Uneven topcoating over dye stain

      A primer on the proper preparation and application of dye stains. March 31, 2000

We did a cabinet job about a month ago using a Lockwood water dye on curly maple.

We applied the dye, sanded the grain flat, dye again, light sanding then topcoat with precatalyzed lacquer the next day. Looked good, except it seemed the wood soaked up more lacquer than usual. Now the corners of the inset panels and door edges feel rough, and are showing a whitish cast. The homeowner said she used Murphy's Oil Soap to clean the dust from the tile work. I think this may be part of the problem. I was able to steel wool the white spots off and they are looking O.K. now. We have not had a lot of experience with dyes. Am I doing something wrong? This dye really colors the maple nicely.

What kind of sealer did you use (if any)?

We used ML Campbell Magnalac, thinned, as a sealer.

It sounds as though the end grain of the panels absorbed and retained water longer than the other parts. High humidity exacerbates the retention. The white is usually indicative of blush and it sounds as if you solved the problem.

Next time, try dissolving the dye in half the amount of water you normally use, then add alcohol to the required dilution. Check to see that the color is O.K., then use this as your stain.

I did not know you could mix the alcohol in with the water. I only used the water dye because I read somewhere that it is more lightfast. Will these products fade more than an oil stain with time?

The solubility of a dye has nothing to do with its lightfastness. In this case, the alcohol is only acting as a diluent. If you dissolved the same dye in only alcohol, it would be a different color.

Dyes will fade more than an oil/pigment stain. I typically use a dye as the base color and then put an oil/pigment stain over the dye (either sealed or unsealed).

In harsh environments or questionable areas like kitchens that may get a lot of sun, the use of a metallized dye (in conjunction with a UVA in the topcoat) is the best scenario.

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