Looking for suggestions for curly maple stain expirement

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Forum topic by jcwalleye posted 04-27-2011 05:14 AM 3415 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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306 posts in 3066 days

04-27-2011 05:14 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question maple curly curley finishing

Hello fellow LJ’ers. I’ve just finished machining some hard maple for a workbench. Within the material was a board with some pretty curly figure. I set that board aside for the stringers connecting the two ends and want to experiment with some stains/dyes.

My preferences for stains is toward as little as possible as I think natural wood often looks the best. But I’ve read here on LJ that curly maple grain can be brought out very well with dyes in particular. Given that its a real nice piece of curle maple and I want to expirement with new things, what dyes or stains would you suggest I use? It is a workbench so I can afford to mess the finish up. Here’s a picture of one of the stringers.

Thanks for your suggestions.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

17 replies so far

View superstretch's profile


1531 posts in 2687 days

#1 posted 04-27-2011 06:12 AM

I love Watco Danish Oil on CM, but amber/blonde shellac produces some nice results if you’re looking for something natural. and are a bit more drastic

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3716 days

#2 posted 04-27-2011 03:52 PM

That’s a beautiful piece of figured maple. I would consider making a dining or side table out of it! Here’s a piece that I used two dyes, black and brown, to create a mokume effect using the same type of maple: You can use any color combination, just sand down between layers of colors. You may want to experiement with a scrap piece first.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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Steven H

1117 posts in 3054 days

#3 posted 04-27-2011 05:55 PM

I wouldn’t use stain for this particular piece unless you like the look it stained.
I would use just dye
or a combination of dye and Boiled Linseed oil.

Boiled linseed oil or tung oil will pop out the look of grain.
Dyes will give a color look.

View jcwalleye's profile


306 posts in 3066 days

#4 posted 04-28-2011 05:01 AM

Stretch, thanks for the links. Those are two good examples of what dyes can do. And the DK9-er linked by mmh is another example of dye but probably more pronounced than I’d want. And I wish I had enough of the Curley Maple to do something else like suggested.

Stain is out, that was my original inclination. I think I will try a dye as the piece is just begging to be expiramented with. I’ll try to post back the results. Thanks for your suggestions.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View majeagle1's profile


1426 posts in 3490 days

#5 posted 04-28-2011 05:22 AM

Joe, you might want to check out what our fellow LJ “Blake” did with his Jellyfish Table…..
Striking if I might say…... a good example of what a dye can do.

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View jcwalleye's profile


306 posts in 3066 days

#6 posted 04-28-2011 05:48 AM

Wow Gene, it appears that your looking into the depths of some water. Pretty neat.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View Konquest's profile


171 posts in 3437 days

#7 posted 04-28-2011 10:06 PM

Depends on what you’re going for: If you just want to pop the curl, wipe on BLO and wait a week before topcoating. If you are looking to make it like a guitar top or something wild, then brush on a coat of General finishes ebony dye stain. When it dries, sand with 180 until the black only remains in the curl stripes, then go back over with another color. When this dries it will look like crap, but once you go over it with that first coat of a high-gloss topcoat, you’ll be amazed.

-- 9 3/4 fingers remaining.

View knotscott's profile


8006 posts in 3369 days

#8 posted 04-28-2011 10:50 PM

As Konquest suggests, popping the grain is a pretty cool effect. Apply a light coat of dark, sand it back, then stain or clear coat with your preference.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Bertha's profile


13525 posts in 2687 days

#9 posted 04-28-2011 10:53 PM

That board almost made me cry. I’d use nothing but dye on a piece like this, assuming you like that striking grain pattern. Pigment stains would be a waste on such a glorious piece of wood (just my opinion). Good luck!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View jcwalleye's profile


306 posts in 3066 days

#10 posted 04-29-2011 01:27 AM

I’m getting the sense that dye penetrates into the curly part of the grain and not so much into the rest of the grain. Hence the sanding back to where only the curly part of the grain has pigment. Is the suggestion then a second color, lighter than the first and not sanded back?? And finishing with clear topcoats to bring the depth.

Tomorrow I’ll go to a local lumberyard/hardware store to see what dye’s they have. I’ve not worked with either curly maple or dye stains but am starting to get some confidence to do justice to this piece. Thanks for all the suggestions.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View a1Jim's profile


117086 posts in 3571 days

#11 posted 04-29-2011 01:33 AM

This should help

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3755 days

#12 posted 04-29-2011 01:45 AM

Since this is to be a workbench, and who’s to say that a workbench can’t be attractive, I would use a brown aniline die and then finish with a 50-50 mixture of tung oil and mineral spirits. Then I would apply a little paste wax from time to time.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3054 days

#13 posted 04-29-2011 02:39 AM

Pigments don’t actually “soak in” to the wood. They rest of the surface. Dyes, on the other hand, do actually penetrate the cell structure of the wood. Because of this, dyes tend to produce more transparent and natural looking results.They also penetrate evenly in soft or hard grain of the wood.

View jcwalleye's profile


306 posts in 3066 days

#14 posted 04-29-2011 03:27 AM

I got the terminology wrong Steven, I knew the dyes penetrated but the pigments didn’t. Better to make these mistakes online instead of in the wood.

Jim’s link was a great turtorial and immediately following was one by the Wood Whisperer that explained the curly part was or acted like an end grain. Hence the dye penetrated further than in the “non-end” grain.

Aniline dye as 8iowa suggested using, are lightfast, can be water, alcohol, or petroleum solvent and are generally transparent (google search).

Thanks again all.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View kalapolo's profile


63 posts in 2682 days

#15 posted 04-29-2011 03:47 AM

I recently refinished our curly maple dining table using Transtint Dark Vintage Maple dye applied according to the directions on the bottle (mixed with a little bit of water). Over that, multiple coats of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal to try to build up the durability that it didn’t have before. It certainly popped the grain.

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