View Full Version : Darkening, matching wood

07-06-2013, 03:17 PM
I made a saya out of walnut to pair with a rehandle job made of dark walnut burl. I need to darken the saya significantly, but I'd like to keep the grain n figuring as much as possible. Any thoughts?

07-06-2013, 03:34 PM
Use oil when you are sanding.

07-06-2013, 03:39 PM
Use oil when you are sanding.

I did that, I think I will to go darker... maybe as far dydeing it?

07-06-2013, 05:14 PM
Wood stain from the hardware shop.You will have to experiment on a scrap piece to get the colour match.

07-06-2013, 07:07 PM
Orange shellack.

Burl Source
07-06-2013, 08:39 PM
as a last resort.....
dark brown oil base Fiebings leather dye. You can get it online or at any Tandy's leather store.
Be sure to get the oil based stuff.

Marko Tsourkan
07-07-2013, 12:02 AM
I used to use water based dyes, but found it difficult to get a perfect match, so now I just try to find a shade of walnut that wold match handle material instead.

Oil will bring color in the walnut, but it doesn't really darken it. I would say, leaving natural walnut finished with oil or TruOil slightly mismatched will look better than poor dying job.


07-07-2013, 02:38 AM
I always like it when people ask woodworking questions. It's the one thing I can confidently add to on the forums to return the favor of knowledge others have given me about knives.

Your coloring question is a pretty common problem when building furniture or restoring antiques - especially when trying to match light sapwood to dark heartwood, regardless of species. There are, of course, lots of approaches and preferences. Here, since you're matching the Saya to the handle - techniques that impact grip texture won't be an issue - so I'd steer you towards dyes. (handles might be different)

Stains, as a matter of function, are pigment and binders that largely float on the surface. As a result of that, it's harder to build color in layers without losing grain pattern. Dyes, in contrast, are smaller particles that settle more deeply into the wood pores and grain. You can use them straight before a clear coat sealant, or mixed into a clear coat (oils, lacquers etc as a toner) and you can build them with several layers to inch your way toward the coloring you want without losing the grain in the finish. The biggest key is prep so you'll get even absorption of color. (This is especially true for figured woods or woods with varied grains like birch or maple. Without careful prep they will absorb finish unevenly and get blotchy)

My favorite recipe is a few step process. First I'll sand it to about 120 or 150, intentionally not too fine. I'll then remove the dust with denatured alcohol and hand wipe on a thin coat of shellac. For walnut, I'll usually use a garnet shellac instead of blonde but that depends on whether I need to add a little red tone to the coloring base. I apply the shellac with a balled up lint free rag that has been moistened with alcohol, so it flows smoothly. You have to move quickly and steadily to make sure you get even coverage. (Shellac dries fast and if you are using a darker colored version you need to be careful to avoid lap marks from applying - otherwise you'll end up in an improvised "french polish" method trying to get an even and smooth result - lighter shellac is easier).

After letting the shellac dry to a hard film, I re-sand with 180 and 220 grit. The purpose of the shellac was largely a sanding sealer to help normalize the grain so you don't get that blotching with the color stage because of uneven absorption of finish. It also effects the light reflectivity which will influence color and shine at the later stages but coloring is secondary with the shellac stage.

After shellac as a sanding sealer...next coats are dye. "coats" because it can take a few. I like a product called trans-tint. Some have used leather dyes successfully too as mentioned above. With wood specific dyes, can buy oil or water soluble versions and mix in the proper solvent. (Water will raise the grain requiring more sanding and can be trickier to get even color from so would avoid).

I like to use oil soluble dye and I dilute in into the tung or linseed oil products (or lacquer) that's been thinned up to 30%to improve penetration. Technically most call this a "toner" depending on how much you thin it ...you build colored topcoats one at a time until the desired shade. If you want high gloss, you can lightly sand between coats and lastly use a clear topcoat that you'll sand and buff to the desired sheen. On furniture, I might do three layers of color toning followed by a full strength (undiluted) clear coat for protection...then sand to 320 and one or two coats of the clear thinned 30-50% for a thin smooth coat that will buff to a high gloss. Lastly, if an antique style where I want a matte finish that people are drawn to want to touch it, I'll wipe on a homemade beeswax/oil paste mix and buff it out to leave a sort of hazy, silky shine. It's a lot of work -- often as time consuming as building a piece of furniture in the first place if drying time is factored in.

As noted in Marko's reply- it can be very difficult to get a perfect match. It's almost more art than technique - knowing which colors to layer and how many layers of them to use.

Often, when using dyes as a toner in woodworking and looking for a faster method, you end up dying both pieces to insure they have the same color tone. That's the only sure way. It will be easier with oil based dyes than water based as mentioned...and the shellac as sealer does help...but it's a tricky trial and error process to get it just right. Test boards are a must if you have the time and patience to do that.

Good luck with it.

07-07-2013, 06:32 AM
:goodpost:good to see another wood burner on the forum