Stain for totes and knobs

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Forum topic by luthierwnc posted 01-08-2016 02:11 PM 688 views 0 times favorited 1 reply Add to Favorites Watch
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148 posts in 2043 days

01-08-2016 02:11 PM

Hi All,

I recently repaired a broken tote tip on a Stanley No. 7 plane. It severed in the usual place level at about the middle of the top brass nut. A previous owner took half an inch off the bolt and reamed the hole so it wouldn’t jab his hand. I bolted the tote to a vertical sled and ran it through the table saw to get a level base for new wood.

I do have some Brazilian rosewood but that is earmarked for a sadly limited number of guitar bridges. I have lots of cocobolo scraps though and found one that had similar veining. Cocobolo is a close cousin, very hard and can be a bit greasy—although the plank I’ve whittled down wasn’t. It does clog sandpaper quickly.

The repair went well but the color didn’t match so I thought I’d help the situation. Here’s the warning: Potassium dichromate is an industrial chemical with known serious side effects. Using a quarter teaspoon in a half inch of hot water in a jam jar never bothered me but take appropriate precautions. Mine came in bright orange crystals and looks like the breakfast drink Tang (is that still around?) both in the granulated and mixed form. It is also a mordant rather than a stain or dye and actually changes the chemical nature of the wood.

Mix it thin and subsequent coats make tannic woods darker with each app using a damp (not wet) rag and gloves. If you need to blend the woods, hit the lighter wood with an extra coat. I put one coat on this tip using a Q-tip. If raising grain is a problem, damp sand twice before using this as the final coat(s). It dries in 5 minutes.

The chemical is a dead ringer for the browns in Brazilian. Fresh-cut cocobolo is an orange/pink although it oxidizes pretty dark in a year or two. In the picture you can still see the seam but I’d call this a tolerable match without obscuring the grain. I gave this one a couple coats of Tru Oil and bolted it back on. So for the knowledge-bank, remember that if you have to do a rosewood repair with new stock.

FWIW, a trick I learned for rosewood and mahogany repairs: lightly jab a utility knife along existing open pore lines so they extend into the new wood—or vise versa. Using a darker pore-filler you’ll get extra blend on the seam. You can also fake the black lines on rosewoods with a sharpie. Not something to bother with on a plane tote but could come in handy elsewhere.


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1417 posts in 1444 days

#1 posted 01-08-2016 02:41 PM

Nice repair and thanks for the info on staining the wood.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

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