Tea Stain

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Forum topic by George Constance posted 10-27-2009 01:32 PM 3459 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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George Constance

6 posts in 2552 days

10-27-2009 01:32 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tea stain stain finish dye advice finishing advice

I own a tea company, and have always considered using tea as a stain. When Fine Woodworking did an article about this, I was forced to try it myself. I started blogging about it on I have several woodworkers trying the blend of tea I used. The final product will be an all-natural, eco-friendly, socially responsible product that you can actually drink. As the blog indicates, I’ve discovered a blend that really looks darker than your average tea. The tea, apparently, interacts chemically with the wood and darkens slightly over time. I can change the color by adding spices. The tea spice blend works better than either separately.

Any advice regarding the use of tea stain would be greatly appreciated. There must be a great deal of old colonial era stains that are nearly forgotten. It would be great in our more eco-conscious time to rediscover some and create more.

Once results are in, I plan to sell it on my site page,, (You’re all welcomed, by the way, to contribute tea related woodworking plans. I split proceeds).

-- George,

4 replies so far

View NathanAllen's profile


376 posts in 2562 days

#1 posted 10-27-2009 09:46 PM

I’ll bite. Are you talking about using tannins to chmically darken wood or dyes in the teas combined with tannins to chemically alter the wood and “stain” it?

My understanding is the tannins will penerate the wood, but the spices (dyes) will lay on top. Its a lot like using Rit to stain wood, you get great colors but you have to be careful because a very durable topcoat is needed to help colorfast any natural dye. You will get some interesting color shift, and tea is a great first step process in ebonizing wood. Tea at drinkable concentration doesn’t do much to color wood, but can be a good base to prepare Oak for a vinegar/iron bath.

Here is a helpful site with an article by Jim McNamara that will help go through the process.

I’d be a little careful on the whole “Colonial” stains since coloring wood in America came more into fashion in the Mid 1800’s out of a desire by less than honest builders disguising inferior woods to sell a house/project at a higher price. I remember being a kid at my uncle’s shop when a customer came who had been under the impression that his antique spice cabinet was made of mahogany and had blasted through the dyed varnish to fine yellowed maple.

Colonials were more concerned with durability. That’s why a large chunk of what was covered using milk paints, varnishes and good old BLO. Very fine pieces used Shellac, which is ironically edible.

Best of luck to you.

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George Constance

6 posts in 2552 days

#2 posted 10-29-2009 08:53 PM

Thanks for the comments. As for the tea, drinkable teas are so very different. I found an Assam Blend of whole leaf tea created a stain that was much much darker than the average tea and even more so than nearly transparent tea bags. When powdered, the tea stain darkened even more and took on a bit of an orange color. I sent samples to several woodworkers waiting on results.

-- George,

View rustedknuckles's profile


160 posts in 3169 days

#3 posted 10-29-2009 09:15 PM

I’ve tried tea staining a pine bowl I turned. I used pine only because it was what I had on hand in the dimensions I required. I basically brewed up a highly concentrated batch of black tea (might have been orange peako) and brushed it on, let it dry, more on, and dried, I repeated this process , if memory serves me, about 10 times. I learned several things, one; pine was not the best wood choice for the process, too much blotching, two; tea as a stain is very labour intensive (at least the approach I took) and three; it smelled great in my shop during the process, pine infused tea, reminded me of the hollidays. I will try it again on another wood species and see what kind of results I get, thanks for the post, I had all but forgotten that experiment from years back.

-- Dave- New Brunswick

View Echofive's profile


98 posts in 2670 days

#4 posted 03-02-2013 12:10 AM

Gentlemen, Any updates on this? I don’t have dyes on hand, and not sure I can get them in a timely manner. I’m wanting to pop the grain on some maple. I was hoping the tannins in a heavily concentrated black tea would be a nice base before apply a light shellac coat, and then finish with varnish. Thoughts? Thanks

-- Chip, Virginia

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