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Arts & Crafts Finish Without the Fumes

At Mountain Springs Woodcraft, aniline dye and lacquer replace turn-of-the-century fuming and shellac for the mission look.

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Arts & Crafts Finish
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Water-soluble aniline dyes give the
white oak in these mission-style
pieces a deep, rich color and clarity
to highlight the grain.Judy Schmitt
designed this taboret table that
shows off the rays and flecks of
its quartersawn oak.

Arts & Crafts Finish

Gustav Stickley's original Arts and Crafts, or mission, furniture of quartersawn white oak was fumed to a dark brown. That's a process which involves ammonia fumes reacting with the wood's high tannic acid content in a sealed chamber. "This process is the only one known that acts upon the glassy pith rays as well as the softer parts of the wood, coloring all together in an even tone so that the figure is marked only by its difference in texture," Stickley wrote.

The fuming process, however, proves extremely dangerous -- ammonia is harmful if its fumes are inhaled or it comes in contact with the skin. And the shellac used as a final finish on Stickley's mission furniture, while it added warmth to the wood's tone, won't hold up like today's finishes.

To capture the dark look of Gustav Stickley's furniture without the danger, Michael Schmitt and his family turn to water-soluble aniline dyes. And the mission pieces they create on their Arkansas mountaintop would turn Stickley's head -- each with a deep, warm clarity of color that highlights the rays and flecks of the wood. Careful applications of toned lacquer contribute protection and smoothness. But the Schmitts' success also comes from dedication in preparation and an in-depth knowledge of materials.

Continued on page 2:  How to dye to perfection


Comments (4)
ms-ss wrote:

Dye doesn't have to raise the grain, nor fade in sunlight. Use Behlen's Solar-Lux. The only problem I have is getting a good color chart for the many colors they have.

3/31/2014 09:05:01 AM Report Abuse
pintodeluxe wrote:

While the final product looks great, that is one heck of a finishing schedule. First they use water based dye - which causes the grain to raise terribly, and adds another step. Then they use toned lacquer, which in my opinion is THE most difficult process to master when finishing. This is certainly not a technique for beginners. I usually use tinted lacquer when I want to obscure the grain, so it is strange that it is used on beautiful QSWO.

3/27/2014 10:50:21 AM Report Abuse
DaveS2 wrote:

A google search on the dye color names suggests that they use JE Moser dyes

3/16/2010 11:21:49 AM Report Abuse
mappcs2570232 wrote:

It would be nice to know which dyes are used. Without that the article doesnt impart much knowledge.

3/15/2010 05:33:21 PM Report Abuse

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