Coloring or pickling pine

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Forum topic by Purrmaster posted 04-24-2015 04:27 AM 1287 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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915 posts in 2294 days

04-24-2015 04:27 AM

Topic tags/keywords: pine pickling stain whitewash white wash dye

Greetings and salutations,

I’m building a book case out of pine. It’s been a long time since I worked with pine. I’m not certain if its a white or yellow pine but I think it’s white (it’s quite soft and white pine is indigenous to the Pacific NW I think).

I want to give it an interesting appearance and I want to use my new ColorFX dyes.

But I can’t seem to get a color that I like other than a brightish yellow. And everyone hates the yellow. Darker colors muddy the already not terribly exciting grain too much.

I could use some suggestions on what dye color(s) I should try.

I have the following: red, blue, green, black, burnt umber, raw umber, burnt sienna, raw sienna, van dyke brown, amber, yellow-R (for red), and yellow-G (for green).

Here’s a link to samples provided by the manufacturer:

The other idea I’ve been trying is “pickling” or white washing pine. I tried Minwax’s pickled oak stain and it basically does nothing. I’ve also tried watering down some wet latex paint but I don’t how “white” the wood is supposed to get.

I’ve even tried to turn the white wash pink by adding a little bit of red dye.

Suggestions, please?

12 replies so far

View Jerry's profile


2893 posts in 1849 days

#1 posted 04-24-2015 05:37 AM

Purrmaster, there’s some old fashioned wisdom that goes like this. Your first loss is your most costly. You’ve probably spent a lot of money trying to make a sow’s ear into silk purse. Dump the pine, get some wood that will serve your goal, and stop wasting money on trying to make a something into what it is not. Pine is beautiful when it’s used in context with what it is, but you may be muddying the waters. Sorry if I sound a bit gruff. It’s late and there’s Wild Turkey in the mix.

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2294 days

#2 posted 04-24-2015 06:51 AM

You bring up a good point. Am I trying to make the pine into something it’s not?

I actually like pine and have simply not happened to use it for a while. I don’t really want to make the pine look like something else….

I’ll run some tests with brushing lacquer on the bare pine and see how it looks.

When you say used in context with what it is…. do you have any suggestions how it would best be used? I’d be eager to hear ideas.

View alohafromberkeley's profile


257 posts in 2605 days

#3 posted 04-24-2015 05:05 PM

Purrmaster, for pine I prefer amber shellac if it’s not used for table tops. The tints you have should be great mixed into lacquer- guitar makers have used them to great effect on hardwoods for decades, but I don’t know if they would take on pine…Let us know how your tests are coming along. You always have an interesting twist to straight forward questions (and that’s a big compliment in my book).

-- "After a year of doing general farmwork, it was quite clear to me that chickens and I were not compatible"-George Nakashima

View pjones46's profile


1001 posts in 2844 days

#4 posted 04-24-2015 05:14 PM

Hire is a LINK to a pickling method used on pine or oak from Popular Woodworking. It is a pdf file that may be worth a look. Good luck.

-- Respectfully, Paul

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2294 days

#5 posted 04-25-2015 04:16 PM

I’ve run more tests. So far I’ve tried pickling with watered down latex paint (primer, to be precise), added a little red to the watered down paint to get pink, tried Minwax white wash pickling stain (oil based), at least half a dozen dye combos, and straight lacquer.

I’m going to for for the yellow dye stain. Probably followed by some oil base topcoat (either brushing lacquer or poly). The yellow is the only thing that let the grain through well enough. Straight lacquer worked fine and in reality is probably the finish I “should” use. But I want to put these dyes into action (which is irrational, I admit). I may very well regret this later. I intend to try several different top coats including water base on a test panel with the yellow dye.

Thank you for the link. I read it. Quite interesting.

The white wash/pickling effect just doesn’t seem to come out well on pine, at least the pine I have. It’s probably personal preference but I simply don’t understand the appeal of the pickling. Pickling worked better on oak where the white paint was able to hang out in the pores.

I can see a possible advantage in this white wash thing. The latex paint was compatible with my dyes (that can be dissolved in either water or alcohol) which means I can achieve different colors in the paint. This might be advantageous on oak someday. It’s the only method I can think of to achieve a pink color.

Next up on the list is trying to dye aspen. I am hoping the whiteness of aspen will be like a canvas I can color in many different ways. On the other hand aspen has such little grain figure that it may end up being pointless.

View pjones46's profile


1001 posts in 2844 days

#6 posted 04-25-2015 04:32 PM

Thanks for the feedback. I have seen pickling on pine and agree with you. Due to the many variable to include, species of wood, wood condition, products used, etc, the finish process which works for one person may not yield acceptable results for others. Which ever way you decide, please keep us up-to-date with pictures of your results once your project is complete. Thank you.

-- Respectfully, Paul

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2294 days

#7 posted 05-01-2015 09:04 AM

No photos as of yet. I have (for the most part) finished applying the dye. I’m finding it difficult to get the yellow color as strong as I want it. I think this is because whenever I lay on another “coat” of dye it’s basically bleeding out the dye already in there. There may simply be a limit to how potent a color I can achieve.

The pamphlet for the ColorFX dyes suggests using boiled linseed oil to “fix” the dye in place so it doesn’t run as much when you put a topcoat on. I’m trying that and I’ll see what happens. It works ok here because the amber of the oil doesn’t really screw up the yellow dye color. But if I was dyeing it green I think I’d be reluctant to apply BLO.

I wonder if tung oil, even though it would take much longer to dry, would be more productive.

I can’t use shellac as a seal coat because the dye is soluble in alcohol as well as water.

View Gerald Thompson's profile

Gerald Thompson

1118 posts in 2435 days

#8 posted 05-01-2015 11:18 AM

Use polymerized tung oil. I dries much faster.

-- Jerry

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11064 posts in 3629 days

#9 posted 05-01-2015 02:13 PM

This will sound weird but, you might try food coloring or Kool Aid (Use the non-sugared kind) as tinting agents.
Either is cheap enough for experimentation.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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915 posts in 2294 days

#10 posted 05-03-2015 09:47 AM

I actually considered using food coloring at one point.

Polymerized tung oil is a good idea but it’s just too damned expensive. I looked into it for something previously.

I guess I’ll try some lacquer and see what happens.

I’ve tried the dye on a different project and I used poly as the finish on that. These NGR dyes are not soluble in mineral spirits (I tried) and so I figured the poly wouldn’t cause it to run.

I was largely right. The application rag picked up quite some dye but it didn’t cause it to run or appreciably screw up the color.

So poly is my fallback if the lacquer doesn’t work.

View bbasiaga's profile


1240 posts in 2196 days

#11 posted 05-03-2015 10:30 AM

The GF premixed water based dyes contain an acrylic binder which makes them much less prone to running/wiping off. Have you tried those?


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2294 days

#12 posted 05-04-2015 09:20 AM

I haven’t tried those. But that’s good to know.

I slapped some lacquer sanding sealer on the underside and amazingly it didn’t run. Either the linseed oil worked or I somehow got lucky.

I’ll have to try lacquer over some dye that doesn’t have BLO on it. And then try some with water base. A certain amount of running isn’t a disaster but too much and the finish could lift the dye.

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