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Using dyes with inlays

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Forum topic by BillGo posted 04-12-2021 01:09 AM 320 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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BillGo

171 posts in 218 days


04-12-2021 01:09 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question basswood walnut finishing

I am making a lazy susan with matching trivets for a friend to use in his dining room. He wanted a pattern of shamrocks. The table is a grey color, so we decided on a black walnut base with the shamrocks on them. I did not want to paint them, we looked at epoxy, but could not get the green to pop with the walnut, so I have moved to using an inlay using a green dye. My hope is to start with a square base of walnut, make an inlay in the shape of a shamrock with a light colored wood (birch) and stain it green, and then finish with a shelac finish.

I am using ColorFX dye. I made a bright green, and made is a water based solution. I experimented using the dye on a variety of light colored wood (maple, birch, pine, basswood) and ended up deciding to to with the birch, because I found an interesting piece of curly birch that looks great with the dye.

I have not done inlays before, so I decided to experiment. I didn’t want to use the curly birch, so I decided to use a little of the basswood, since it took the dye similar to the birch. I thought if the inlay went OK, I might try to dye the practice piece too. Here is here I ended up with the inlay:

i had a couple issues with the inlay.
1. Grain! I didn’t pay attention to the grain orientation when I cut the two pieces. I meant to have both grains going the same direction and screwed that up…
2. Not happy with the gaps I have. I tried to fill them with glue sawdust combinations but was not real successful. I tried to work the glue sawdust down into the gaps with a toothpick, but the gaps are really not big enough that I could do a very good job, and when I ran it through the planer to even the surface, it seemed to take off all that glue mixture. I was trying to be extra careful not to mess around with the glue once I had the surface clean, because I knew it would mess up the dye.

Anyway, I decided to move on to the dye phase. I used a small brush, and applied the dye very carefully around the edge being very careful not to get any on the walnut. Then, I filled in the rest of the basswood, going back and filling in any areas that were colored inconsistently. Here is where I ended up after applying the dye:

It seems, as the dye soaked in, there are some places where the dye bled from the basswood over to the walnut. I tried to wet a paper towel, and clean it up. It does turn the paper towel green, so I know I am getting some picked up, but didn’t clean it up like wiping up paint. I assume that is because the dye is running in the grain of the wood, and not lying on the surface like paint.

So my questions are about filling in the gaps: Is there a good way to do that without messing up the wood for the dye and finish?

...and question about preventing the bleed over of the dye. Am I getting this where the fit is tight? Does the glue prevent this? Would I have less of this if I use a different medium for the dye?

Any help is appreciated!

-- Bill - in New Hampshire


7 replies so far

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woodbutcherbynight

9215 posts in 3493 days


#1 posted 04-12-2021 04:55 AM

What about using the dye before you insert into the piece? I do multi colored stuff all the time and if possible do the different pieces separate, then assemble.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

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hairy

3275 posts in 4616 days


#2 posted 04-12-2021 12:49 PM

Maybe this video will help to avoid the gaps, it really helped me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwS1NSg_EB4

-- You can lead a horse to water, but you can't tie his shoes. Blaze Foley

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Foghorn

1217 posts in 471 days


#3 posted 04-12-2021 02:44 PM

A coating of shellac in the inlay cavity will help with bleed through.

-- Darrel

View BillGo's profile

BillGo

171 posts in 218 days


#4 posted 04-12-2021 03:31 PM



What about using the dye before you insert into the piece? I do multi colored stuff all the time and if possible do the different pieces separate, then assemble.

- woodbutcherbynight

I thought about that, but the inlay was raised up, and when I planed it flat, I would take the dyed layer of the wood off.

-- Bill - in New Hampshire

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BillGo

171 posts in 218 days


#5 posted 04-12-2021 03:32 PM



A coating of shellac in the inlay cavity will help with bleed through.

- Foghorn

Nice! like that idea. I will give this a try on my next practice round!

-- Bill - in New Hampshire

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BillGo

171 posts in 218 days


#6 posted 04-14-2021 12:18 AM

Coming back to”gaps”. A very important piece of information that I left out of my first post, is that I cut both the positive and negative for my inlay with a laser cutter. I don’t think that is going to work. I feel that the laser (which is burning the wood), will never be as clean and accurate as a blade (cutting the wood fibers). I think some of the variations are due to the way the laser burns through the hard and soft parts of the wood… :-(

-- Bill - in New Hampshire

View Foghorn's profile

Foghorn

1217 posts in 471 days


#7 posted 04-14-2021 03:56 PM


Coming back to”gaps”. A very important piece of information that I left out of my first post, is that I cut both the positive and negative for my inlay with a laser cutter. I don t think that is going to work. I feel that the laser (which is burning the wood), will never be as clean and accurate as a blade (cutting the wood fibers). I think some of the variations are due to the way the laser burns through the hard and soft parts of the wood… :-(

- BillGo


I’ve only done inlays for guitars. The positive pieces are usually shell but sometimes wood. These are usually cut with a fret saw and filed to shape or commercially available ones are sometimes used as well. The pieces are tacked down with a drop of CA glue and then carefully scribed. I use a machinist’s scribe. The piece is then released with a little acetone. Chalk is rubbed into the scribe line. The cavity is then hogged out with a Dremel in a router base or as I now use, a die grinder in a base. Then using an opti-visor and good lighting, you rout right to the edges so the chalk line “just” disappears. I lay a piece of dental floss into the cavity when doing test fits to make it easy to remove the piece after test fitting.

Dark woods are easy to work with as usually epoxy with matching wood dust is used and hides any gaps very well. On lighter woods, I’ll usually do a contrasting color (usually black) as using light wood dust doesn’t usually look as good. Pressing the inlay into epoxy results in even squeeze out that is then sanded level after it cures. Any bubbles or voids are filled using the same epoxy and a toothpick.

Things are obviously a little different when working with larger, less complex inlays that can be done using a positive and negative bushing for inlays. You can also use medium CA in black to fill gaps if it’s a black outline you’re looking for. StewMacs and others carry it.

-- Darrel

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