Li'l help with staining

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Forum topic by SST posted 08-15-2007 01:15 AM 1420 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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790 posts in 5250 days

08-15-2007 01:15 AM

Topic tags/keywords: stains finishes

I’m restoring a couple of old hand tools that have rosewood handles (or pretend rosewood) and I’d like to get that original reddish finish again. Has anyone found a good way to do this. Also, I’ve been messing, unsuccessfully with trying to get wood fillers to take stain that will remotely resemble the surrounding wood without any success. Has anyone found a good solution? -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

9 replies so far

View MattD's profile


150 posts in 4999 days

#1 posted 08-15-2007 02:45 AM

I just read an article in the latest Fine Woodworking issue about using a combination of linseed oil, turpentine and flaked beeswax to safely restore the finish on old wood tools without damaging the patina and so forth. If you’d like, I could get more details to you from the article.

If the tool handles are dull and dried out looking, I would imagine this sort of finish would darken and deepen the natural colors in the rosewood.

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 5142 days

#2 posted 08-15-2007 02:58 AM

I don’t pretend to know anything about color. I let my wife do that.
But look at FWW articles by Peter Gedrys, or books by Pete. He knows all about it.

If you go look at my projects you will see a top I made out of the cheapest mismatched cherry I could find after I took a seminar from Peter. You can’t tell from the expensive stuff.

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View SST's profile


790 posts in 5250 days

#3 posted 08-15-2007 04:59 AM

Matt, if you could give me the date of the mag you saw the article, I’d appreciate it. I’ve used linseed oil on some older tools and have really liked the result, and was actually wondering if it could be combined with some kind of wax. This sounds like just the ticket, but don’t let that stop you others from adding more ideas. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View MattD's profile


150 posts in 4999 days

#4 posted 08-15-2007 06:09 AM

SST – Sure. It’s in the October 2007 issue (#193). The gist of it is BLO, turp and cheese grated beeswax in even parts to the consistency of butter.. lightly applied with 0000 steel wool and buffed dry.

Post some pics of the results if you can. I think a lot of us would like to see what this does to your tools first. (just kidding)

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View SST's profile


790 posts in 5250 days

#5 posted 08-15-2007 05:11 PM

I probably should have posted this separately, because everyone’s mentioned the finish part of my post, but not the second part dealing with wood fillers. So, here goes again…has anyone had success with any recipe for a wood filler (or any brand name) that will take stain like the surrounding wood. I suppose that any time you add some kind of binder/hardener to a filler material, that part simply won’t absorb pigment.
I know way back in woodshop class (I’m old enough to remember when that was a class you wanted to take to learn skills, not a catchall for kids who want to kill an hour of class time) we used water putty and I think we added powdered colors to it for use. I suppose you might use some kind of water based pigment, either powder or liquid acrylic paints from a hobby shop.
Does anyone do this?

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View MattD's profile


150 posts in 4999 days

#6 posted 08-15-2007 06:28 PM


I’ve heard of mixing sawdust into fillers, but I haven’t tried it. Might be worth experimenting with that.

If you’re trying to fill gaps and such, have you considered using real wood and white glue as a filler? Not that I ever make mistakes (cough), but I’ll use shavings or shims to fill in gaps sometimes and then sand ‘em flush. You can’t even see some repairs done this way if you match the grain right.

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4073 posts in 5119 days

#7 posted 08-15-2007 09:32 PM

SST you can make your own fill putty using sawdust or sanding dust and liquid hide glue. I usually sand it in with a used up ROS disk. Hide glue will take a stain better than white or the aliphatic glues. I too use shims or wedges if there is a wide gap to be negociated, and sometimes use an adjustible pencil sharpener to make fills from cut-offs (Lee Valley actually makes a drill bit with the same taper as a pencil sharpener for just this type of repair). Hope this helps.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View Dadoo's profile


1790 posts in 5045 days

#8 posted 08-16-2007 03:59 PM

I’ve tried several wood puttys including a homemade version that MattD described above. The problem here is that it’s the glue that won’t take the stain. But the best that I’ve found yet, is “Minwax Stainable Wood Filler”. Even that though won’t take stain perfectly. (You can find those nail holes if you look closely). One other way to hide flaws is to “paint” them out. Very meticulous and time consuming, but I saw it done in one of those “furniture restoration” books someplace. The author actually painted the grain on, and then finish with something that won’t (of course) remove the paint!

-- Make Woodworking Great Again!

View Woodminer's profile


69 posts in 4992 days

#9 posted 08-17-2007 06:44 AM

Several thoughts come to mind.

When pianos or other fine furniture get dinged, the ding is filled with stick shellac that comes as close as possible to the background of the wood, and then the grain is indeed painted on.

To the best of my knowledge, you’re not going to find anything that will take stain so that it will match the wood. Physics would probably tell us that’s an impossibility anyhow. Heck, most of us know that if you’ve got great grain (which consists of harder and softer areas of annular rings), you can’t get color to take evenly over the whole area except by painting. If esthetics is your hope, burn-in sticks of colored shellac will probably provide your best result. If you talk with a piano refinisher, you might find a helper.

If these tools are going to be USED and not just trophies on the wall, putting any sort of filler in them is iffy. A good jolt and the plug will pop. Been there and popped that. 8^)


-- Dean, Missouri

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