Preparation before dyeing wood
Before starting, make sure that the wood is as clean as possible and that there is no grease or wax on the surface. These will prevent the dye being absorbed.
Previous coatings must be completely removed for the same reason. If your wood has been varnished, one option rather than having to painstakingly remove it all is to apply a suitable coloured varnish over the existing one. Alternatively, use a varnish remover.
If the wood has previously been stained, all is not lost as wood stain remover can be used.
Be sure to follow all safety instructions when using chemicals.
The bare wood should also be perfectly smooth. Sand thoroughly finishing with a fine grade of paper. Note that sanding across the flow of the grain will leave scratches which, whilst they may not be visible yet, may become exaggerated when the dye is applied.
If you are planning to use water-based dye, be aware that the grain of the wood will swell when it is applied. It is not a good idea to sand the wood after it has been dyed since the colour will become non-uniform.
The trick here is to wet the wood after it has been sanded, allow it to swell the grain and dry, then give it a final sanding before applying the dye. This will, in most cases, almost eliminate any further swelling of the grain.
There are a vast number of different dyes available and the final results will depend on many factors – the number of layers, the type of dye, the type of wood as well as the application.
Dye colour samples
Making a sample board could be very beneficial. It will let you see exactly the final effect. Choose an offcut of the same wood used to make the item, or if that is not possible, try to find a piece which is the same type of wood and of similar colour. Apply a coat of stain to the sample and allow it to dry. Now apply a second coat to half of the sample and allow to dry. Finally, apply a coat of the varnish you intend using over the dye, to the whole piece. This sample will now show the final result for both one and two coats of dye.
Once happy with the sample, work can commence. The technique for applying dye is a little different from painting. The dye is very much more fluid and will dry very quickly into the wood. It is important not to brush it about too much.
The trick is to work quickly, evenly and methodically.
Always read the label and take the necessary precautions.
Step by step guide showing how to colour wood using dye whilst keeping its natural beauty. Details for preparing the surface and applying the dye with a brush or cloth
Lay the dye on using a relatively large brush and a fairly liberal coating. Blend the edges of each area of work quickly and keep going until the section is complete.
Application using a lint free, clean cloth is a much favoured method. The speed of work increases and seems more contolable.
Wear gloves when using this method to avoid staining your hands as well.
Put some dye in an old ceramic bowl or disposable foil dish, bunch the rag into a pad shape and dip it into the dye. Wring out any excess and apply using a rubbing action.
If possible, Lay the workpiece flat. This makes life easier as wood dye tends to be very fluid and runs easily.
Overlaps of dye are probably the most common cause of unsatisfactory results. These occur where the dye has already soaked into the wood and is recoated inadvertently. Take care to work one section at a time leaving a tidy and reasonably accurate edge between panels. Keep the dye flowing so that it doesn’t have a chance to dry out on you.
With a panelled door, for example, follow the same sequence as shown for painting, but take extra care not to overlap onto the surrounding sections.
On floors, apply the dye to a couple of boards at a time along their entire length. Keep the edge between this and the next pair of boards accurate.
On large panels, the most difficult of all, use a sufficiently large brush or cloth to enable you to keep the working edge wet. If the edge is allowed to dry, the application of dye alongside it will inevitably cause doubling up resulting in a darker patch at the join.
When dry, apply a second coat if required. Allow this to dry and then varnish to protect the surface.