Staining Wood

Because I do not believe in pigmented stains, finishing work is much more difficult for me.  

My old house was full of yellow pine with its original pristine 1911 shellac based finish.  Matching woodwork could not be done with stains.  

I put the darkener or dye in the varnish itself.  I then applied successive coats darkening it slowly. 

Original 1911 Yellow Pine Finish With Dye in The Finish

The difference between the sample above and the one below, is a pigmented stain was applied to the sample below and the darker grain became lighter and the lighter grain got very dark.  This is called Grain Reversal.

New Pigmented Stained Finish

This sample with the pigmented stain is the reverse side of the 1911 finished block.  The stain was applied to the raw surface.  The softer parts of the wood absorbs more stain.  The harder parts hardly absorbed any.  As a consequence the grain shading is literally reversed.

Expensive Stain Applied To Beachwood

In this sample, the recesses in the wood become filled with stain.  The same thing happens with oak.  If this were finished with a dyed varnish, one could see the shiny evenly reflective grain of the wood, a 3D effect.

It seems very sad that after all that work to build a master piece, most will desecrate it by applying a pigmented stain clogging the pores of the wood.   Then they are mortified when the surface appears blotchy.

So now one is asking, what can I do.  The answer is simple; apply a clear bottom coat.  Then use aniline dyes and add them to the varnish, lacquer, or shellac which ever one you're going to use.  If one needs to darken the wood a lot, some trick like give it a suntan or resort to something like ammonia gas will help.

Sanding between coats, the first and possibly second coat of finish is clear, which seals the pores of the wood.  then mix the dyes with the next layers of finish, applying successive thin even coats, allowing each to dry, till it is to the desired darkness.  Then, if the color is not exactly right, one can use a different color to bring it to the desired tint; i.e., if it is too orange, use green...

I use a varnish that levels it self out. Shellac and lacquer are very difficult to use and have to be applied very thinly and evenly.

Aniline dyes can be found at Woodworker's Supply.

NOTE.  There is one problem with some aniline dyes.  They are susceptible to UV rays.  Oil base being the most, alcohol based the next, and water base the least.