Where to Start With Dye's for Cherry

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Forum topic by afnid posted 10-26-2010 08:17 AM 8983 views 2 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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15 posts in 4010 days

10-26-2010 08:17 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question cherry finishing greene and greene arts and crafts dye transtint transfast

I have been researching this for awhile, and seems every article on finishing always has a special section for Cherry. I am doing a greene & greene inspired piece, and have pieces of cherry that are definitely not from the same tree let alone the same forest. I don’t think I have much sapwood in exposed areas, but I want to even up the initial coloring before it ages. I don’t want to hide the grain, but don’t want to just go natural either.

So I want to play with dye’s, and have plenty of information on ways to apply them and finishing schedules to reduce splotching etc, etc. I was thinking of starting with some orange/amber/dark mahogony shades. But then I saw all the other colors needed if you want to counter to much of any one shade. Flexible, but getting expensive quick. I want to create sample pieces and get them out in the sun for a few days to see how they look.

I have since acquired “Understanding Wood Finishing: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish” by Bob Flexnor and “Tauntons Complete Illustrated Guide To Finishing” by Jewitt, and working my way through the information.

I am thinking a finish as:
- A wash-coat to reduce splotching, probably shellac.
- Dye/Coloring
- Shellac seal-coat
- Varnish/Mineral Spirits/BLO or Varnish/Turpentine/Tung Oil or ..

Where should I start other than with nearly every color?

Is there something you would consider the essential colors?

Are there colors I can avoid since they can be derived from others?

How about using dye after artificial chemical aging?

And last but not least, specific brand experience with spraying?

I was convinced transtint was the way to go, but then was leaning towards transfast since it sounded a little more flexible, but then i saw transfast alcohol soluable was labeled discontinued in the homstead finishing products catalog (sent an e-mail, but no response). And what about J.E. Mosers Dye from Others?

I have read a lot of articles/threads on this and reading the ‘stickly finish’ thread again, so I apologize if I missed the obvious answers.

4 replies so far

View barryvabeach's profile


159 posts in 4130 days

#1 posted 10-26-2010 02:15 PM

Flexner is the bible, so follow it and you should do fine. I think your schedule is fine – washcoat, dye , not sure you need the seal coat, but it shouldn’t hurt. In terms of color, the first question is where do you want to add up. Again, go through his book, IIRC, it has lots of finished pieces, so open to a page you like and use that as the color you are shooting for. You can also buy a color wheel
which can give you an idea of what colors to mix to end up with a certain shade. I would go with a premixed dye that is close enough to the final that you can live with it. I really like Behlen Solar Lux, , but any commercial dye, including the Transfast should work as long as it is the right shade. I don’t spray dyes, just flood the surface and wipe it off. I don’t used the transtint as a dye – I use them as toners – so I just add a few drops to the finish to get some color in the finish, which can really help to even out the color when the wood takes stain differently. You are going in the right direction in making samples – get a small notebook and write down exactly what you did, and either keep a small piece of the sample for the future or take a photo. In terns of spraying experience, I spray water based topcoats with an HVLP gun and have had good success with Enduro, General Finishes, and Hydrocote, and Target.

View childress's profile


841 posts in 4629 days

#2 posted 10-26-2010 08:50 PM

Check out Charles Niel. He’s got a blotch control that works great with Cherry, check out his video…

-- Childress Woodworks

View afnid's profile


15 posts in 4010 days

#3 posted 10-27-2010 01:03 AM

I read using sealcoat will prevent the dye from lifting when rubbing in the oil finish and spraying to avoid excessive pooling, but I will do some comparisons.

From my basic understanding, stains use opaque pigments, and the general finishes, or solar-lux are highly diluted so are more comparable to a dye? I read a claim that mixol from woodcraft can also be diluted enough to appear translucent. Seems like a distinct and maybe subtle difference, but the same effect? I will do some more reading..

So I am leaning back towards transtint, just seems easier to deal with for playing with different color combinations. I am thinking at least:

Dark Mahogany

And maybe some more, I want to try some things beyond my current needs (and skills) to see how it works out.

@childress – Thanks, I hadn’t seen that video yet, I was an easy sale.

View barryvabeach's profile


159 posts in 4130 days

#4 posted 10-27-2010 01:40 AM

The sealcoat will lock in the dye or stain, but lifting is usually more of a problem when the dye or stain can be redissolved by the finish. If you use a water or alcohol based dye, I doubt an oil based finish will lift it, but then again, no harm in using the sealcoat. If you want to do some color control ( mix your own dyes) a good start would be a medium brown ( mahogany or walnut also can work pretty well ) then a red, blue and green – you would start with the base brown and add a little red to make it warmer, a little green to make it cooler. Here is a page that gives you the general formula for many popular colors –
If you go to Jeff’s site, he tells you which dye relates to which color on the color wheel You are right that stain use pigments – Solar lux looks and works exactly like a dye – though I did check and it is referred to as a “highly Fade and U.V. Resistant dye base Non Grain Raising stain.” As Flexner says, you can’t count on the manufacturer to give you much helpful info, but one test is whether any sediment on the bottom of the jar or can, and with Solar Lux, no pigment settles to the bottom. So that is a fairly big difference between dyes and stains. But keep reading and experimenting. Finally, if you want to expose the wood to light, I would do it before to your samples before you apply dye and finish – not after – otherwise the boards may move in different directions in terms of color.

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