Retarding Lacquer Dye or Stain Drying

Dye solvents tend to be fast-drying, and it's hard to get them to work with hand application methods. December 6, 2011

What chemicals, thinners, or extenders do you recommend for extending the drying time and the workability of lacquer dye stains? We are doing antiqued passage doors. We first seal the wood with tung oil, let dry overnight, and then hand apply the lacquer stains with a rag working it into the cracks and corners and then wiping it off. We then top coat with tung oil. It is working ok, but the lacquer dye dries a little too fast some times.


1. Slow the drying time down of the lacquer stain.

2. Increasing the workability by hand.

Iím looking for specifics on the chemicals.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
Do you have a photo of the look you are trying to achieve? Sounds to me you might like a glaze better than a stain, but I really donít know the look youíre going for - just guessing at it. By adding a retarder to the stain you will also reduce its color intensity and viscosity. It may then be actually more difficult to apply. Try a sample with some retarder and see how it works. Like I mentioned above, I suspect you might prefer a glaze.

From the original questioner:
Does anyone have experience diluting a lacquer stain with MEK or Toluene? How safe are these? I will be using Mohawk heavy body glaze later in the process but for this step the main purpose is to take the cherry and give it a warm, rich, medium, and slightly orangish brown without obscuring the grain or making it muddy. Iím looking for things that can be wiped.

From contributor J:
Why not just use a regular wiping stain? Why the tung oil as a first step? You would be fine adding MEK or Toluene, but MEK is a very fast evaporating solvent and will speed the drying time. I would try the Toluene, or better yet, consult the stain manufacturer and ask what they recommend.

From contributor L:
If you add toluene to a lacquer based stain you will soon have a bucket of tapioca pudding. Use lacquer thinner, butyl cellosolve, or N butyl acetate.

From contributor R:
Mohawk has a dye stain retarder/reducer that you may want to try. However, it is my experience that dye stains are best sprayed, not hand applied. Also, the dye stain is usually applied first.

From contributor F:
Contributor R has the answer. Dyes that are reduced in a fast solvent such as acetone or lacquer thinner dry too quickly for wiping and are designed to spray in a reduced form directly on the bare unsealed wood. Adding a retarder might help a little but I would not want to do this on anything very big.

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

Comment from contributor O:
I have been finishing for over 12 years and found that mixing clear base stain or even better mineral spirits with the dye works the best for hand workability. Just add a little at a time to the dye to reach your desired goal. Spray the mix on and then use a rag to wipe it off. It works better that dipping it in the solution and then wiping it on.