Adding color to oak

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Forum topic by HarveyDunn posted 10-31-2020 12:51 PM 241 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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407 posts in 2647 days

10-31-2020 12:51 PM

I’m interested in using color on a box I am building. It will be either white oak or red oak – I’ll test the finish before I decide. I like the high/low effect of pigment gathering in the figure and thus accentuating the grain. I’ve heard good things about Rubio Monocoat, but I didn’t like the colors I saw on their website. Does anyone have any other suggestions? I am a finishing noob and pretty confused.

6 replies so far

View SMP's profile


2868 posts in 821 days

#1 posted 10-31-2020 03:20 PM

Thats kind of a can of worms with what you want. A simple cheap option is a pigment stain or even one of the colored danish oils. I find that the pigments in watch danish oil tend to gather, which sometimes I don’t want. Another option is either just using a clear finish or lighter finish, don’t use a grain filler, then use a colored wax over the finish and the wax will fill into the grain. I have done this with Waterlox and then dark brown wax over and liked the way it looks. If you already have some finishes you can try out what you have on some sample boards.

I got the colored wax idea from Mike Pekovich:

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407 posts in 2647 days

#2 posted 10-31-2020 03:38 PM

Thanks! Maybe I wasn’t clear: I’m for a different hue than natural wood (hue = “color family”, i.e. greens, blue, purple, red…)

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2868 posts in 821 days

#3 posted 10-31-2020 05:38 PM

Maybe you actually want like a figured maple like curly or flame maple with a dye like transtint. If you post an example of what you are trying to do then more people could help, its easier to post a pic than read minds.

View LesB's profile


2668 posts in 4359 days

#4 posted 10-31-2020 05:40 PM

To get your different hue I would suggest a dye not a stain on oak.

Also be aware red oak has open pores that will accumulate more of what ever you use and they will stand out. White oak has almost no open pores and will give a more uniform color.

Protect the dye with a top coat of you choice.

-- Les B, Oregon

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Dave Polaschek

6205 posts in 1498 days

#5 posted 10-31-2020 06:02 PM

Here’s an example of using TransTint red dye mixed into white grain-filler in oak. Didn’t quite turn out how I planned, but my sweetie still thought it was a pretty great present. My thought was to use it to fill the grain, then sand it away so only the grain got the color. Could maybe have done that with more patience, but I was working to a deadline…

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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3831 posts in 2410 days

#6 posted 10-31-2020 09:51 PM

See you moved your question to a separate thread? Moved my response to this thread as well:

Captain, could you give me advice about how to apply to an oak box (and how to prep the surface) and also what steps to take after the dye? The object is a keepsake box, it will only receive light handling, and I don t like the glossy/plasticy look.
- HarveyDunn

Finishing oak is not a simple answer?
There are many ways to use dyes to finish oak. The process depends on desired look (dark, light)?
The way to make QSWO pop in a classic dark mission style finish is more complicated than just using dye.

Here is nice article on several different QSWO finishes that might help:

I use the mission style finish Mark mentions in video towards the end.
Instead of Watco oil finish he mentions, I have use heavily diluted brown (or amber) dye with WB clear coat to create dark honey oak color.

Here is another article on dark oak finish with lot of tips/techniques.:

My usual finish process:
- Sand to 150/180 grit
- Oak does not blotch like many other woods, but 2nd step for most woods is 1lb cut of shellac to control blotch.
- Apply desired dye stain color (use multiple diluted coats to sneak up final color to be safe)
- IF glazing the wood for darkest color or brushing on WB clear coat; apply a seal coat of shellac (1lb cut blonde). Reason for shellac sealer on dye with WB: Brushing on WB top coat, the glycol in finish can drag out the dye. Spraying on WB top coat does have this issue.
For lighter colors, using a solvent based clear coat, skip this step.
- Sand with 220.
- If dark mission color: Apply oil based gel stain as glaze to darken the pores, let dry fully, and sand lightly with 320
- Apply top coat.

If you don’t want shiny plastic look, try spraying a satin lacquer as top coat.
Another natural looking wood finish I like for hand rubbed look is Tried and True Tung Oil or Vanish Oil If you lay down too many coats of varnish it can get shiny. Simple rub it out with white plastic scuffing pad (#0000 steel wool equivalent)

Not an expert, just sharing what works for me. YMMV


-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

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