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

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Forum topic by SMP posted 05-21-2019 02:39 PM 1599 views 1 time favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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SMP

1042 posts in 295 days


05-21-2019 02:39 PM

Hello all,

I am making a flag display case for my brother’s flag we will be getting next week. After years in the military and sheriff/SWAT, he retired and got more into old style recurve and long bows. One of his favorite bows was a curly maple and some other exotic hardwoods(I can’t remember). I believe this is the brand of bows below, so if you can look at the top bow in the picture, I am hoping to get a finish similar to that color. I have no experience with dye, but am willing to learn if that is the best option for curly maple. Thanks in advance!
Steve

top bow in this page
https://bobleebows.com/shop/custom-bows/exotic-classic/


22 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5545 posts in 2882 days


#1 posted 05-21-2019 03:38 PM

I suspect dyes will get you that color, it may take a little trial and error to get the right mix. I’ll also bet that bowyer would give you some tips if you give him your story.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View bc4393's profile

bc4393

76 posts in 1532 days


#2 posted 05-21-2019 03:40 PM

I was real excited to find this article and I tried on a jewelry box I made for my mom.

https://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/videos/pop-goes-the-maple/

Except it was a disaster. I had to re-sand the whole thing out after using the dye. It was a nightmare. When i sanded it back out over the next 6 work hours and finished it the second time I skipped the dye. Unless the whole thing is uniformly sanded edge to edge (and I’m talking about using a magnifying glass here) The dye will sit in the low areas (scratches from the sandpaper that are perfectly acceptable when finishing with lacquer or shellac) and they will show up big time and make the wood look dirty. I couldn’t sand out the inside of the box because the corners were the problem area and it’s maple so it’s hard to sand anyway! I ended up felting the whole inside of the box to cover it up. Never again. You’ve been warned lol. I guess maybe you could put a couple coats on before the dye coat to keep it uniform but I’ll let you do it and tell me how it goes. :) Also don’t get excited the top of mine is walnut, not darkened curly maple. haha

View OSU55's profile

OSU55

2303 posts in 2379 days


#3 posted 05-21-2019 03:47 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.

View Rich's profile (online now)

Rich

4483 posts in 979 days


#4 posted 05-21-2019 03:53 PM

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.

-- Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill. -- Shinichi Suzuki

View Kirk650's profile

Kirk650

646 posts in 1138 days


#5 posted 05-22-2019 01:07 AM

I used Charles Neil’s blotch controller on a large maple blanket chest that I had no idea would be so hard to dye brown without blotching. It took maybe 2 weeks to finally figure out how to do it. I wanted a dark brown with a touch of red. I went through many test boards before I got it right. I suggest using that blotch control, and it will take some practice. It will work.

That’s the last thing I’m making from Maple….probably. I should have made that dovetailed chest from Cherry.

As I’ve mentioned before, I put many coats of Waterlox on that lovely chest and drove 800 miles to deliver it to a cute little grandniece, who then climbed up on it and tap danced in hard soled shoes. I wobbled, but didn’t faint.

View wood2woodknot's profile

wood2woodknot

101 posts in 2363 days


#6 posted 05-22-2019 03:32 AM

I’ve had really good results with GF Nutmeg gel stain. Most of mine has been on poplar. The thing to note is that the more grain pattern and structure the wood has, the richer the results. Minimal grain pattern results in blah, uninteresting finish. Arm-R-Seal Satin (3 or 4 wipe-on coats) makes an attractive, tuff topcoat finish. The gel stain eliminates a lot of problems with dyeing and staining. Nutmeg gel stain is a medium density stain that accents the highs and lows of the grain patterns – not too light and weak; and not too dark and overly dense. Be sure to make tests on samples similar to the wood/grain of your final wood chooices.

-- ajh

View MPython's profile

MPython

130 posts in 201 days


#7 posted 05-22-2019 12:57 PM

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.

Here is a better view. I couldn’t get it to post from Flickr.

[url=https://flic.kr/p/2e4cd4o][img]https://live.staticflickr.com/4890/46637466812_cc030d623b_c.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/2e4cd4o]IMG_1622[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5545 posts in 2882 days


#8 posted 05-22-2019 04:36 PM

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”.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View avsmusic1's profile

avsmusic1

418 posts in 1074 days


#9 posted 05-23-2019 01:49 PM

I second to search for charles neil tiger maple videos http://www.cn-woodworking.com/make-tiger-maple-pop/

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.

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

3412 posts in 1777 days


#10 posted 05-23-2019 02:10 PM

I had the same thought as avsmusic1. Isn’t figure just an extreme form of blotching? Why is it necessary to use a blotch control? If the dye turns out too intense, can’t you just sand it back? Just curious for future reference.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View SMP's profile

SMP

1042 posts in 295 days


#11 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 http://www.cn-woodworking.com/make-tiger-maple-pop/

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.

View OSU55's profile

OSU55

2303 posts in 2379 days


#12 posted 05-23-2019 03:39 PM

The suggestion to use blotch control was based on the provide link to a picture – the bow didnt appear to me to have much color variation. Obviously using blotch control reduces color variation – or “pop” – which is created by the different absorption levels of grain variation. Also stated not to use blotch control for the 2-tone method which provides much greater color variation. It all depends on the desired end result.

Good to hear you are practicing different methods before botching the actual projects.

View Rich's profile (online now)

Rich

4483 posts in 979 days


#13 posted 05-23-2019 03:48 PM

One thing I discovered was that TransFast powdered dyes do not work well for this. If you take a few drops of the dye dissolved in water and put it on a paper towel, the colors separate. Apparently the same thing happens on curly maple and the result is a mess. I couldn’t figure out why my first tests were so awful, until I realized it was the dye. Switching to TransTint fixed it.

-- Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill. -- Shinichi Suzuki

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

3412 posts in 1777 days


#14 posted 05-23-2019 04:07 PM

Rich, did you use distilled water to mix the Transfast? I seem to remember seeing that when you mix relatively dilute colors, they recommend using distilled water to avoid problems (or something like that). I just bought some Transfast recently but have not tried it yet. The local Rockler was out of the color I wanted in Transtint so decided to give it a try.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Rich's profile (online now)

Rich

4483 posts in 979 days


#15 posted 05-23-2019 04:59 PM


Rich, did you use distilled water to mix the Transfast? I seem to remember seeing that when you mix relatively dilute colors, they recommend using distilled water to avoid problems (or something like that). I just bought some Transfast recently but have not tried it yet. The local Rockler was out of the color I wanted in Transtint so decided to give it a try.

- Lazyman

Yes I did. You want to mix with hot water as well.

Mix some up and put a teaspoon or so on a paper towel. It will separate into rings of the colors that make up the dye. It dyes wood like alder perfectly (with blotch control), but for curly grain it separates and what’s left after sanding is just not pretty. Hard to explain, but if you try it you’ll see what I mean.

I got curious and tried a couple. On the left is Antique Cherry Red and on the right Brown Mahogany.

-- Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill. -- Shinichi Suzuki

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