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Wood color.


Nick Allen

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Hello fellow people,

 

I've been reading a lot and experimenting with some things regarding wood color. Obviously there's the UV tanning, which seems non-negotiable, then there's dyed/stains, which seem pretty hit-or-miss, and then there's chemicals, which can get crazy fast, and complicated. 

 

What I've been questing for is a nice graham cracker brownish color. Most of the methods that I've seen/used make the wood quite warm and yellow/orange, which shows up too hot under varnish for me, and real aged wood doesn't really look like that either. Usually UV and nitrate will do this, which is what I've usually use. I keep ending up with a wood color that's too golden for my tastes, and it makes the undertone too intense as a result. 

Now I've tried saltpeter, and I like the color that it imparts a little more. More along the grey/brown spectrum. But I can't get it intense enough to satisfy my taste. 

I haven't used any dyes/pigments for the wood yet. So many of them seem suspect to me, regarding lightfastness and long term stability. 

So does anyone have any experience in getting a nice wood color that is not the usual gaudy yellow-gold? 

Thanks guys. 

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40 minutes ago, MikeC said:

No one else here besides Don has the equipment and experience to make terrified torrified wood.  What's the alternative for the rest of us? 

I like the results I'm getting but it's not that kind of brown.  

I don't believe it is possible to exactly duplicate the optics of dark wood by using coatings or chemicals, but the good makers can surely come close enough for practical purposes.

Lighting and varnish have huge effects on appearance.  Here are some photos of the previous violin on the right, in-the-white with different lighting, and fully finished, also with different lighting.  The only decent comparison is with a reference sample or instrument, side-by-side under identical conditions.

1230710812_1508101.jpg.473b71205ccadd28b11be5fa5b16a391.jpg949246236_1509102.thumb.JPG.a9d800c4047a5b5ba448aa264414e656.JPG

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That looks good Don,  did you make the varnish?  I like the color of it.  Are you putting a clear ground coat into and on the wood under the color varnish? 

We have to use something, chemical or dyes or stain, or just leave the wood white.  Those seem to be the only options available.   

I've found that some alkaline solutions can darken the wood.  I once put a baking soda solution on a sample and it got dark but was kind of a gray tone that I didn't quite like.  

On the current build after trying a few things, I finally settled on the horse/rabbit sauce.  Someone sent me some, I didn't make it myself.  On top of that I added a pale yellowish natural dye.  It doesn't look yellow in normal lighting but in bright sunlight it glows gold.  Direct sunlight makes most anything look bright gold though.   

This is what it looks like indoors and the light source.  That's an led bulb in the lamp and just a little natural light through the window.  

IMG_6920.jpg

IMG_6921.jpg

IMG_6922.jpg

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2 minutes ago, MikeC said:

That looks good Don,  did you make the varnish?  I like the color of it.  

We have to use something, chemical or dyes or stain, or just leave the wood white.  Those seem to be the only options available.   

I've found that some alkaline solutions can darken the wood.  I once put a baking soda solution on a sample and it got dark but was kind of a gray tone that I didn't quite like.  

On the current build after trying a few things, I finally settled on the horse/rabbit sauce.  Someone sent me some, I didn't make it myself.  On top of that I added a pale yellowish natural dye.  It doesn't look yellow in normal lighting but in bright sunlight it glows gold.  Direct sunlight makes most anything look bright gold though.   

This is what it looks like indoors and the light source.  That's an led bulb in the lamp and just a little natural light through the window.  

IMG_6920.jpg

IMG_6921.jpg

IMG_6922.jpg

That's a nice color, Mike. Not too cheesy gold looking. Much more natural. 

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

The only decent comparison is with a reference sample or instrument, side-by-side under identical conditions.

Here is a photo of maple I just got out of the chamber this morning.  There are torrefied vs. untorrefied small samples of the same wood.  In the background are the halves of the same wedge:  the dark one is the planed outside surface that was UV tanned before cooking, and the other is the resawn face.  I will be testing the samples to see what UV does AFTER being torrefied.

1171295159_Maplecomparison.JPG.31366518564b2b9b779355a602f6a21a.JPG

And here's a side-by-side comparison of a torrefied back vs. the ex-Jackson Strad.

IMG_1031.JPG.2a4047229b262d0704d91cadae157669.JPG

 

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That's a close match Don.  I would say the Strad looks even darker than your torrefied.  The varnish color looks like a good match also.  

I'm torn between a straight new varnish look or try to antique it.  I'm leaning towards a mild antiquing to show off some of the ground underneath the varnish.  As a first build I don't want it to look too amateurish though and I have no experience with antiquing.  

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6 hours ago, MikeC said:

That's a close match Don.  I would say the Strad looks even darker than your torrefied.  The varnish color looks like a good match also.  

I'm torn between a straight new varnish look or try to antique it.  I'm leaning towards a mild antiquing to show off some of the ground underneath the varnish.  As a first build I don't want it to look too amateurish though and I have no experience with antiquing.  

I'd go for a nice mild antique look, personally. But it's a hard vibe to pull off, as I've found out. 

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On 12/29/2022 at 9:05 PM, Nick Allen said:

Hello fellow people,

 

I've been reading a lot and experimenting with some things regarding wood color. Obviously there's the UV tanning, which seems non-negotiable, then there's dyed/stains, which seem pretty hit-or-miss, and then there's chemicals, which can get crazy fast, and complicated. 

This may rub some people the wrong way, but back when I was doing a lot of antique restoration I ran into Orasol metallized dyes, which I bought from Museum Services. I think these are the same dyes used in TransTints. I buy them as a dry powder and use them primarily for touchup, but you can let them down in glycol ether and they will mix with almost anything. It'll take some experimentation, but these are carpet dyes and about as permanent as anything you can get, and I've had no trouble matching any color I've tried, whether on 18th Century furniture or on any violins I've tried. This current viola with the light varnish and no shading will be as big a challenge as any, but if I hit the color right, I won't have to worry about it going "off" a few years down the road..

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13 hours ago, Michael Richwine said:

This may rub some people the wrong way, but back when I was doing a lot of antique restoration I ran into Orasol metallized dyes, which I bought from Museum Services.

Are these fugitive when mixed with oil varnish, like many other dyes?  Are they transparent?

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Steam treatment makes maple darker (less white). The hue of color depends on the maple, some turn brownish, some reddish and some greyush. The difference might come from the soil the tree was standing. The reddish hue combined with the correct ground can make a very nice ‘golden’ ground. 

For spruce steaming has not much effect and cautious heating works better IMO. All recipes for temperature and duration depend a lot on the oven you use, so it’s just trial and error 

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I don't think winter growth in maple is very visible in any case.   Winter grain in spruce and grain reversal can be an issue.  

Look at the back picture I posted earlier for example,  winter growth lines are barely visible.  I'm not sure what all is in the horse stain,  nitrates and or nitrites of potassium or sodium? It has an ammonia smell so there is some of that in it also.  

I don't see much difference in the horsey sauce and an alkaline substance that I tested out on some scraps.  

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9 hours ago, Michael Richwine said:

This may rub some people the wrong way, but back when I was doing a lot of antique restoration I ran into Orasol metallized dyes, 

I used to work at a textile factory and acquired some synthetic dyes, not sure what kind though.  It looked good on some test samples and I wouldn't rule out using it on a future build although I'm trying to go all natural. 

That company's claim to fame is that they made the fabric for the green jacket of the Masters golf tournament.   I don't have any of the green dye though, just some red that they used on billiard felt.  Yeah there are red billiard tables out there somewhere.  There was even a bright neon pink that one customer ordered.  :D  

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7 hours ago, Michael Szyper said:

Keep in mind that in the old stuff you don’t see winter growth on maple at all, just compare dons picture. 

1 hour ago, MikeC said:

I don't think winter growth in maple is very visible in any case. 

It can vary a lot depending on the tree.  Ground and varnish I think will reduce the visibility of annual growth rings.  Here's a close-up comparison of the Strad vs. my violin, taken from the photo I posted before:

383766429_stradvs18.jpg.5f161f12493a40d7c2a0993ea1eedb9e.jpg

 

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