Using Lee Valley Aniline Dye for the first time...

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Forum topic by Willeh posted 02-16-2012 08:29 PM 15778 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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228 posts in 2905 days

02-16-2012 08:29 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question finishing

I’m trying out the Lee Valley Aniline Dye mixture for the first time on a project. I’m building a Dartboard cabinet out of some nicely aged Cherry, and am planning to use the Antique Cherry dye to give it a bit more aged look. This project is the first time i’ve tryed to do all of the surface prep by handplane only, no sand paper involved, and am very happy with the result. The surfaces are all smooth like glass and look great.

Last night, I pulled out the instructions from the dye packet and started to read them through. The instructions indicate as follows:

”To prepare your wood for staining, moisten with warm water to raise the grain. When it dries, sand with fine paper. You will get better results if you use new garnet paper and sand at a slight angle to the grain. This will cut off the fibers instead of just pressing them back down. Finish with strokes along the grain. Repeat the wetting and sanding as often as necessary to remove the fuzz, then clean the wood.”

The instructions go on to say:
”The stain dries for recoating in twelve hours. You may find the grain will still lift after applying the stain. A thin wash of shellac or lacquer applied after the stain has dried will make the fibers stiff and brittle so they can be sanded more readily. It will also help prevent cutting the stain on the edges and harder parts of the wood. Ammonia, bichromate of potash, or acetic acid (vinegar) is sometimes added to a stain solution to stiffen the fibers, but this is not necessary. Successively finer grits of sandpaper should be used with each sanding.”

Question is, this negates the idea of having a no-sandpaper finish, which was my main purpose in doing this project as a skill builder. Am I ok to just paint the stuff on without doing all this sanding, or will i ruin my project? I’ve never used a water based dye before, so i’m not sure where i’m heading.

-- Will, Ontario Canada. "I can do fast, cheap and good, but you can only pick two... "

16 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5235 posts in 4526 days

#1 posted 02-16-2012 08:47 PM

Grain raising is normal with water based coloring agents. Remember that wood had/has water in it. It is not as prevalent with alcohol based dyes.
I know of no way to eliminate sanding to reduce grain rasing.

-- [email protected]

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3576 days

#2 posted 02-16-2012 08:49 PM

Water-based anything will lift the grain and require sanding. If you’ve not dealt with raised grain before, it’s annoying, and it will certainly make your glass smooth finish rough.

If you really want to try avoiding sandpaper as a skill-building exercise, you might be able to use a card scraper to smooth things out after the dye.

Another option would be to seal the wood with shellac prior to using the dye. Of course, then you may not get the penetration you want from the dye and it would act as more of a toner/glaze than a stain.

Try some options on a sample board:
dye + scraper
shellac + dye

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View MichaelR's profile


42 posts in 2994 days

#3 posted 02-16-2012 09:00 PM

I use water based aniline dyes on a lot of my projects and after reading your instructions I have been doing something close to that for years. I do the water wash to raise the grain then lightly rub it down with #320 grit. After I apply the dye, I give it a full 12 or more hours to fully set then wipe/burnish it down with a clean cotton cloth. I feel this adds a little rubbed down look without the risk of sanding into the colors. I do NOT use a water based stain or top coat over the dye. I’ve had it lift and wash out the dye colors. I will use an alchohol or oil based stain over the dye. I use shellac, poly or lacquer as a top coat depending on final use. That is when I’ll use 400 grit or 3m pads to knock off any remaining nibs. The dry cloth rub earlier knocks most of them off.

As an afterthought, to get an aged cherry look I use a light wash coat of mission brown dye, followed by a dark or brown mahogany stain. I feel it gives the piece a little more aged depth.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10809 posts in 4618 days

#4 posted 02-16-2012 09:11 PM

The stuff I like the best is:
Trans Tint

It is very versatile… can be mixed with Water, Shellac, etc. (read details).
It is very powerful and goes a LONG ways! (USE protective gloves!)

If you decide on using water, which is the way I use it, expect the grain to be raised… to be very lightly sanded off.

It’s great stuff… I just wipe it on with a Rag T-shirt material… if some areas become darker, because you got more liquid into an area than another, you can rub more into the lighter areas to get things balanced. Very easy to work with. I love it!

I’ve also found that Woodcraft always seems to have the better prices on it… It’s not cheap… BUT goes a LONG way!

... and you can mix other tints with it to get exactly what you’re looking for…

When good & dry, I rub it down with a clean rag… and usually go to Shellac as the first coat after using it.

I used ”Golden Brown” on my Magazine-Book Case.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View newwoodbutcher's profile


797 posts in 3416 days

#5 posted 02-17-2012 12:35 AM

I have learned the hard way one should never, ever apply a coat of anything to their finished project that hasn’t been completely tested on a sample board from the same material all the way to the final top coat.
When you have invested your time money and gorgeous material up to the final finishing stage, you always test. Never practice with live ammunition here. If you’re lucky you might like it, if not???
My recommendation is to make yourself one or sample boards as you are milling material in the beginning of the project. I like to make them 4-5 inches wide and about 20” long. Using a ¼” dado blade on my table saw and using my niter gauge I cross cut shallow grooves ¼’ deep about the same distance apart as the board is wide on both sides ( so I end up with about eight 4”x4” sample boards all attached), sometimes I make two. Then I apply the dye on one of the 4×4 test board at half or less the recommended strength, apply more coats to achieve the color you want after it dries apply a first (and thin) top coat, de-waxed shellac is my choice here once it’s thoroughly dried try knocking down the stand up slivers with a piece of burlap or perhaps even a paper towel. Sometimes just running your hand or a soft cotton rag over the surface will break them off. Then continue adding topcoats of tour chosen finish till you achieve the results you want. On the edge of each test I write the recipe so I can duplicate that exact finish. If when you get to the last coat you just love it, you’re done and you have recorded the recipe. If not move over to the next sample and try something else. I often have 3-4 samples going at the same time.
On finishes I’m practiced at applying I may just do one or two coats to get the color right.

-- Ken

View Willeh's profile


228 posts in 2905 days

#6 posted 02-17-2012 03:38 PM

Thanks for the great advise guys! Newwood butcher. I do have some scraps leftover so I will do as you say with the sample boards to see how it works out.

-- Will, Ontario Canada. "I can do fast, cheap and good, but you can only pick two... "

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2935 days

#7 posted 02-22-2012 01:09 PM

Is it normal to leave the dye to dry for 12 hours before the next coat? I built an entertainment center out of maple, using TransTint dies, and I would flood the surface, let it sit for a couple minutes, then wipe off. Once the wood felt dry (couple hours), I sanded back down to help make the grain stand out. Did a couple coats like this and it turned out great. Is LV’s dye different?

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11916 posts in 3994 days

#8 posted 02-22-2012 02:14 PM

For your application, the wait time you used was probably adequate. I don’t know if 12 hours is over kill or not. I plan to stain towards the end of the shop day, usually. And, it’s often more than 12 hours before I get back to it.
at any rate, it’s always dry, which is the goal for me.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View shipwright's profile


8415 posts in 3363 days

#9 posted 02-22-2012 03:05 PM

I use ColorFX aniline dyes from Wood Essence. They must be about the same as TransTint because you can mix them with alcohol or water. It can also be used with shellac and several other finishes. They sell a 12 color starter pack that is a very good intro to dying.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View EPJartisan's profile


1122 posts in 3691 days

#10 posted 02-22-2012 06:09 PM

I understand this fear of dyes… I was anti stain for many years, exploring the depths of the wood and it’s various colors within, but then I saw Blakes jelly fish table and decided to try colors.. then I saw Trifern’s vases and his blog on dyes... and fell in love.

So I am heading on that road as well, but already I have discovered different woods stain completely differently, so I am testing everything and documenting everything. Trying dyes in water, alcohol, naptha, danish oil, and a veneer softener… which actually seems to work the best on a variety of woods. I went with the best review i could find and decided to invest in a selection of types and colors of J.E. Moser’s from Woodcraft.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2935 days

#11 posted 02-23-2012 01:19 PM

I’m not trying to threadjack, I feel like this is sort of relevant to this conversation, so I’ll keep this brief :

If you apply a water-based dye, and try to topcoat directly over with a water-based finish, such as WB poly, I would expect the finish to absorb some of the dye, is this correct? When I used dye, I went over with shellac, no issues. But what would happen, or how would it look, with a WB finish over WB dye?

I used a dark walnut dye on hard maple, sanding it back after each of the 3 applications, and was amazed at how great the grain looked afterwards.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View ajosephg's profile


1881 posts in 4126 days

#12 posted 02-23-2012 01:44 PM

I’m curious as to why it’s a skill builder to not use sand paper?

-- Joe

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11916 posts in 3994 days

#13 posted 02-23-2012 02:52 PM

there is a perception that using sand paper takes no skill.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2935 days

#14 posted 02-23-2012 03:57 PM

I think all he was implying by the sandpaper comment was that being able to do this without paper, such as using a scraper instead, is learning one more way to do it. I don’t think he was saying that he wanted to avoid sandpaper because he has anything against it. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and if you find yourself in a situation where you need to skin a cat, and you don’t have a belt sander, you’ll be glad you learned how to skin it with a scraper. Or something.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View TexasJim's profile


86 posts in 3802 days

#15 posted 02-23-2012 09:59 PM

Check out this article by Steve Mickley Mickley has several more articles on that website about finishing. Lots of good info there.

I think trying to get through a finishing regimen with no sanding is not going to happen. I think you can get to the finishing stage using scrapers and planes (I can’t but some can) but most finishes require some sanding between coats to remove dust nibs and to provide a “tooth” for the next coat if you’re using poly.

I agree with the comment that you should try your finish on a scrap piece that you take completely through the process of scraping or sanding, dye, and final coat. I prepared a sample board like this for my first dye experience and put several different formulas (colors) on it all the way through the final coat so my wife could select what she wanted. Keep good records of your dye mixture measurements.

-- If the world was a logical place, men would be the ones who ride horses sidesaddle.

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