Finishing: Analine Dye Preference Water or Alcohol Based??

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Forum topic by Crushgroovin posted 04-05-2011 03:42 AM 5898 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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234 posts in 3193 days

04-05-2011 03:42 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing

I am in the process of purchasing some Fumed Oak Dye from WD Lockwood. There are 3 different types that can be mixed with Water, Denatured Alcohol, or Turpentine. I really don’t want to mess around with Turpentine so that is off the table. So that leaves Water Based or Alcohol Based. I know everyone is all about how great an wonderful Water Based Finishes are but I am concerned about raising the wood on fine detailed areas and small strips. Plus I am using some Oak Plywood with a very thin veneer and I don’t need any help sanding through the veneer, I’ll be lucky not to do it during normal production.

Thoughts or Opinions from those who have worked with Dye’s?? Let’s try to keep it civil. Hopefully no one is to emotionally tied to Dye ;)

-- I wouldn't be so arrogant if you weren't such a moron!

8 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3917 days

#1 posted 04-05-2011 03:48 AM

Alcohol dyes are easiest to work with, imo.

I like the water-base ones too, but you have to raise, dry and sand
the grain a couple of times first to get a good effect. Alcohol dyes
don’t raise the grain much.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4014 days

#2 posted 04-05-2011 03:50 AM

What Loren said, plus the water based are more color-fast. I’ve only used water based dyes.

View drewnahant's profile


222 posts in 3358 days

#3 posted 04-05-2011 03:53 AM

woodwhisperer recently posted a good video on dying. link

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3320 days

#4 posted 04-05-2011 04:32 PM

I have to start by saying that at this point, I have only worked with water based dyes, not alcohol. With that being said though, if I were in your situation, I would seriously consider the alcohol based dye, due to your concerns with grain-raising of both the plywood and detailed areas, as those would also be my concerns, from the sounds of what you’re wanting to dye.

What are you going to be putting over/on top of the dye? If you go with a water-based top coat, it’ll start pulling water based dye out, unless you’ve got a wash coat of shellac, or some other barrier coat between the two water based products.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2924 days

#5 posted 04-06-2011 06:47 PM

I’ve worked with both. They each have their strengths and weaknesses.

Alcohol based:

1. Dries extremely fast so it is very easy to get lap marks when applying with a brush
2. Dries extremely fast so you can move on the the next step sooner
3. Less color fast then water based (not sure why this is)
4. Does not cause grain raising
5. Easier to prepare for the sealer step

Water based:

1. More color fast (doesn’t fade like the alcohol based can)
2. More forgiving in application (stays wet so lap marks are not as big a problem)
3. Raises the grain (that needs to be knocked down before sealing)
4. Takes longer to dry. Longer time until you can put on the seal coat

A way to get around grain raising from the dye is to first spray some water on the surface to be colored, let it dry THOROUGHLY. then LIGHTLY sand with 400 grit to knock down the nibs then apply the dye. You want to make sure you don’t start “sanding” the wood (getting more then nibs in the sanding process) because you will then get grain raising problem again.

The best way I’ve found to apply dye is to spray it with an HVLP sprayer. You get even coloring and no lap marks.

Another thing with dyes, you need to apply a seal coat like dewaxed blond shellac before the top coat. This seal coat should be sprayed because when you drag a brush across a dyed board, the shellac can slightly dissolve some of the dye and now you have color absorbing into your brush. When you stick the brush back in to the can/container, this color gets in to the container.

The beauty of dyes is that they do a much better job of evening color and solve blotching problems for wood like maple, cherry and alder.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3320 days

#6 posted 04-06-2011 07:02 PM


You’ve mentioned several excellent points and details that the rest of us glossed over. Especially the “scuff sanding” of the raised grain. You’re not really even sanding so much as “wiping off” the nibs, since it’s a lighter touch than actual sanding.

I’ve only brushed on water-based dye, but I bought an HVLP sprayer (Earlex) to spray dye and other finishes.

What about first spraying a wash coat/seal coat of dewaxed shellac, maybe a 1/2-pound or 1-pound cut to seal the wood, then spraying a water based dye, then another wash coat of shellac before applying whatever your topcoat is going to be, especially if the topcoat is also water based? If you do have a sprayer, it seems like this is the way to go, or something similar, at least from what I’ve read about and seen others do.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4397 days

#7 posted 04-06-2011 09:11 PM

TransTint dyes can be used with both water and alcohol, or even added to your top finish as a toner.

-- 温故知新

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2924 days

#8 posted 04-07-2011 05:38 PM


As far as adding a seal coat before the dye, this would cause the dye to not soak into the wood. The dye needs to soak into the wood.

Another option is to use dewaxed, blond shellac and add coloring to it to get the wood coloring/tone you want. I’ve done this on several occasions. This way you apply your coloring and seal coat at the same time. The more coats you add, the darker the coloring will be. This also works great on woods that tend to blotch when stained. I’ve also done this successfully with solvent lacquer (not water based).

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

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