In search of a unique look for a cabinet I was building, I stumbled upon a black limed oak pedestal. I then discoverd the Ornamentalist's website with step-by-step instructions. This post serves to expand upon the Ornamentalist's instructions, adding extra tips and some "trial and error" insight.
- Anilne Dye (J.E. Moser's alcohol soluble dye - $10.99/oz).
- Denatured Alcohol (1 qt)
- Paint Strainer/Filter (WoodRiver $3.99 for 10)
- Clear Shellac
- Liming Wax (Brimwax - $15.79/8oz)
- Micro-crystalline Wax Polish (Renaissance - $26.97/200ml)
- Miscellaneous Supplies: lint-free rags, latex gloves, tupperware containers (w/ lids), plastic drop cloths (dye solution will soak through canvas), buffing cloth
- Aniline dyes come in three soluble versions; alcohol, water, and oil. I chose alcohol soluble because it will not raise the wood grain (unlike water) and dries quickly (unlike oil).
- Aniline dyes come in many colors. The darker the shade, the more dramatic the liming effect.
wear clothing you don't care about, and always wear latex gloves when handling the dye/dye
*The steps listed below are to be performed after the work piece has been prepped for finish; sanded smooth and all dust removed from the surface.
Step 1: Pour 1 quart of denatured alcohol into a re-sealable tupperware container*. Add and mix in
1 ounce of aniline dye. Mix the contents (chopsticks work fine) until there are no
clumps/solid particles. Continue to mix every 5-10 minutes for an hour to make sure all the
particles have dissolved. Cover the container and let the dye solution sit for a few hours, or
*If you're working on a small project and don't need an entire quart of finish, only mix the
appropriate amount (per the ratio) of what you need. The dye solution does not keep
and shouldn't be stored. Only make what you'll use immediately.
Step 2: When you're ready to use the dye solution, pour the mixture through a fine paint filter and
into another tupperware container. This will remove any particles that were still
suspended in the solution.
Step 3: Using a lint-free rag, apply the dye solution evenly and with the grain of the wood. The
alcohol soluble dye dries very quickly and you can apply multiple coats in a short period of
time*. Two coats should cover everyting uniformly (and save a little extra for Step 5). You
do not need to wipe off the excess. Let the work piece dry for a few hours and then follow
Step 4. As the dye solution is being applied, the finish looks rich in color and even. As it
dries, the finish looks dull and hazy. Do not be discouraged. The color will pop when you
add the shellac.
*Any excess dye solution that is applied, and not absorbed into the wood, will form a
dust-like film on the surface. Additional, and unnecessary, applications of the dye
solution will only add more dust to clean off later. It will not darken/deepen the color.
rich and even during dye solution application
dull and hazy after the dye solution dries
Step 4: After the work piece is completely dry, take a lint-free rag to the entire piece and remove the
film/dust from the surface. Depending on how much excess dye solution was applied, you
may go through multiple rags. When the piece is completely clean, the color will still look
dull. However, the haze is now gone and you can clearly see all the wood grain.
*Best to do this outside, and over grass. The fine dye dust could stain deck flooring and
Step 5: DO NOT MIX/SHAKE THE SHELLAC. If you're buying packaged shellac, there's a good
chance it has wax in it. Removing the wax from the shellac provides a more heat tolerant and
durable finish. When undisturbed, the wax will separate and settle at the bottom of the
container. Open the container and gently pour the clear/yellowish liquid into a
tupperware container. For easier application, thin the shellac (2 parts denatured alcohol to 5
parts shellac). Mix in a tiny bit of the un-used dye solution to the shellac; just enough to tint
the mixture*. This will improve/deepen the final color of the work piece.
*Adding too much dye solution will weaken the durability of the shellac finish.
Step 6: Using a lint-free rag, apply the shellac evenly and with the grain of the wood. The shellac
will be dry and be ready for a second coat in about 45 minutes. You do not need to sand
between coats. Once dry, the piece should be as smooth as glass. If not, lighty hit it with 600
after the shellac is applied, the color with be rich and even. I nice final look on its own.
Step 7: Using a lint-free rag, apply the liming wax. Put a liberal amount of wax onto the surface of
the work piece and PUSH the wax into the grain. Work the wax in all directions. Make sure
you're getting wax into every grainy nook.
Step 8: Remove the excess liming wax and finish with a buffing cloth.
Step 9: Place a nugget of micro-crystalline wax inside a lint-free rag and wrap it up. Tighten the
wrap until the wax starts to seep through the rag. Apply the wax to the
work piece in a circular motion. Put more wax inside the rag as you need it.
Step 10: Finish with a buffing cloth.
micro-crystalline wax provides a protective and reflective sheen
Dye vs. Stain
- Dye takes a few extra steps to prepare, apply, and finish.
- Ebony dye gives you a complete and even ebony finish.
- Ebony stain gives you a semi-transparent and dark-brown finish. Subtle differences in grain color can still be seen.
- Stain has a tendency to appear blotchy (especially on pine and other varying density wood species), even when sealer is used prior to application.
"color" (dye) or "tint" (stain) the wood?