a small bottle goes a LONG way. You want to use distilled water not tap water when mixing so you don't have any issues with hard minerals in some tap waters reacting with your wood. Unlike alcohol based dyes, when you use water based you will get some grain raising with the first go around. I typically lightly spritz the wood with plain (no dye added) distilled water prior to applying the dye solution. You don't have to soak the wood by any means. After lightly spritzing and allowing to dry (will typically dry in an hour or two), you can lightly sand with a 220 or 320 grit to smooth out any raised grain. Don't sand too hard, just go lightly to take down the raised grain fibers, otherwise you risk raising the grain, again, when you apply the dye. I think the colors are very vibrant and cleanup is easy with brushes, etc. with a good washdown in the sink.
     
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  4. Roger Wiegand

    Roger Wiegand

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    I too like the TransTint dyes made up with alcohol. I really liked the alcohol soluble TransFast powders, but they are no longer made. I just find alcohol to be a friendlier solvent than water, both because it's easier to wash out the dye when you've gone too far and because it doesn't raise the grain. Dries a lot faster as well.
     
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  5. Richard Coers

    Richard Coers

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    I've had good results with General Finishes Dye Stains. Well all except for blue which hasn't aged well. The rest of the colors have done well and the price is very good.
     

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  6. Gerald Lawrence

    Gerald Lawrence

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    I have been using Chestnut Stains and Chromacraft, both alcohol. All my water based is another brown mostly but really do no care for the grain raise and lack of uniformity that I found it to have. Seem to get better coverage with the alcohol based.

    Not the scope of your question but I get darker and more vibrant color with the Chromacraft. Both work well and if you want lighter colors they are easy to dilute .
     
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  7. Bill Blasic

    Bill Blasic

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    I wrote an article on dyes. This may or Fig. 2 (Small).jpg Fig. 3 (Small).jpg may not help.
     

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  8. Donovan Bailey

    Donovan Bailey

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    I don't have a lot of interest in coloring wood. However, all you guys should take a look at Curtis' colored box in the gallery section above. Now that is some fine work by any standard.
     
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  9. Marc Snyder

    Marc Snyder

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    It appears that most folks (at least those whose replied to me) prefer alcohol over water. I was wondering about acetone. I see Bill Blasic used acetone and was positive about it. I wonder about others’ experiences with alcohol vs acetone. Thanks
     
  10. Richard Coers

    Richard Coers

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    I've read about a shortage on DNA, so if you intend to start this soon, that may alter your direction. Personally, I like to limit my exposure to chemicals, so acetone and DNA with it's increasing use of methanol percentages are seeing more limited use in my shop.
     
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  11. Roger Wiegand

    Roger Wiegand

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    Never tried acetone, it is so volatile that I'd think it would be difficult to hand apply. Probably great if you spray it. It's also extremely flammable, with a very low flash point. We had many more benchtop fires in the lab from acetone over the years than any other solvent, though ethanol was used a lot more.
     
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  12. Bill Blasic

    Bill Blasic

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    I dye a lot and have never had a problem with acetone. I buy it by the gallon. I like it with dyes because after applying it when I no longer smell it on the piece I know the dye is set. Acetone has given me as much time as needed to apply what I do. I have dyes mixed with alcohol and find them to be no different to work with than acetone as far as raising grain and if there was no acetone I would use alcohol. If you want long lasting color use a metal acid dye as all dyes are no way created equal.
     
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  13. Roger Wiegand

    Roger Wiegand

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    As the terms are generally used, dyes and pigments are very different beasts. Pigments (as used in most oil stains) are typically finely ground minerals or particulate organics that color the surface in much the same way as paint, the color is inherent in the pigment and lays on the surface. Dyes are organic molecules that chemically bond to molecules in the wood (mostly not covalently). Most pigments are quite color fast due to their nature-- iron oxide will be red pretty much forever, and the classic clay pigments like sienna and umber are similarly mineral colors. In contrast the dyes are organic molecules, often subject to degradation by UV or even visible light. They are fully dissolved in their solvents, there should be no particles. There are huge differences in the longevity of such dyes when exposed to light; the early aniline based dyes were very subject to fading; current generation meal acid dyes (TransTint is a major brand) very much less so. Many of us prefer dyes because of the clarity of the color; pigment particles tend to obscure the surface of the wood.

    To further complicate matters, many stains that come in a can incorporate both dyes and pigments. (explaining why you can apply a lovely brown oil stain to say, your dining room floor, decide it was too dark, wash it off with solvent and be left with a pumpkin orange room. (DAMHIK))
     
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  14. Mark Jundanian

    Mark Jundanian

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    @Bill Blasic , what do you wear for gloves when handling acetone? I find that it quickly penetrates 5 mil nitrile gloves.
     
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  15. Roger Wiegand

    Roger Wiegand

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    Butyl rubber is recommended for prolonged contact. Double gloving with nitrile is OK for short exposure.
     
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  16. Russell Nugent

    Russell Nugent

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    Cannot find DNA up here in Alberta where I am. Canada is strange, DNA is very hard to get but exceptionally toxic methyl hydrate, feel free to buy as much as you want. The only denatured alcohol I've been able to find was bioflame alcohol stove fuel but that appears to be gone as well, I assume due to the pandemic.
     
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  17. Marc Snyder

    Marc Snyder

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    Russell - I believe they use a different name for denatured alcohol in Canada, methylated spirits.
     
  18. Richard Coers

    Richard Coers

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    American sold DNA is getting more toxic than before with higher percentages of cheaper methanol. Side note, read today that FDA is warning about certain brands of hand sanitizer that were made with methanol. Kills virus, germs, and you!
     
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  19. Bill Blasic

    Bill Blasic

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    I put my dyes on with transfer pipettes or air brushes so nitrile glove works because when I get to hold the piece where the dye has been administered it is basically dry. I don't think that it has ever penetrated my glove.
     
  20. Bill Currier

    Bill Currier

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    Well, if you REALLY prefer alcohol and don't want the denaturing substances, you can buy 100% food-grade ethanol from various suppliers. Lab Alley has it for $70/gallon, for example. (www.laballey.com)
     
  21. Roger Wiegand

    Roger Wiegand

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    100% ethanol is a pain to maintain and unnecessary for most needs. Ethanol is quite hygroscopic and unless you have the means to keep it dry will quickly turn into 95% ethanol. Traditional production methods involved co-distillation with benzene, something you'd prefer to avoid. I don't actually know how they make it these days. Back in the day when making "dead duck punch" from lab ethanol we always opted for 95% to avoid the trace benzene.

    Getting an ATF license to purchase pure ethanol without the liquor taxes added on is certainly doable, but somewhat of a pain. There are a lot of rules about how you have to account for it.
     
  22. Bill Currier

    Bill Currier

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    Lab Alley sells food grade, no license required, tax included in price. I was only half-serious suggesting it, but for those REALLY concerned with denatured, it's an option. They sell 70% all the up to 100%.
     
  23. Lamar Wright

    Lamar Wright

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    Would just regular 91% rubbing alcohol mix well with dye's?
     
  24. Bill Currier

    Bill Currier

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    Lamar, yes. In fact, that's what I actually use: Plain old 91% denatured from Target, Walmart, etc. (When you can find it these days.) The lower the alcohol percentage, the greater you will raise the grain. Whether or how much that's an issue depends on how you're going to use it. My primary use to-date has been to highlight figured maple grain. When I do this, I have to sand the dyed wood to the point of almost removing all of the color anyway, so it really doesn't matter.

    I don't want to dismiss people's concerns, and there ARE people who are particularly sensitive, but most of us are exposed to denatured alcohol in all kinds of products with no issue. (Hand-Sani, anyone?) For those, non-denatured ethanol is one choice. I wonder if someone with issues with denatured alcohol would have issues with some dyes too. Trans-tint dyes are metal-acid dyes, for example ... not exactly wholesomeness and sunshine either.
     
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  25. John Tisdale

    John Tisdale

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    You might try http://www.wdlockwood.com/.
    You won't find locally - need to order online.
    Even if you never try, you will benefit from clicking around their site and reading - you can take their tips/suggestions to the bank. Be sure and read: USAGE - SUGGESTIONS FOR PREPARATION
    Not sure how it compares price-wise - I think less due to it be powders.

    I've used their walnut metal-complex a bunch - very diluted w distilled water. I first spritz with distilled water and then saturate with a water solution of dye (you can also mix most of their stuff w alcohol. Never tried the alcohol nor the oil-based - never will - I got the results I wanted.

    SUGGESTION: Get one type and get good with it.
     
  26. Roger Wiegand

    Roger Wiegand

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    Absolutely agree with your suggestion. If you don't have a baseline it's very hard to figure out if you're ever making any progress, and trying to get good at multiple things at once doesn't usually work for mere mortals.

    To your other point, that strikes me as one of those interesting personality differences. My reaction to doing something and having it come out exactly as I hoped it might is to say "Great, now how can I make it better?". This served me very well as a scientist where pushing past the comfort zone and out into unknown territory. Getting the results I wanted meant I wasn't learning anything new; every new discovery starts with an experiment where you look at the results, scratch your head and wonder what the heck just happened. As a hobby woodworker it's fine for me; I'm not as productive as I might be. If I were trying to earn my living producing turned objects it would be a disaster.
     
  27. John Tisdale

    John Tisdale

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    Roger,
    Thanks - your comment sent me down an interesting rabbit hole - not a bad idea to reexamine your practices from time to time. A dye or a gouge or a lathe is the "extrinsic" and the skill/experience of the user the "intrinsic". The dye I use is proven to provide great results - the skill of the user (me) is another matter.

    In the mid-50's the national skeet championship was won by an outsider using a model-12 with the stock held together with electrician's tape. When asked the inevitable questions he replied, "I just point and shoot like I've always done and try not to hit the dog".
     

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