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Help with homemade dyes


Deo Lawson

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

A major issue with relying on stick-lac for coloring, is that the coloring can go all over the place, depending on on the PH of the environment. Ammonia will turn it into a dark purple-colored substance. Once the fiddle goes out the door, we don't really have much control over things like that. 

Very true!  And the involvement of a mordant as in pigments is no guarantee of colour stability within varnish systems.  (I haven't got a lot of experience making pigments derived from lac and brazilwood so can't really comment on whether they are significantly more susceptible to environmental pH or photobleaching effects etc., than those derived from madder or cochineal.  I can say that in my experience the latter are certainly a minefield...)  

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You can buy small cans of commercial shellac with a variety of natural colors. Dilute it 25% to 50% by volume with ethanol and let it stand in a capped bottle for a few days. The wax will settle to the lower half and leave a highly transparent, wax free shellac in the upper half than can be scooped out.

A lot of the content of the can will go to waste, but you will get enough dewaxed shellac to varnish a lot of instruments.

There are a variety of alcohol based dyes, like transtint, that do a great job shading shellac with just  drop. The challenge is in the application. Since successive layers of shellac partially melt into previous layers, it is easy to make a streaky mess of things.

Dewaxed shellac can dry into a hard and surprisingly durable finish that is highly resistant to both water and alcohol. The trick is to keep the coats thin and few, and let them thoroughly dry. A UV cabinet can help promote the crosslinking that normally occurs over long periods of time, but drying in a warm but low humidity atmosphere is usually enough if you let it sit for a week, since most of the drying is by evaporation of the solvent.

 

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