Remediation Quest: Dyes and Big Pores

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Forum topic by Keith Kelly posted 01-29-2017 11:54 PM 550 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Keith Kelly

275 posts in 1809 days

01-29-2017 11:54 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing

Before going deep, here are the primary notes about this topic:

OBJECTIVE: Dye Ash blue with blue pores.
PROBLEM: Surface tension prevents dye from sticking in large pores


I’ve found ash to take dyes very well. Except the pores. I have a lot of Ash, as well as a lot of projects for the kids room where bright colors would be excellent.

Homestead notes the large-pore “phenomenon” on their site. Water has a pretty significant surface tension. Alcohol has surface tension too, though not near as much. That all makes sense.

So, this phenomenon presents a challenge I’m not willing to give up, and I have come pretty close a few times. Here we go.


Previous project that worked:


The process I ended up going with:
  • Black TransFAST Dry Dye diluted with water, then
  • 1-2 layers of Dewaxed shellac sprayed on to keep the next step from darkening the side grain, then
  • Black oil-based stain. Of course, the oil filled the pores without any problems.

I am quite happy with how this turned out. This is a work/project surface, so it has had some abuse.


Experiments with Blue TransTINT
The first group of photos represents either spraying or wiping TransTint w/ denatured alcohol. All left pores undyed by the time the alcohol evaporated.

Sprayed a super fine mist over and over to keep droplets from forming:

Brushed on: (the spots are from gun problems later on…ignore those)


Here’s the interesting one. The background layer is TransTint + a 50/50 mix of Alcohol and Lacquer Thinner. This still had the pore problem.
BUT…I got somewhere when dying 50/50 mix of SealCoat (DW shellac) and Alcohol:

Starting with the RIGHT: Dyed shellac just brushed on.

LEFT (above brush): Dyed shellac brushed across the grain until it dried. Perhaps if the dye is crawling out of the pores (connecting to the shellac mix around the pores) then maybe I can prevent that. So, I spread one coat on across the grain, and kept wiping about 100 times with the same brush until it was tacky (I kept the angle of the brush shallow so that it wouldn’t pull anything up out of the pores). I believe that this cross-grain direction kept forcing dye into the pores, while thinning the shellac on top of the uncut grain surface so it would dry quickly.
Then, the dye in the pores is stuck! (but this is a ridiculous process for a large surface.)


Other Tests (Gesso!)

Here are some interesting tests I did a few months ago with Gesso. I have found Gesso to fill pores very nicely.

This first one shows Ash with a few combinations of
  1. black gesso (bought that way) and
  2. white gesso, mixed with some Turquoise TransFAST (previously diluted with water)

The bottom half is sanded lightly to remove the gesso from the top surface, while leaving the pores filled.

This next one is Butternut. I used straight up white gesso and again sanded away the top, leaving the pores filled. The brown spot is a TransFast dye diluted with water. I don’t recall if I sprayed before sanding or after, but my guess is after (else it would be sanded off).

I’ve really enjoyed using Gesso over the past few months, and these tests above really piqued my interest even more.


So, back to my original question….

-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri, ...

5 replies so far

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1066 days

#1 posted 01-30-2017 03:30 PM

Keith Kelly,

The surface tension of acetone is about a third of that of water so perhaps dissolving the dye in acetone would work. In addition I believe that the surface tension of water can be reduced if water is mixed with acetone. There is a good chance that the dye will dissolve in acetone without a lot of trouble.

Since acetone flashes off quickly, you would have to work fast. It is also flammable, so a well ventilated area with no open flames would be the safest way to proceed with acetone.

Here is a link to surface tensions of several other solvents, including acetone and water. Surface tension is given in the second column…

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Keith Kelly

275 posts in 1809 days

#2 posted 01-30-2017 03:58 PM

That’s a very handy link. I’ll bookmark that for sure.

I suppose the trick is, that Acetone has a surface tension of 25. Water 22. But, ethanol’s is 22. So, I am wildly surprised that dye in ethanol climbs out of the pores.

-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri, ...

View Keith Kelly's profile

Keith Kelly

275 posts in 1809 days

#3 posted 01-30-2017 07:38 PM

That s a very handy link. I ll bookmark that for sure.

I suppose the trick is, that Acetone has a surface tension of 25. Water 22 wrong! should be 72. But, ethanol’s is 22…

- Keith Kelly

Shoot.. too late to edit that typo. Water has a surface tension value of 72.

-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri, ...

View OSU55's profile


1866 posts in 2136 days

#4 posted 01-30-2017 11:12 PM

Oak is the same way. My solution to this same issue:

Use a binder. A diluted wb finish, or even elmers glue all can work, the same way the guesso worked for you. An issue with these is lack of “chatoyance”. I eventually settled on using Target Coatings WR4000, a wb oil emulsion with good open time. I use the stain base and mix in transtint. Shellac does not have enough open time.

Leave the sanding dust from the last pass. Wiping the stain on pushes more dust in the pores and the stain colors the dust thus colors the pores. Seal the dye stain with a light coat of shellac if covering with wb top coat.

View Keith Kelly's profile

Keith Kelly

275 posts in 1809 days

#5 posted 01-31-2017 12:03 AM

Those are all brilliant solutions and your note about chatoyance makes sense (though I had to look it up.)

-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri, ...

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