Touching Up Natural Maple

Here's an extended discussion of using colorants and finishes to blend a repair into a finished Maple piece. March 26, 2013

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to get my touch-ups on natural maple from going green? I normally start with titanium white mixed in blond shellac and alcohol, then I add a med yellow (Kremmer, bulk) color and this mix starts to the green shade. If I add red to the white first to counter the green I end up with pink that reacts with the yellow and it turns green brown.

Rather than pure white, I will use a buff white to start with but it is normally too dark to match natural maple. I have a warm yellow that works better, but it still goes green when other colors are added. We stopped using those expensive 1 oz. powders years ago but still had the problem when lightening them. Yes I know that this is one of the worst kind of touch-ups to do. I appreciate any suggestions, aside from finding a new profession!

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
I honestly have no idea what you're trying to do. You're trying to touch-up what, and how? I have no idea why you're putting an opaque white into a wood touch-up. Are you fixing color or grain issues? Maybe a little more detail. I use a number of Mohawk products for touch-up, including their NGR stains.

From contributor J:
I do touch-up work for a living. While the pigments are great, I really like layering with Blendalís. I find that mixing by using your fingers to rub the two colors together gives a more natural look. First pick two colors that make up the target. Then look at the mix and think light and dark, then color. Use the least amount of Blendal as possible. That keeps you from fighting yourself as well as keeps you from "growing the job". Finish with sprits of toner if needed.

From the original questioner:
We are repairing damage to shelving (clear finished maple, probably C.V. finish) in a high end store. We have hammer marks, dented edges, and cross grain scratches when the panels were shipped from some foreign country. Once we burned in, steamed out or bondoed, we need to make the repair go away. Now since titanium white is the lightest color powder I have I use it as a base then tint that mix and brush on over the repair. The normal process is to brush on the background, then seal. Next up is to remix to color in grain or detail. Darker colors are never an issue - clear maple background colors are. I have a full complement of Blendal in my kit (30 plus years ago) but nothing has the translucent cream/yellow background tone so any thoughts as to what to mix to get that color would be great. We have even tried adding metallic and pearls to the palate. It helps be still is not perfect.

From contributor F:
I have more success using Zinsser BIN for the white in touch-ups. The white powder/other color blends shift oddly from mixing to drying and again when clear coated. I'm sure you know "natural" maple touch-ups are challenging and that is an understatement.

From contributor C:
Perfection is surely in the eyes of the beholder when it comes to touch up work. I have yanked out more hunks of my hair than I care to remember shooting for that perfect clear maple touch up. Iíve lost countless hours of sleep wondering how I was going to touch up a maple conference table top that an installer decided to use as a workbench.

From contributor R:
I use a variety of artist's oil and alkyd pigments when touching up and you might try them, as well. There are several whites, e.g. titanium, zinc, flake, and etc. I prefer high quality artist's colors (Da Vinci, C.A.S., Gamblin, and many others) and often use fast drying alkyd pigments when layering. I also use dyes, both ready-made and premixed for a first layer to set the warmth and underlying color tone. In addition to using a white base you might also look at titanium buff and other light stock colors as a base.

From the original questioner:
To contributor R: When you use acrylics what are you using as a mixing medium and top coating? I have been working on shifting to WB touch up as an alternative, but I do not like its durability. I have a hard time getting the color to flow to a transparent look.

From contributor O:
I have found the Blendal to be handy. Acrylics work really well as they are water-based. You can make them transparent by adding water. Just thin it down to whatever consistency you want and start layering the color on. Build from light to dark and let it dry for two minutes then hit with any lacquer or poly aresal can. You can also do it with oil paints but they take forever to dry.

I have had excellent results with water colors as well, but they are tricky and they have about 1/4 the pigment of acrylics so are more transparent to begin with. Incidentally the only on-site touch-up I do these days is from poor installation. I turn down all other on site touch-ups.

From contributor R:
I mentioned fast drying alkyd pigments, not acrylic. I have used acrylics, but I find the colors less pleasing. The advantage of modern alkyd oil pigments is their rapid drying times and their clarity and transparency. The advantage of artist's colors over commercial woodworking pigments is the size and quality of the milled pigments. Transparency comes with smaller, more regular particles and the clarity of the medium used.

When one combines the color density, clarity, and fast drying qualities of high quality alkyd pigments, they have the characteristics I prefer. Remember, pigments are only part of the problem. Media (drying oils, resins, varnishes) are based on the binders used in milling the colors: linseed oil, alkyd resins and modified oils for water mixable oils. Your choice of media should be kept simple with additives to speed or slow drying.

You should also remember that pigments are only half of the issue of stains. Dyes are the other part. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I use dyes to set the stage and to establish the underlying color and tone of the repair. All of this is well and good, but most touch-ups require little more than a couple touch-up sticks and a rattle can of lacquer.

From contributor M:
I have had good success with Creative Auto Air Colors Pearlized Gold. They are an acrylic made to be top-coated with automotive urethanes. I still use some white for really dark marks first and then paint the pearl gold over that. For touch-ups that you can walk around 360 degrees nothing is perfect. This is the best I have found.