In September, I wrote that, while stain is often superfluous, especially on prime woods, it can be a lifesaver on plain or uneven woods. At the time, I promised I’d revisit the topic and offer a few tips on how to stain without making wood look muddy, fake, or painted. Well, today’s the day.
First, some basics. Stains can be colored with pigment, which is ground-up colored dirt, or with dye, which dissolves. Pigments are relatively large particles suspended in liquid, but dyes dissolve, becoming vastly smaller particles the size of a molecule. Here, size matters.
That’s been the question since woodworkers darkened oak by burying it in a pile of dung and urine. We have more pleasant choices these days. Stain and dye formulations have been made from ground earth, colored clays, acids, bases, plant extracts, coffee, tea, fruits, berries and, these days, from sophisticated synthesized colorants.
That means we can stain wood whatever color we like. Or not. Admittedly, there are plenty of times I favor leaving wood au naturel. However, there are also times when stain can do a world of good, and make my work greener to boot.
In case you’re taking the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, you’re in luck! The February print issue of Woodworker’s Journal is on its way and should arrive while you’re enjoying the holiday respite. We’ll help fill that free time with some fresh woodworking goodness! Here’s the inside scoop on what we think is a great new issue.
Four Solid Projects: Ian Kirby presents a stylish Dinette Set that should fit neatly into a smaller kitchen or breakfast nook. He’s keeping the lumber budget affordable here, using longleaf pine instead of more costly hardwood alternatives. Butt joints, glue and screws will keep this project straightforward to build, as well. Or, you can work off some of those holiday calories building Frank Grant’s Sharpening Cart—a clever unit for sharpening all of your turning tools. It features a three-drawer cabinet, metal worksurface and two tip-out racks for keeping those gouges and chisels within easy reach. And, Kenneth Minnaert builds a handsome Weekend Tambour Gift Box from contrasting wood scraps. It presents itself as well as any gift you’ll hide inside it! All three projects include measured drawings and step-by-steps to help you along.