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Thread: Advice for matching old rosewood

  1. #1
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    Sep 2013
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    Advice for matching old rosewood

    I'm working on restoring a ca 1895 player reed organ. The bottom apron has water damage and one panel is missing and will have to be made from scratch.

    I wonder if anyone has a dye formula (I usually use TransTint dyes) that will get me close to the color of the rosewood on this organ? I have some "Bolivian Rosewood" (aka Santos Rosewood, Pau Ferro) veneer that is a tolerable match for grain, but the color is nowhere close.

    Pictures of the organ parts are shown below, the first two are after stripping off the failed shellac finish, the third one shows an un-stripped piece where a piece of trim has fallen off. I believe that represents the unfinished original look of the wood. The fourth photo is the veneer I might use. (The pieces I need to replace are small and fairly out of sight so the appearance mismatch won't be bad as long as the color is close.) If there's a better veneer to use I'd be happy to acquire that as well, I'm assuming the original species is no longer available.

    I'm terrible at matching colors so would appreciate any help to get me into the ballpark.

    IMG_2167.jpg IMG_2168.jpg IMG_2169.jpg IMG_2171.jpg

  2. #2
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    The only way I know how to match colors is trial and error. This could also be a multi step process, not just dye. When you look at those first 3 pictures you see the dark brown color in the grain, but you also see the chestnut/olive color. That's the color you want to get to with the dye. One of the yellow dyes might be a good place to start. Then you apply a stain to put the darker brown in the grain, sometimes sealing the dye in first, sometimes not. Your new veneer looks like a good match with the wood under the molding so I'd have pretty high confidence it will be possible to get a close match.

    It once took me 35 specimens to match the finish on a piece.

    John

  3. #3
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    Thanks-- adding yellow wouldn't have occurred to me, so that's exactly the kind of hint I needed!

  4. #4
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    That must be a beautiful organ. As John said, trial and error is the only way I know. You may want to watch a few Tom Johnson restoration videos. Hes a pro at color matching and uses a combination of dyes, stains, spray toners, and more to match color. He also shows on a number of occasions how he will apply one color then seal it in with shellac, then adjust the color over the shellac, etc. His videos have helped me quite a bit in coloring patches of new wood to match.

  5. #5
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    I think Minwax makes a "Rosewood" color stain. That might be a place to start.

  6. #6
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    I've taken a somewhat different route to this; I've found a source for enough certifiably pre-ban Brazilian rosewood veneer that I can do the repairs with a material that matches perfectly in grain pattern and is close in color. I will still have some color issues to deal with as the organ had very dark brown shellac on it and carved parts made from mahogany that were dyed to match. Some of the color came out in stripping, but not all. everything is in the right tonal range, so that will be a bit more manageable.

    I was going to take a coloring class this summer, but alas it was cancelled. I'll continue to blunder along. I'll have a look at the videos you recommend.

  7. #7
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    That should help.

    All of us blundered in the beginning, and occassionally still do. But it goes a lot easier if you get a color wheel and a range of dyes. You can make any color you want with just the three primary colors, but adding some premixed colors makes it easier.

    Dyes will get you a long ways, but many times you have to layer a combination of dye, sealer, stain, sealer, glaze, toner, and topcoats in order to match an existing finish. It all depends on what you see. It can be daunting, and I'm sure taking that class would have helped jump start your learning, but all that's really required is a willingness to experiment on scrap, trying different combinations, and keeping good notes. You have a pretty talented group here to draw on, too.

    John

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