What the deuce? I have some questions about wood dye and finish.

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Forum topic by RKW posted 09-14-2009 07:33 AM 3418 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View RKW's profile


328 posts in 3622 days

09-14-2009 07:33 AM

Topic tags/keywords: dye finishing red oak

Ok, basically i am working on a bookshelf and have yet to decide how i am going to finish it. Because i wanted to try something new and because of cost restraints i chose to use red oak. I realize this is an open grain wood, does this mean i need to sand to a higher or lower grit than 220? Do i need to use a filler, and if so what the heck is a filler? What brand do i use? How do i apply it? Do i apply the filler, the dye and then the topcoat. Also i am wanting to get away from stains and figure out dyes. From what i have read it sounds like water soluble dyes are the way i want to go. i Would like to achieve a darker cherry color. Where do i start? Who do i buy from? Do i get different shades of the powder die and play with it? I also plan on using arm-r-seal wipeing varnish. Ive never used it but hear it is great stuff. Keep in mind, i still consider myself a beginner so please be specific in your responses. I am becoming comfortable in building my projects but i feel like a complete fool in the finishing process. There are so many products out there, it is difficult to discern anything.

Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

-- RKWoods

8 replies so far

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3765 days

#1 posted 09-14-2009 07:51 AM

First off, what sheen would you like? If you want anything from a mat to a semi gloss then filling the grain isn’t necessary. If you want a gloss you will need to fill the grain. You would purchase grain filler that is compatable with your finish. There is water based filler and oil based. If you plan on filling the grain, stain the material, put on a barrier coat, then fill the grain with a tinted filler. You want a barrier coat (thinned version of your finish or shellac) because the filler will stain the wood and you don’t want that to happen. After the grain is filled you will continue your schedule which would be another coat of shellac or sanding sealer if you like the color or you would add more color. Remember you are looking for grain (pore) filler, not wood filler, which is generally used to fill nail holes and the like. The consistancy is different. Wood filler is thicker.

I’m not familier with arm-r-seal but you should probably consider using the makers products. In other words if you use General finishes, use general stains. It’s not necessary if you know what you are up to, but to be safe using the same brands means they will be compatible.

Hope this helped some, but I’m sure you’ll get better responses.

Good Luck

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3997 days

#2 posted 09-14-2009 11:41 AM

Oak readily accepts stains and dyes and you do not need to add filler unless you want a mirror finish, similar to what you would expect on high end furniture such as a grand piano. If you are simply looking for a nice piece of furniture then a clear topcoat, such as you are planning, will work just fine. A gloss finish on oak looks gorgeous and brings out the full character of the wood.

As for coloring it, oak readily accepts stains and dyes. If you want to go the dye route I would suggest that you consider using"trans tint dyes”:to color the oak. These are dye solutions that can be mixed with water or alcohol to add color and tone to wood. After the stain has dried you will need to lightly sand with 220 since water will raise the grain of the wood. These can be applied by spraying or wiping with a clean cloth. The water base solution will have a longer open time as opposed to the alcohol base which evaporates pretty quickly.

As Kolwdwrkr said you will then need to add a seal coat after the stain has dried. I generally use a 1 pound coat of Zinsser seal coat shellac to seal the wood and establish a base coat for application of the top coat finish. It is realily available at woodworking stores and Lowe’s, HD, etc. in 2 pound strength. Simply mix it 50:50 with denatured alcohol to make a seal coat. Technically this is a little less than 1 pound strength but the absolute concentration is not really important. Then apply the topcoat of choice.

Shellac will work well and the Arm-R-Seal will work just fine as well. Going with a wiping product is a good idea. These are pretty easier to apply, dry quickly and pretty forgiving. Simply use a clean cotton cloth, paper towel, etc. and wipe it on. Let the top coat dry and lightly sand by hand with 320. Here you are simply trying to smooth out the topcoat and remove any entrained air bubbles or dust nibs. This should be just a very light, quick sanding operation. Remove the dust and, you may also want to wipe it down with a rag and mineral spirits. Then apply the next layer of finish.

With a wiping product you will have to apply multiple layer to build the finish. I often put as many as 8 layers on to get to the final depth of finish that I like.

But before you start the finishing process practice on scraps. Another step that I have found useful is to mill a scrap piece of the wood that I am going to use for the project and taking it through the final sanding routine (I generally start with 100 and stop at 150 grit if I am going to stain and 180 if I am going to with a natural look). Once the sanding on the scrap is finished then draw lines on the wood for each individual finishing step so that you can have a visual reference for the finishing sequence. This would be section for the dye application, one for the dye and seal coat application, another for the dye, seal coat and first topcoat, etc. Creating a “story stick” for the finish is helpful in deciding what steps are necessary to achieve the finish that you are interested in getting.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View RKW's profile


328 posts in 3622 days

#3 posted 09-14-2009 04:02 PM

thanx guys. This is exactly the kind of information i am looking for. What is it about the sheen that determines the filler??? I was planning on going with a semi-gloss. Evidently i dont need the filler, but im curious as to why.

-- RKWoods

View RKW's profile


328 posts in 3622 days

#4 posted 09-14-2009 04:07 PM

I like the “story stick” idea.

-- RKWoods

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3997 days

#5 posted 09-14-2009 08:15 PM

Filler simply plugs the pores in the wood and smooths the surface whereby you can get it to a mirror like finish. Once the pores are filled and sealed you can apply topcoats and build the finish to a mirror sheen if you so desire. Getting this type of sheen is dependent upon “finishing” out the finish rather than the sheen listed on finish container. Getting this type of sheen is largely dependent upon getting the surface of the wood as smooth as it can be. With an open pored wood like oak a mirror smooth finish is a challenge to get without fulling in the pores with a filler, although it can be done with repeated applications of topcoats followed by sanding. But this is a lot of work for relatively little return, unless that is the look that you have to have.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3461 days

#6 posted 09-15-2009 04:35 PM

Randy, Come by or call me. Maybe I can help with what’s available at the paint stores here. You will find a lot of opinions when it comes to finishing, and most of them are very valid. Sometimes it comes down to what is readily avaliable to you and what techniques you are comfortable with.


View MOJOE's profile


548 posts in 3444 days

#7 posted 09-19-2009 04:40 AM

I used watco and arm-r-seal on a toy box (in my projects) with no filler and it turned out pretty nice. I think watco makes different shades of oil, it might be something to look into. would be a good place to look.

-- Measuring twice and cutting once only works if you read the tape correctly!

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3942 days

#8 posted 09-19-2009 04:53 AM

General Finishes, who makes Arm-R-Seal, also makes a wonderful line of dyes.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

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