Using Rit Dye for Maple? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum

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post #1 of 23 Old 02-13-2010, 12:42 AM Thread Starter
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Using Rit Dye for Maple?

I'm putting some final touches to a Hard Maple Captains Bed project, am now pondering the type of finish to use. Past projects didn't fare well with regular oil based stains and I've picked up bits and pieces about using Rit Dye for staining as well as other dyes that may be mixed with denatured alcohol. I like the alcohol idea, wouldn't raise the grain as much as water based products. Any experiences you can share with a newb?
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post #2 of 23 Old 02-13-2010, 05:56 AM
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I sure wouldn't use Rit dye to stain any of my wood projects. Then again, I did stain an old garden caddy with some used motor oil once. It actually worked pretty well. Every time I changed the oil, I'd give it another rub down.

Anyway, for me the dyes I would use are TransTint dyes. They can be mixed with water, DNA, lacquer and even some oil varnishes. Dyes tend to work better on softer woods or woods that grab a penetrating stain very un-evenly and get splotchy. Rather than penetrating down into the wood (although they do penetrate down into raw wood), they are more of a surface coat or colorant, which then tend to produce a more even color. However, they can also obscure the grain somewhat. So alot of times they are used in conjuction with penetrating stains. A penetrating stain may be applied first to accentuate and figure or grain in the wood and then a dye applied to "tone" or even out the color. Dye stains are typically spray applied. You really need the proper equipment and expertise to use them IMHO. I've seen a lot of "stripes" when soneone tried to spray a dye stain that didn't know what they were doing. My recommendation is to Google working with TransTint dyes as stains or (other type dyes) and do some reading. There is no cut and dry "short answer" that can be given in 100 words or less.

In my own experience, I tend to use dyes when I'm working with soft woods like Pine and Poplar. Poplar in particular is very splotchy if trying to use a penetrating stain only. So, to try and help that I do a couple of spit coats with a 1# cut of de-waxed shellac to condition the wood. I'll then use a professional grade oil based stain like a Sherwin Williams BAC wiping stain to bring out the grain, and then use some TransTint dye in a 2# cut of de-waxed shellac which I use as a sanding sealer and to really make the grain pop.... and then once I get everything toned just right (I may end up using two different dye coats with different colors even), I finish off with my finish coats of varnish, poly or whatever I'm using as a final finish. An agressive finish schedule for sure, but one that when I use it, I can make Poplar look smooth and clean without the traditional ultra splotchy look of stained Poplar. It would work very similarly on Maple I would think since Maple tends to be very splotchy when stained as well.

So in the end, pure dye stains really need to be sprayed to get a professional result. They can be a lifesaver as toners on woods that tend to be splotchy, but can be very tricky to work with on their own. However, they are quite easy to work with (the TransTints that I like to use anyway) in conjunction with other stains and as toners in sanding sealers or finish coats. Their versatility is what makes them so great IMHO. But, like anything.... there is no one single right way to use them. You will be well served to do some serious Googling and reading. And then before using them on your project piece, doing some practice, practice, practice on some scrap to get a feel for them.

Last edited by JW_in_Indy; 02-13-2010 at 06:16 AM.
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post #3 of 23 Old 02-13-2010, 06:55 AM
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I've used Rit dye with success. Whether it's wiped or sprayed, it will have to be evened out, as it will dry fast, and over lapping can be a problem. What ever medium you try, make sure it goes into complete solution. And as always try it on samples.






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post #4 of 23 Old 02-13-2010, 07:03 AM
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Isn't Rit dye made for cloth? Or maybe I am thinking of something else from my youth.

G
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post #5 of 23 Old 02-13-2010, 07:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeC View Post
Isn't Rit dye made for cloth? Or maybe I am thinking of something else from my youth.

G

That's the one. Works on wood too.



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post #6 of 23 Old 02-13-2010, 09:12 AM
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rit dye also works on nylon. I used to dye rc car parts with it all the time.
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post #7 of 23 Old 02-13-2010, 09:34 AM
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I have used RIT many times on smaller objects to make figured maple pop or even do 2 tone color. Stuff like knife handles, wooden fishing lures, turned pens, custom guitar pick guards...
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post #8 of 23 Old 02-13-2010, 11:28 AM
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Well dayum.... I would have never thought of using Rit dye on any of my wood projects. Interesting, but I think I'll stick with what I like in the TransTint product. However, if you need plain old Navy Blue, Black, Red or Yellow.... I guess it would certainly be cheap enough to try.
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post #9 of 23 Old 02-17-2010, 09:29 AM Thread Starter
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Well, I picked up a couple packs of Rit dye....black and brown, were the only colors available locally other than the usual greens, reds, blues, etc. Did up a few samples on scraps and had some interesting results. The black (powder mixed with denatured alcohol) penetrated the wood well between growth rings but left the actual grain patterns a little brownish....kind of a unique look. The brown was the liquid type thinned with water....just turned everything reddish brown and raised the grain, looked like cr@p , not impressed. Just slopped both colors on the wood with a foam brush, wiped excess off immediately. Did notice blotching where I didn't sand well, could remedy that with a better job on the sanding.

Are TransTint samples available?? Would like to give 'em a try but don't want to buy more junk that will lay around an already crowded shop.
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post #10 of 23 Old 02-17-2010, 06:32 PM
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I tried Ritt on some teacher's pens once. I just mixed it with a little bit of water to make a paste, then rubbed it into the maple on the lathe. It probably would've been better to make a solution with alcohol, like Cabinetman said.

I also tried liquid food coloring! It worked pretty well. I still have a couple pens that were dyed with food coloring. :)
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post #11 of 23 Old 02-17-2010, 06:33 PM
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You might want to add a leyer of finish over the dye. The colors will change with a varnish or oil over the dye.
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post #12 of 23 Old 02-18-2010, 11:08 AM
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Artists use what's called (I think) a color wheel to make various colors from the basic primary colors...like the rit dye colors. It's possible to make just about any color you need that way. Of course, having the time to experiment might be the limiting factor here.
Any dye that goes into complete solution (think coffee or tea), as opposed to stains that are in suspension and need to be stirred before use will be better at popping the grain.
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post #13 of 23 Old 02-23-2010, 11:24 AM
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I've successfully used RIT dyes on wood before. Mix the dye with a rubbing alcohol and wipe it on. It did a really nice job on an old rifle stock that I refinished. I was looking for a certain reddish color and none of the stains available were red enough. I mixed some scarlet red RIT with brown RIT until I got the color I was looking for. Looked really good actually.

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post #14 of 23 Old 03-07-2010, 08:56 AM Thread Starter
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Based on the info you folks provided, I re-visited the Rit dye experiment, mixed the black powder/DNA mix with the brown liquid/water combination and tried on a few scraps. Results were somewhat surprising, created a great looking Walnut stain that rivals the real thing. The liquid resulting from the mix looked rather suspect as it had somewhat of a purple tinge to it, but when applied to the wood provided a rich warm look without blotching. I applied a polyurethane semi gloss finish over the stain to determine the final color, and was impressed with how the combination highlighted the grain. The problem now is duplicating the mix, just poured some experimental mixes together without monitoring the quantities of the dyes. The ability to keep the dyes on hand and custom mix the shades needed are a big plus, could reduce the angst of choosing samples of the commercial brands available. Stuff is also dirt cheap, can mix over a gallon of stain for less than five bucks. Did learn another lesson using dyes, WEAR GLOVES or you'll look like an Iraqi that just voted.

Here's a photo;

Ruining wood for 35 years....one piece at a time.

Last edited by interceptor; 03-07-2010 at 10:45 PM.
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post #15 of 23 Old 03-07-2010, 11:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by interceptor View Post
The problem now is duplicating the mix, just poured some experimental mixes together without monitoring the quantities of the dyes. The ability to keep the dyes on hand and custom mix the shades needed are a big plus, could reduce the angst of choosing samples of the commercial brands available. Stuff is also dirt cheap, can mix over a gallon of stain for less than five bucks.

Here is what I do. I use cooking spoons and cups (they are dirt cheap too) to mix the samples, and I keep track of the ratios of powder/liquid to water. To get an exact quantity, the samples are mixed to a relatively even amount, like an ounce or two. I keep a log of the ratios and write them next to their finished sample.

Then when making a larger batch, it's easy to figure the mix.






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post #16 of 23 Old 03-18-2010, 07:38 AM
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This thread is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!
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post #17 of 23 Old 02-13-2013, 11:35 AM
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Good info here! Could this be used with Truoil as a topcoat or would it smear the dye?
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post #18 of 23 Old 02-13-2013, 11:52 AM
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I don't have a lot experience with finishing. But on my last project I mixed transtint dye with a wipe on poly. The coats the darker it got. I only used two. Then to obtain a good finish followed with two more wipes untinted poly. I don't know you f there are any drawbacks to this method but it worked for me. Color was nice and even.

Mike
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post #19 of 23 Old 02-19-2013, 02:41 PM
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Do you remember what your ratios were?
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post #20 of 23 Old 02-19-2013, 03:51 PM
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The problem with RIT dyes used to be that they were fairly short lasting. The colors would not be stable on items that were exposed to light. I don't know it that is still the case

As has already been noted, being water based, RIT dyes must be sealed if a waterborne finish is contemplated.

Howie..........
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