Arts & Crafts Finish Without the Fumes
How to dye to perfection
Because the wood has been thoroughly smoothed before glue-up, the aniline dye solution (five parts hot water to one part dye, with the dye first predissolved in a bit of denatured alcohol) raises the grain little after it's applied. And the staining with the first base coat, such as the "light fumed" aniline noted on the next page, goes quickly.
Armed with sponges and often hand sprayers, Michael's wife Judy, twins Alana and Jennifer, and son Chris carefully apply dye to every inch of wood, as shown right. Then, they allow the dyed assembly to soak several minutes before drying it off with cloths and using compressed air to blow excess from seams and corners.
After the dyed pieces have dried for 12 to 24 hours, the crew lightly hand-sands them with gray nylon abrasive pads or quarter sheets of 320-grit. "The dye is very forgiving at this stage," notes Michael, "and they can work over any mistakes or missed glue spots and reapply the stain. It blends right back into itself."
Next come two coats of the final aniline, a slightly different color to give the piece depth and enhance the grain. "The only limit to how much aniline we can put on from here is the saturation point of the wood fibers," adds Judy. "Once they have absorbed all the dye they can take, it begins to build on the surface and looks muddy. When we add more dye coats, we always let the wood dry thoroughly. Wet wood won't absorb dye."
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