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Thread: curly maple dye technique

  1. #1
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    curly maple dye technique

    I've done the dye/sanding/dye etc., technique about a dozen times now to pop the curl. I seem to be getting worse at it. I've watched a bunch of videos and read a bunch of articles, all of which differ in many ways. I did better the first few times, but have lost something. My problem seems to be that, when sanding off the coats of (transtint) dye, the dyed stripes get sanded off to the same degree as the background, so I end up with either no contrast or, a muddy looking workpiece.

    My protocol has been: sand to 100 grit; apply dark dye; sand w/ 150-220 to remove dye; apply second coat of dye; repeat; apply 1-2 coats of other dye colors; thin coat BLO; shellac topcoat. None of that was original thinking. What might be wrong?
    In the photo, you can see places where more sanding would remove the dyed stripes, and other places where there's too much dark dye left on between stripes.

    IMG_0687.jpg
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  2. #2
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    I have never done this, but I have always wanted to fool with "Ferric Nitrate" aka 'aquafortis' on curly maple. Short video here, one of many:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrLjLYDIdWM

    I did use a two color dye technique on a tobacco pipe once upon a time. I purchased it unfinished. First step (in briar burl) was to sand out to finished surface. 400, 600 grit, something like that. Then I coated the entire thing with a black alcohol based stain, let that dry completely than dry an additional 24 hours. Next sand at the finish grit (pretty sure it was 600) to take the black off the face grain but still leave the end grain of the burl black, clean that up, let it dry, then a water based light brown stain...

    I guess that would work with curly maple since you have done it. I am pretty confident it would work on quilted maple, at least the piece I have on my desk right now.

    My expectation is if you have sanded to finished smoothness before the first coat of dye goes on, then for sanding between colors you are maintaining surface smoothness and just adjusting color distribution- with the caveat I haven't done it with curly maple.

  3. #3
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    I'm certainly no expert at this, have not done a lot of experimentation, but do usually achieve acceptable results. The primary difference I see is that I sand to a much higher grit before beginning the process-- to 400 or so, dampen to raise the fuzzies, and then take them off with fresh sandpaper. I seldom am trying to dramatically change the color of the wood, so am not interested in maximizing dye absorption. Subsequent sanding to emphasize figure is very light passes with 400-600 grit. I use Trans-tint in alcohol as my dye.

  4. #4
    I suspect you are dyeing the dark coat too many times and sanding too rough.

    I would sand up to 220, apply your dark dye more dilute than now. Sand with 220 to remove. Apply your lighter dye. Sand with 320 or 400 then topcoat.

    These days I would skip even the dark dye altogether. But that’s personal.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for this input. I started sanding at 100 per some video guidance that said that first dye coat at a rougher initial grit would allow more penetration of dye into the stripes. That made sense to me, but I'll consider why it might be wrong. Part of my frustration was that in each of video and written guidance I looked at, this was one of the things that was usually different.

    Skipping it all together is tempting, but I want to get it done right for once, for educational purposes.
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  6. #6
    The article that taught me was “Pop the Curl in Curly Maple” in FWW. Jeff Jewitt is one of the two authors I trust and learned from. A foundation in him and Flexner will help you navigate the misinformation that is out there. Even on this forum, you have to watch who you follow with respect to finishing.

  7. #7
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    I agree with Prashun. Jeff Jewitt's advise has always worked well for me.

    John

  8. #8
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    Jewitt is always a favorite. Similar to your method I pretty much follow Charles Neil on this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWCptCxNx4I

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XH4hWNMp5Ec

    Some times sanding back to leave the color in the softer woods and sometimes just using the finish base to rub the color off of the harder woods as in the second video. People who are comfortable with this (not me) seem to be able to judge as they go along more than apply a rigid protocol to the process.

    Larry Frame (12).jpg . Frame with Inlay (19).jpg

    The amount of figure in the material is also a strong contributor. Sometimes I get plenty of figure but choose different material due to the natural occurrences in the wood.
    Take me to the hotel - Baggage gone, oh well . . .

  9. #9
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    You know, I went to Homestead finishing site as my first stop in researching, and did not find a specific guidance for this. I did not think to look at FWW. I looked at the article now, and see how he starts with a 150 sanding. I looked at several guitar finishing videos (that's the level of contrast I'm trying to get) where they start at 220+ before 1st dye coat. The Charles Neil video (I like how he gets right to the point) starts at 120 and never goes above 150.

    That illustrates the difference in technique that Im struggling with. I can accept there are many ways to get there, and some depends on the wood. And the desired result. I think Prashtun's points are valid. I'll keep trying.

    Thanks for input.
    Last edited by Stan Calow; 05-29-2022 at 1:01 PM.
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