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Posted on Need tips on finishing curly maple to a nice brown for flag display case

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2858 posts in 819 days

#1 posted 05-23-2019 03:09 PM

I suspect you will need blotch control, regardless of stain or dye. Read about here. Get plenty of wood so you can do a lot of testing before doing anything with the ready to finish project. For a display case, I would use regular poly thinned 1:1 with ms, and mix dye directly in. I use WD Lockwood oil based dye dissolved with acetone and naptha (about 1:2). It may take several dye colors mixed to get just what you want, and testing of mix concentration. That’s the hard part. Application is very easy – after blotch control and light sanding (leave the dust), flood the surface, keep wet for 10 min, wipe off, let dry 2-4 hrs, repeat, let dry min 4 hrs. Wet sand with poly/dye mix, wipe off. You can keep wet sanding with finer grits and wiping off, or simply do wip-on coats till you get the film thickness desired. I would wet sand sand up to 1500 or 2000. That might do it for a satin finish.

You dont mention it but with curly maple many times people want a 2- tone color, very dark brown or black with a medium color over it. Use a dilute dark dye, sand back, may need 2-3 coats sanding back between each, then finish as above. Do not use blotch control.

There are many other products and methods to get there, but this is actually a very simple method that will produce a fine and slick finish, and can be used to produce different colors and final finish sheens and looks depending on film thickness and final finish methods. There’s always packaged dye stains and other finishes depending on application method, wipe on, brush, spray.

- OSU55

Thanks, will try those methods. The 2 tone color technique like Charles Neil videos does look really interesting, to do like a brownish, then a yellow/golden, I’ll keep that in my back pocket for a future project.

Charles Neil has some videos on youtube showing how to use dyes on curly maple. It basically involves repeatedly applying the dye, sanding it off which leaves the curls enhanced.

I ve also used a method from The Art of Coloring Wood involving sodium carbonate (a laundry soap enhancer) which has the effect of deepening the appearance of the curls.

Start with Charles videos though. They are pretty thorough.

- Rich

Thanks, watched some and am trying that method on some scrap, has been rainy here though so going slow.

I ve had good luck coloring curly maple with Trans Tint dyes. Before applying the dye, I apply a “wash coat” of Seal Coat shellac cut in half with denatured alcohol (DNA), I.E., dilute the Seal Coat as it comes from the can by half with alcohol. This gives you about a 1# cut that is very thin. Sand the maple to 320 or 400, then apply the wash coat. As soon as it is good and dry (it dries very quickly) sand it with 320 or 400 grit paper. The thin shellac soaks into the figured grain and partially seals it so it won t absorb too much dye and turn out blotchy. I mix Medium Brown Trans Tint with Dark Mission Brown Trans Tint until I get the color I want. Make a “rubber” to apply the dye. Take an 8” square of lint-free cotton (an old, well-washed T shirt works fine). Make a ball about the size of a golf ball or a little larger of either cotton cloth or cheesecloth, place it in the middle of the square, wrap the cloth around it and tie it off with a piece of string so you have a ball of cloth wrapped and tied inside a piece of lint-free cloth. Soak the ball with dye. I put the dye in a plastic squeeze bottle so it s easy to squirt what you need on the rubber – you ll need to continually soak the rubber with the dye. Gently rub the dye on the sealed maple. Move quickly to cover the entire surface because it dries fast and will streak if you re not careful and quick. The ball of cloth inside the rubber acts as a reservoir for there dye. Squeeze the rubber as you apply it to release more dye, and recharge it as necessary. Put on lite coats and repeat until you get the color you re looking for. When it is completely dry, sand lightly with 320 or 400 grit paper. The sanding will remove some of the dye from the straight grain and leave the curly grain darker, accenting the curl. Finish with an oil based finish. Don t use shellac as a final finish. The alcohol in the shellac will dissolve the dye and move it around where you don t want it. An oil based finish won t do that. As others have recommended, try all of this on scraps of maple until you get the effect you want before applying to to your workpiece. Experimenting on your workpiece almost always leads to disappointment.

Here a photo of a curly maple chest of drawers I built for my daughter thatI dyed using this method. I wanted it to finish a light color with the curl accented so I didn t apply much dye. You can achieve a darker overall finish or adjust the color by mixing the dyes to get the color you want (including Dark Reddish Brown TransTint to add a little red if you like) and apply more of it (repeated thin coats) to get the depth of color you want. Go slow and sneak up on the the end result you re looking for.

Good luck.
- MPython

Thanks, trying the seal coat shellac on some scrap. Great looking chest of drawers!

You should be able to tell if that particular piece will blotch by wiping it with some mineral spirits (or DNA, or water). It won t impact whatever you decide to do and give you some of idea of whether you see “blotch”.

- Fred Hargis

Always forget about that trick, thanks!

I second to search for charles neil tiger maple videos

Quick question prompted by some of the other posts regarding blotch control – wouldn t applying this inhibit the “pop” on tiger maple? I ve only used tiger maple twice but neither time used any type of sealer or blotch control b/c i essentially was looking for uneven absorption.

- avsmusic1

Good question, and I am experimenting now on a scrap piece. From what I have seen so far, it does look like using the elmers glue and water mixture is drastically reducing the curl pop. But I am going to wait until I do more testing and finish. Ironically, so far that section has the best color for what I am wanting it to look like.

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