Dye Ambrosia maple - should i give it up?

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Forum topic by Brobab posted 01-16-2013 10:51 AM 6766 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Brobab's profile


13 posts in 1952 days

01-16-2013 10:51 AM

First post here…I have completed an Ambrosia maple table top. Despite picking a wood that most wold leave “natural” – I was hoping to dye/stain this piece dark. Why I didn’t just start with Mahogany or walnut, I don’t know. I sanded to 150 and then did a light hand sand to 180 and used a jet mahogany gel stain. What a disaster! Turned a beautiful piece of wood into a muddy blotchy mess. OK, at least I only did the underside of the table. I have read and seen about Charles Neils conditioner and the idea of using a dye vs a stain. In the end I am afraid i will just end up losing the characteristics that make the wood so unique. There is a fair amount of figure, so the dye might pop that out – but otherwise, will I just end up hiding the ambrosia streaks? Anyone had luck using a dark finish on this wood? I am on the verge of just keeping this piece natural and making a duplicate out of a mahogany. What about alder – same issues? In the pictures, the first is the unfinished “top” The second shows the botched finish “bottom.” What looks like rough wood is actually some curl that just turned to blotch.

13 replies so far

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3103 days

#1 posted 01-16-2013 11:06 AM

I am not a staining expert and Charles Neil would probably be the best resource to drop a line to. However, I would personally avoid dye or stain in this particular case and, if my goal were to darken, I would probably lean towards a dilluted BLO mix. The piece is beautiful light and I would, at most, add dark wood accents and leave the color as is.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View waho6o9's profile


8187 posts in 2572 days

#2 posted 01-16-2013 01:09 PM

Practice on scraps first and use many different types of finishes and
stains until you find one that you like.

A Wood Conditioner applied first prevents blotching.

Good luck Brobab and welcome to LJ’s.

View Marcus's profile


1163 posts in 2014 days

#3 posted 01-16-2013 01:14 PM

Ack! I would say give up!!

I am definitely biased to a natural look for wood, but I think you get a wood like ambrosia maple for its interesting grain/character and staining it really kills that. I am with David, maybe try something like BLO that is slightly tinted, but other than that, I would leave it pretty natural.

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2946 days

#4 posted 01-16-2013 01:23 PM

Another vote for leaving it natural. :-)

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View bondogaposis's profile


4722 posts in 2346 days

#5 posted 01-16-2013 01:38 PM

Yeah, me too, go natural! A clear oil based finish will add a nice amber glow w/o making it blotchy or hiding the figure.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4213 days

#6 posted 01-16-2013 01:44 PM

Danish oil or BLO will darken it somewhat and, IMO, enhance the natural beauty of the wood. I just don’t think stain or dye is a good choice for ambrosia maple. Maybe someone will post a link to something to prove otherwise..

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4213 days

#7 posted 01-16-2013 01:54 PM

After, my last post, I did a quick Google search for images of both stained and dyed ambrosia maple. Most of the search results showed wood that had been only slightly darkened, as with an oil finish. The image below came up under the “dyed” search. It’s an interesting piece, but I don’t know if that’s what you want for your tabletop.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29220 posts in 2333 days

#8 posted 01-16-2013 01:54 PM

Maple blotches a lot when stained. My preferance is to use the right wood and leave it natural.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3153 days

#9 posted 01-16-2013 02:00 PM

Don’t stain it. Use a washcoat of shellac, which will help pop the figure. If you then want to darken it, use your color in the finish, not directly on the wood. You can use TransTint dyes with shellac/lacquer/water-borne varnish OR an oil-based stain mixed in some oil-based poly. As always, experiment on scrap.

-- jay,

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 3798 days

#10 posted 01-16-2013 02:06 PM

Was just about to say what Cosmicsniper said. For a nice piece like that, it would be well worth getting a darker grade of shellac flake to make your own, so you can getting something with a deeper tone than the amber/oranges most commonly seen.

View Brobab's profile


13 posts in 1952 days

#11 posted 01-18-2013 02:48 AM

Thanks for all the quick replies. Very satisfying first post. I am going to leave this more natural – but play with it a bit as some have described above. Just got back from the lumber yard today with Mahogany to “re-make” the top. Lucked out and found some 13.5” wide 5/4 that has some interesting grain. I know it will be pretty and do what I need it to do for this project – just not as excited about the wood as I was with the ambrosia – on the other hand, I have a great project to crank out over the weekend!

View superstretch's profile


1531 posts in 2688 days

#12 posted 01-18-2013 06:43 PM

Certain oils will darken maple up pretty well.. Danish Oil took some of my spalted maple and made it a perfect golden brown.. like a golden retriever’s coat

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

View Woodknack's profile


11608 posts in 2375 days

#13 posted 01-19-2013 05:15 AM

+1 to Superstretch. Before using any oil based products on maple, test and allow it to sit for a few days to a week as it will continue to darken and possibly yellow. If you look at my projects there are some spalted maple with an oil finish.

-- Rick M,

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