Custom Tung Oil Dye Stains

More tips on mixing your own tinted Tung oil toners. July 3, 2008

On a Southwest style home, Iím doing a job with rough sawn 1x6 Douglas fir latillas (sanded to 150 but with saw marks and character left in) installed on a 9í high ceiling. The latillas have been finished with Watco Danish tung oil (natural), resulting in that classic warm hue that Doug fir is noted for. The latillas are attached to the trusses and the vigas will be brought up underneath, supported by furred out 2x4 walls. The vigas are Engleman spruce (peeled and sanded), which is a very soft, rather dull, boring cream colored wood (yellows quickly). The local sawmill had the standing dead spruce so the homeowner went with them. However, tung oil does nothing to enhance the spruce. The homeowner wants the hue of the vigas to somewhat match the luster and warmth of the reddish-orange tone of the latillas. They donít have to be an exact match, because the finished product is on the ceiling, but we would like to have the vigas look ďcomfortableĒ up against the latillas. Iíve tried mixing many stains and made several samples, but havenít been able to make the vigas look comfortable (the spruce just absorbs too much and looks dull and lifeless against the Doug fir). I did just purchase some Zinsser seal coat, which I plan to dilute and experiment with a washcoat and perhaps some dyes, but this is a new process for me. Does anybody have a recipe for this situation or suggestions on how to proceed?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
Buy your oil soluble dyes from Lockwood dyes, just the primaries - red, yellow, blue (you can get almost any color from mixing these three). Strain and mix some in the tung oil/varnish, not directly to the wood, thin first with mineral spirits. Dyes come with the instructions for use and mixing.

From the original questioner:
Based on what youíve told me this is what I am looking at doing:
1. Use WD Lockwood oil soluble dyes in red, yellow and blue.
2. In separate containers, dissolve one ounce of dye in one quart of appropriate solvent (I see they recommend benzol, toluol or turpentine. Is there any one you prefer?)
3. I now have three quarts of dye that I can mix in carefully measured proportions to get a color that matches something close to what I want. So I mix to get a color.
4. Once I get a color, I need to strain it (how fine a strain do you think is necessary?), and then dilute it 50/50 with mineral spirits.

5. Add this diluted color to a measured amount of Watco Natural Danish tung oil (to be determined by experimenting, I guess). I imagine this might considerably change the color from what I started with.
6. Brush the now colored Danish tung oil onto my sample in the usual manner and see what I get and then try it as many times as necessary until I get something we like.

From contributor C:
Each solvent will give you a different strength of color. I use turpentine (pure gum) but all will work. If you want the dyes more concentrated you can use a pint instead of a quart, or even 8 oz of turps. This way you can add drops instead of larger amounts. Numbers 4-6 are pretty accurate. Have fun and learn your colors - remember that yellow and red make oranges of differing degrees and the blue (tiny amounts) will darken and brown the orange.

I usually use white cheesecloth to strain, folded several times. It may take a couple times. Make sure there is no grit/trash/filler in it before proceeding.