Stain or Dye, what's your preference?

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Forum topic by bygrace posted 01-15-2013 01:01 AM 1355 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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180 posts in 1968 days

01-15-2013 01:01 AM

Topic tags/keywords: stain dye water based oil based

I’ve been playing around with stains and dyes, trying to figure out which I liked better, then it dawned on me – why not ask the pros? what do you prefer, and why? what are some of the draw backs? do you prefer oil based, water based, gel or liquid? Thanks for your opinions!

-- Andy, Waxahachie, Tx.

9 replies so far

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2187 days

#1 posted 01-15-2013 01:08 AM

My understanding is that for dense woods like hard maple, dyes work better because they don’t have the (relatively speaking) big bits of pigment and will penetrate better. Stains are fine on less dense woods. Also, there are issues such as fading to consider . . .

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2575 days

#2 posted 01-15-2013 02:45 AM

I like dyes. They leave the grain pattern in tact.
I use transfast water based dyes (cheap) and transtint alcohol based dyes as I can mix them with dewaxed shellac.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Henry6's profile


36 posts in 2025 days

#3 posted 03-12-2013 09:50 AM

I actually prefer wood stain over dyes, but it has to be a quality product or you won’t see the results you are looking for. Also, you need to make sure you select the right type of stain for your wood/project, because almost all have different qualities that will directly impact the look of the wood.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2360 days

#4 posted 03-12-2013 10:53 AM

You can answer the question yourself by continuing to “playing around” with them on different projects until you can decide what’s best for each project. Different strokes for different folks.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2368 days

#5 posted 03-12-2013 12:34 PM

I’m also a fan of Transfast dyes. I used their dark walnut dye on some hard maple with a few coats of shellac and it really popped the grain. I used it mixed with water because it was my first time working with dye, but I think next time I may experiment a little more and mix it with something else.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Wildwood's profile


2305 posts in 2133 days

#6 posted 03-12-2013 04:39 PM

Think Clink hit the nail on the head play around with both dyes and stains.

Wood stains mostly thinned paint and easy to use.

Aniline dyes come in powder or liquid form and mixed with water, alcohol, or petroleum solvent. Water mix said to give better clarity and light fastness.

India ink can be opaque and translucent depending upon color.

Not sure how well all dyes, inks, and stains hold up under indirect or full sun light over time. Woods will either darken or get lighter with age regardless of top coat finish.

Some species of wood (soft or hard) prone to blotching whether use dye or stain. Best to read product instructions before use to combat blotching.

Some dyes & stains mixed with topcoat finish provide excellent results. Waterborne top coats may cause water mixed dyes to run giving a muddy appearance.

-- Bill

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2109 days

#7 posted 03-12-2013 04:41 PM

I have always used oil based stains just because that is what I was taught. I keep meaning to try dyes but have not had the time to do so.

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2513 days

#8 posted 03-12-2013 05:22 PM

Used stains for years, then discovered dyes about three years ago. They both have their places, but the stains do have bigger pigment chunks, which make them less effective on tight grained woods, such as maple.
Dyes are very finely ground pigments and penetrate almost immediately. On the other hand, dyes can splotch faster due to quicker penetration, but often come in odd, non-wood colors like yellow and green.
I keep dark blue, blood red, and bright yellow dye to be able to mix almost anything when needed, like a purple color.
Most of my stains are woody colors, like walnut, ebony and mahogany.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 2792 days

#9 posted 03-12-2013 08:02 PM

I agree with Clint. It depends. I have used solar-lux dyes some – sprayed – and they do great as far as uniform coverage and color control goes. They are alcohol based and dry very fast. Disclaimer – I’m no Bob Flexnar.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

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