Getting from light pine to a professional dark hue

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Forum topic by thedudeabides posted 04-11-2010 04:46 AM 7478 views 2 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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75 posts in 3622 days

04-11-2010 04:46 AM

I’ve got some clear pine t&g I’m installing in lieu of drywall. I’d like to get the wood a nice professional dark hue, like antique mahogany with a deep rich color. I’ve used Lockwood’s Antique Mahogany dye but it ends up just looking like pine that’s been dyed. I’ve messed around with Potassium Dichromate but that’s not really meant for pine (missing the tannic acid I’m guessing). Stains and non-traditional methods (like tea, coffee, kool-aid, etc) just make it look like an obvious attempt to mask cheap wood with something more regal.

I don’t mind a lengthy, intricate process. Can anyone lay out a system to get clear pine looking like it belongs in some robber baron’s 1920’s mahogany lined library? I spent two months applying 23 coats of various finishes to a dining room table and am up for something as challenging for the walls.

3 replies so far

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3968 days

#1 posted 04-11-2010 05:42 AM

ok, i’ll be first, unless i’m not fast enough on the clicker.

1. Pine will blotch so apply a spitcoat of something like General Finishes wood conditioner. I think Minwax make a wood conditioner also. Just enought to even out the pores just a bit. One coat.

2. Then apply dye, either alcohol or water as the carrier. I would mix the dye in steps and apply to test boards. I would try mixing either very dark brown, dark reddish brown, maybe some black mixed in as you go. Stop once you have a reasonable dark board. Remember, you are just trying to initially darken a light piece of wood so the upcoming stain applications won’t need to work so hard. Remember to seal the end grain or they WILL turn black. The board will look ugly with just dye but this is just the first step.

4. After dye, you can apply a thin layer of clear seal coat if you want. It would not hurt.

5. At this point I would try some General Finishes, or similar brand of gel stain. You may need to buy a can or two of different colors to test with. Gel stain sits on top of the board so the more coats you apply, the darker the wood will become. Remember to stir it good prior to applying. Also don’t let it sit too long or it will dry solid. You bet it will. It doesn’t soak into the wood, it lay on top. Oh, I already said that.

6. When cured you can apply a colored wax. The Bison and Briwax brands are DARK. You may not need a colored wax by this time.

7. After allowing time to throughly cure, apply a clear topcoat as you like for whatever sheen you want.

You may have tried all of this. Take my advice for FWIW. Sometimes it is worth just what you paid for it. ;>)

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View Sawdust4Blood's profile


408 posts in 3503 days

#2 posted 04-11-2010 06:20 AM

David is spot on. Dye is the way to go. I personally like Transtint dyes since the same dye can be used in either alcohol or water as a solvent and you can use it to color tint your topcoat. If you go with the Transtint, you’ll definitely want to seal it before you add anything else on top. I like to seal the dye with shellac. I’d try the dye, followed by garnet shellac, then lacquer (light sanding between topcoats).

I don’t know that any of this will make it look like a robber baron’s mahogany…it is after all still pine. However, this finishing schedule has succeeded in allowing me to make poplar look pretty darn close to Rosewood.

-- Greg, Severn MD

View thedudeabides's profile


75 posts in 3622 days

#3 posted 04-11-2010 06:36 AM

Very solid finishing scheme David. Thanks for lending your expertise.

I’m definitely asking a lot from the modest pine, but part of the process is to explore detailed finishing techniques and experiment. I’ve got a spray booth set up in the barn so I can really play around before installation.

I’ve cut six pieces to sample with and I’ll try David’s technique with varying shades of dye and gel stain and see what I can achieve.

I’ll make sure to post photos of the samples, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to turn pine into something more regal with a little woodworking alchemy.

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