Make-your-own stains and glazes

Mixing your own wiping stains and glazes. June 24, 2001

I want to make my own wiping stains and glazes. I'm currently adding my own colorants to Sherwin-Williams clear stain and glaze bases. It is often recommended to use Japan colors for this purpose, but I don't like these, as the pigment grind seems very coarse. I much prefer HULS 844's, 866's or, best of all, Artist Oil Colors for the job of tinting these bases, as these seem to be a much finer pigment grind. I think these pigments get into the pores of the wood better. Anybody else have formulas or colorants they prefer for wiping stains?

Forum Responses
I'm with you relative to Japan colors and the grittiness. I also find them to be an absolute bear to stir/mix. I also like the artist's colors.

I recently went to a local ink manufacturer and have been experimenting with some of the "dyes" they use. Their chemist told me there would be no problem relative to reactions when mixing with solvents in my shop. I'm not sold yet on their color-fastness, although they're supposed to be permanent (which they may be, I just haven't gotten that far yet).

I'm still working on getting the right ratios to get the colors I want. I am using colors that dissolve in acetone or lacquer thinner, but have been told there are also WB colors.

From the original questioner:
The "dye" situation is already well in hand. TransFast and TransTint products solved that problem perfectly a couple of years ago, and these basically came out of the printing and cloth dying applications you mention. I've got my dye stuff together and now I'm branching out into pigment mixing for the creation of wiping stains. The reasons alcohol dyes are not enough (I don't use the water dyes because of grain raising) is grain enhancement and the uniformity of the alcohol spraying dyes, which tend to go down slightly uneven (not bad but not perfect).

I hear you loud and clear about the dyes and TransTint. The reason I put the word "dyes" in quotes is that the manufacturer doesn't want to use the term pigment, although for any finisher, this is what they are since they are more on the opaque side. To be honest, their black covers better than any paint I've ever used. But like I said, I spend so much time trying to get the ratios of their product to solvent and finish (much less trying to mix 2 colors) that I'm questioning whether it's worth it.

However, when filtering prior to spraying, it's unbelievable how few and how fine the particulate is.

For the best black there is, try Dick Blick India Ink. Cheap, waterborne, absolutely light fast and permanent.

I use MLC materials, so I can't speak to S-W. However, my finish supplier had an old pigment dispenser from the store that he gave me. A few of the individual dispensers had problems, but I had enough to put in BU, RO, LB, PG, YO, TW, more or less. These colors have done 98% of what I've needed. I can now shift their standard colors, or start with clear stain base and make my own. If I understand your original post correctly, I think this is the route you should take. A $200 air power paint shaker rounds out the system.

From the original questioner:
I use about a gallon of stain a month, maximum. So a carrousel isn't too practical. However, I do have the HULS colorants, which I've put in squeeze bottles, which I like. What is PG? Also, which series of colorants is MLC using? Is it 824, 844, or 866?

PG stands for (watch for spelling) pthalion green. I use the 844. Do you dye most of your work?

From the original questioner:
I dye all of what I make and do a wiping stain on top of the dye, some of the time. On really dark colors, I usually don't need the wiping stain. On lighter colors, it helps to make things uniform. Alcohol dyes are somewhat hard to apply evenly by spraying and that is more noticeable on lighter colors, thus the need for the wiping stain.

I used to make glazes with Sherwood stain concentrates and a Sherwin Williams product called penetrating oil. I'm not sure if it's the same thing as the glaze base, but it worked great. The stain concentrates made it easy to match colors and they go a long way.

I use Huls 824 series colorants for mixing wiping stains and glazes and 844 series for tinting pigmented lacquers and toners. I find the 844 colorants don't dissolve readily in mineral spirits without first dissolving in a small amount of a strong solvent. 844 is an acrylic pigment which is ground much finer than the 824, but I have never had any problems with adhesion or lightfastness with either of these. I also use artist colors, but only for touch-up work. I don't like using linseed oil under my finish. It takes too long to dry and can cause problems if you don't let it.

From the original questioner:
You can solve your dissolution problems with the 844s by substituting Xylene for the mineral spirits. Xylene is a far more powerful solvent. If the Xylene is a little too fast for you, try high flash naptha. It has the solvency of Xylene, but the slow drying characteristics of mineral spirits.

The 866 series is actually probably the best as it has the fine grind of the 844 and is a medium oil blend somewhat similar to the 824. It can be used with lacquers and conversion varnishes very nicely. In fact, it is what Lilly recommends and uses for tinting.

866 is probably the best to fly with for now on stains. Its grind is fine enough for stains, but it is good to use a clear stain base, as this will have the resins and adds in it to make a good stain. Some stain bases will also take dyes in them also, so be sure to ask or test to see if it will "kick out" any colorants when mixing dyes and pigments.

Bob Niemeyer, forum technical advisor

I use Transfast and Fiebing dyes. Transfast is water-based (they also have solvent-based). Fiebing is a leather dye that you can get as a solvent or oil.

What advice can you give a cabinetmaker that's trying to get a customer's dark color using two parts xylene to one of SW wiping concentrate? Too much pigment, I feel, which doesn't work well. One suggested cutting the mix 25% more with paint thinner and a second coat to get it dark enough. Somebody else said watch out then for adhesion problems. I've never used dyes.

You've got to try dyes. For dark colors, they are the only answer. Don't do what you're doing, which is making paint, as adhesion problems will be your penalty.

You start with a stock dye out of the Sherwin-Williams dye stain catalog that gets you pretty close to what you want. Almost never will it be exact and almost never will it be perfectly uniform. However, you come back over the dye with a pigmented stain that moves the dye color slightly to the exact match you're looking for. The pigmented stain will also uniform out the dye, making everything look much closer in color and getting rid of the overlap lines. You then seal this with vinyl sealer and, if additional color tuning is necessary, you glaze and follow with another coat of vinyl sealer. If you still need to, tweak a little tone to get it to the promised land. However, remember the golden rule: you can always make it darker, but you can't make it lighter.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor S:
The simplest system apart from buying Minwax for $5.00 is to thin roofing tar or roofing cement with mineral spirits (thinner) and brush it on lightly. Just wipe it off and don't use too much or any stain will look terrible. After that, spray it with clear Krylon, about $1.00 US.

Comment from contributor H:
Be very careful switching to any WB colorants. Many are not compatible with oil based stains and glazes, they will float and separate. Also, you may be having difficulty with some of your dispensers due to the fact that 844ís and 866ís are a high active solvent based tint system. They must be used in metal canisters only. They also have to be agitated about once an hour. If you use plastic it will eat the fittings, dry out, and clog. Plastics are meant for WB or BAC only.