Dyeing Poplar & Oil/Poly Finishing...
by Joe Lyddon

Question by Joe Lyddon   04/28/04   12:00 PM

Hi people!

I've been thinking about making a few small items   (6"x6"x3").   Rather than buying various kinds of timber to make them, I'd like to cut them out of Poplar, and dye individual sets using these dyes then finishing with Oil/Poly.

Seemed simple to me...   Then I thought, well, maybe I should bounce it off the EXPERTS...   ergo, this post.

So, what do you think?

Thank you in advance and
Have fun,

Dave Arbuckle   [Re:Joe Lyddon]   04/28/04   01:08 PM

Enjoy, it's easy.   You are going to practice a bit on scrap pieces first, of course.


Joe Lyddon   [Re:Dave Arbuckle]   04/28/04   01:14 PM

I was thinkimg of just rubbing it on with a rag...

How would you do it & what should I look out for?

have fun,

Dave Arbuckle   [Re:Joe Lyddon]   04/28/04   01:19 PM

Dyes are flooded on, trying to apply them sparingly will blotch like you've never seen before.   Method of application depends on size of project, for small items anything will work.   I use paper towels, because they do a nice job removing the excess and they're cheap.   For larger projects, heavy duty paper or cloth works better because the paper towels shred kind of quickly.

Wear good gloves, those dyes stain your hands pretty effectively.


Joe Lyddon   [Re:Dave Arbuckle]   04/28/04   01:31 PM


I just got to thinking (really)...   would the wood be stain colored deep enough to be able to sand it afterward a little?

I was going to get everything pretty well finish-sanded just before dyeing.

Thank you,

Lsudan   [Re:Joe Lyddon]   04/28/04   01:32 PM


What you are wanting to do can be done.   Make sure you get oil based dyes to be mixed with laquer thinner.   I built a bookshelf for work out of poplar and dyed it Dark Walnut.   I thought it came out looking pretty good.   Let the dye dry for about 4 to 7 days and then wiped on 3 coats of Watco Satin Wipe on Poly.  


Howard Acheson   [Re:Joe Lyddon]   04/28/04   01:46 PM

Joe, typically, you raise the grain before applying the water based dye.   After raising the grain, lightly sand it flat and apply the dye. Once the dye is dry, you may need to very lightly sand again.   I use a 320 paper and very little pressure and only about two the three swipes.   Just remove any fuzz--do not attempt to get it super smooth.

Apply your finish seal coat and lightly sand that smooth.   Try not to sand to the point where the sanding dust indicates color.   Then apply your finish coats.

As Dave said, do a couple of throw away samples first.

Dust the item and then wipe on your


Dave Arbuckle   [Re:Joe Lyddon]   04/28/04   02:22 PM

Yeah, you can sand it afterward.   If you sand through (which would be a sixteenth or more), reapply the dye.   No big deal.

I'm afraid I couldn't agree less with Dan regarding oil-based dye, unless you plan on spraying the dye or mixing it in lacquer as a toner.


Joe Lyddon   [Re:Joe Lyddon]   04/28/04   07:09 PM

I just had a thought...

This is for very small pieces of wood...

What would be wrong with getting maybe a cookie sheet or caserole dish, pour some of the dye into it, then use it like a BBQ (w/o heat) to throw in the small pieces to "soak it up", rotating with tongs, etc., then taking them out and wipe them off (done).

Would it be possible to "over cook" getting different shades, etc.??   Or, would it be a SAFE way of getting a uniform color?

Thank you,

Howard Acheson   [Re:Joe Lyddon]   04/29/04   06:44 AM

Small pieces are frequently "dunked" in dye.   Give it a try. See what happens.   Report back and let us all know.


Dave Arbuckle   [Re:Joe Lyddon]   04/29/04   09:36 AM

Like Howie said, a common technique.   Don't leave the wood in long enough to damage it, you are soaking it in water.

Leaving in longer won't change the color, if the shorter time is enough to saturate the surface.


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