Color Adjustment with Aniline Dyes

Advice on sneaking up on the desired hue and tint with dyes on a musical instrument. April 17, 2009

I am trying to tint some wiping varnish/oil with powdered aniline dyes. The problem is, the dyes all end up very red, no browns at all. I am using J.E. Mosers oil soluble dye powders with bush oil, Minwax antique oil, and Waterlox. The dyes are dark browns but end up red-orange when mixed with the wiping oil finishes. Any thoughts?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
Try pre-mixing the powder with xylene or toulene before adding to the varnish. I don't think you're putting the various components of the dye mix into complete solution. Lacquer thinner may be a good substitute.

From contributor R:
The color in those oil dyes aren't very light fast, is there any reason you couldn't either stain with a water soluble dye and then varnish over it or mix an alcohol soluble dye in shellac and then topcoat with your varnish?

From the original questioner:
It is for a violin and the color must be transparent. I am using water dyes first (light maple), then sealing with shellac (again with light maple alcohol dye), the last step is the varnish, that has a reddish brown hue. This gives the effect of yellow undertones bleeding through the red/brown varnish. I will try dissolving the dyes into solvents first and see how that works.

From contributor S:
If you want to get rid of the red mix a little green into your stain and it will be more brown.

From contributor C:
All your dye work should be with water soluble dyes only! In olden days we layered the dyes - we applied the ground dye color first be it yellow, orange, etc, let the surface dry and then applied the overcolor to it. You only need three dye colors - red, yellow and blue - mixing the three will give you variable blacks (reddish, yellowish, greenish blacks - there are no true blacks in dye colors.) After you lay down a thin yellow dye let it surface dry and then gun apply the rest of your colors over with a gun set to a fine mist, do not put on so heavy it runs or droplets form. Mainly air with a little wet dye build slowly, and wait several minutes. I use an air brush for small jobs like yours. In between applications to allow evaporation of the water - applying to fast will not allow enough and it will get to wet! If done properly you can shade the edges this way and get a two or three tone finish like in old days make samples always! Layering dyes was the way all fine furniture use to be done back in the 30's, 40's and 50's.