dyeing wood for marquetry

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Forum topic by tom posted 10-18-2009 09:38 PM 12631 views 4 times favorited 49 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 5401 days

10-18-2009 09:38 PM

I would like to make some realistic leaves for a double bevel marquetry project. I will be making my own 1/16 ” veneer. Is there a way to dye the wood green to penetrate into the veneer so I can make leaves that will stay green after scraping the surface flush with the rest of the inlay? alternatively is there a wood that is naturally green that I am not aware of? Thanks for any help


-- tom

49 replies so far

View Julian's profile


884 posts in 4806 days

#1 posted 10-18-2009 11:24 PM

For dying all the way through you’ll want to look into vacuum infusion. Here's a great website for learning how to do it.

-- Julian, Homewood, IL

View SteveMI's profile


1170 posts in 4575 days

#2 posted 10-19-2009 03:25 AM

Julian – I looked at the article and video on Joe’s site, but don’t grasp the process. What part does the vacuum play in the dye penetrating the wood? Is the vacuum on one side and the dye on the other? I could be completely dense here.


View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 5368 days

#3 posted 10-19-2009 03:44 AM

Wood is porous.
By immersing the wood into the dye solution and then attaching the vacuum it will draw the dye solution into the pores as the vacuum sucks the air out of the wood.
Obviously, the more porous the wood, like balsa, or the thinner the slice, the more the dye will be infused into the wood.

If your leaves are small enough you can put them in a pint or quart jar, without the lid, and put that inside a gallon pickle jar. Attach your vacuum to the pickle jar and wait a day or so.

Or you can buy white veneer and just let is soak in a green solution (diluted food coloring) for about 30 seconds
Or you can buy green veneer. Paul Schurch sells green veneer.


-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View tomd's profile


2222 posts in 5051 days

#4 posted 10-19-2009 07:18 AM

You can do a search for alowood it comes in several colors, Rockler used to carry it. It is real wood but colored all the way through.

-- Tom D

View tom's profile


7 posts in 5401 days

#5 posted 10-19-2009 12:03 PM

thanks for all the info, since I don’t have a vacuum pump I’ll try looking for green veneer


-- tom

View Billp's profile


804 posts in 5480 days

#6 posted 10-21-2009 02:21 PM

You can also get dyed veener at B&B rare woods

-- Billp

View daveintexas's profile


365 posts in 5156 days

#7 posted 10-26-2009 06:25 AM

One tip I read from a very good woodworker is to use Rit dye.
I have not tried it, but it makes sense.

View Jones2016's profile


15 posts in 1809 days

#8 posted 12-14-2016 04:03 AM

I am trying to do full-thickness veneer dying (Transtint) but have not had success yet with either denatured alcohol or lacquer thinner.

I am hoping someone here has done vacuum infusion for dying veneer and can give me a few hints… here are my questions:

1. Needed vacuum: the vacuum infuser from JoeWoodworker (excellent site, helpful) as put together with standard vacuum pump system there is preset for 21 mm Hg. Is that enough, or do I need a stronger vacuum?

2. Time for infusion: I note above that there is a recommendation to put it in a pickle jar under vacuum for a “day or so”. What time table am I looking at to expect success? I have tried up to an hour as a single vacuum application without significant effect except for external staining.

3. Is there any advantage of pulling vacuum more than once to try to “force” dye in ?

4. The dyes I am using are able to be used in any solvent—but if I want to add white to them to get different hues, etc, THAT stuff is more particulate. Is there any way that this would be able to be incorporated in full-thickness dying?

5. I have already purchased multiple dyed veneer and the color options are not sufficient—and actually there are very few sources outside of Europe/UK/Italy/India… and hence the need to get this working.

I appreciate any help with this! Thanks!

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2902 posts in 4202 days

#9 posted 12-14-2016 01:03 PM

For green leaves I use poplar. Parts of it are green and I set this green wood aside to use when I do this double bevel inlay/marquetry


-- No PHD just a DD214 Lubbock Texas

View shipwright's profile


8760 posts in 4078 days

#10 posted 12-14-2016 03:49 PM

I am dying some 1.5mm (1/16”) veneer at tha moment. For this experiment I used textile dye (Tulip I think it was) and soaked the poplar veneer in a hot bath of it for three days. It is penetrated all the way through.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Jones2016's profile


15 posts in 1809 days

#11 posted 12-29-2016 09:11 PM

That result looks great. I unfortunately don’t have the space/equipment/ability to oversee readily to use heated baths. Also trying to use non-water solvents to avoid wood grain issues. I’m therefore stuck with having to figure out the vacuum infusion technique. There is very little helpful info out there in terms of pressure, time under pressure, time before removing from solvent dye, solvents, wood species that work great vs terribly.

Have tried repeated searches on this. The author of the vacuum infusion device cited at the beginning of this thread does not appear to offer support (has moved on to other things).

If anyone can give further direction, that would be great!

View shipwright's profile


8760 posts in 4078 days

#12 posted 12-29-2016 11:10 PM

The hot bath is easy, just a cheap aluminum baking dish from Safeway and a thrift store warming tray (not a grill, just a warming tray). I don’t undrstand your grain issues. I am using this for some very intricate marquetry and I have no grain issues. Can you expand?
The last picture shows a simple test set I did to check on sand shading characteristics of the dyed veneer (1/16” Poplar)

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Jones2016's profile


15 posts in 1809 days

#13 posted 12-30-2016 03:23 PM

Beautiful work—That setup looks like something I could do…

Is the heating tray a simple on/off or is there a temperature you set it as (like an electric griddle)?

Do you cover the tray to avoid water loss (I assume water)?

My concern about the grain is that H20 would raise the wood grain. But since final projects get sanded, suppose that doesn’t matter as much?

Can you dye more than one piece at a time? I assume you would have to physically separate them somehow but still keep them submerged?

Textile dye: any fabric dye would give similar results? I have invested in some Transtint dyes—

I assume that no color mixed with white would work (appears white works only for surface prep).

Thank you for your help!

View shipwright's profile


8760 posts in 4078 days

#14 posted 12-30-2016 04:29 PM

My tray has a thermostat but as it is just a warming tray, I set at high which I guess is around 140-150 degrees, hot to touch but doesn’t burn you.
The pan is actually a disposable turkey roasting pan that the grocery stores sell. They come with a high, arched top which I did use. The strange thing is that after a day on the hot dye it was dead flat across the pan as if it was made of shrink wrap.
Don’t worry about the grain. I use water at several stages of the marquetry process as I use only hide glues and it isn’t anything to be concerned with.
I have been dying four at a time with nothing is the pan to separate the pieces. I move them once or twice in the three days and they seem to be fine. Don’t worry about keeping them submerged either. They will sink quite soon.
I have used Colour FX dye before. It is an aniline dye like Transtint. They may work on large pieces like this but would be much more expensive and may not be as effective. I now know this works so it will be my go to from now on.
I’m using Tulip dye (Walmart) at the moment but Rit or Tintex would be about the same I believe. You won’t believe how cheap the stuff is.
I don’t understand your comment about white, sorry.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Jones2016's profile


15 posts in 1809 days

#15 posted 12-30-2016 05:42 PM


Tulip dye: the stuff for tie-dyed t-shirts ? LMBO :-)

How much did you have to use for the vat of green ie one tube/half tube per what volume of water? I assume that they can be mixed/matched. Would be nice if there were a color wheel…

Are the Tulip dyes liquid (looks like)?

I had actually thought about buying pipettes to accurately reproducibly measuring the Transtint stuff—and may consider for these (but would likely be overkill)

The white question: softens colors but it is a particulate suspension and settles out in a bottle of “grey” that I made (now black with white at the bottom)

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