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Expert's Corner — pigment

TIP: How to Choose a Stain for Fade Resistance

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Pigment resists fading. Dye fades quickly in sunlight, including sunlight coming through a window. So when staining any object that will receive direct sunlight, always use stain containing only pigment. Because pigment settles and dye doesn’t, you can easily test for pigment or dye by dipping a light colored stirring stick to the bottom of a can of stain after you have given all the pigment enough time to settle (usually a week or longer). If the upper part of the stick is colored, the stain contains dye. If you can lift solid material off the bottom of the can,...

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TIP: Staining Sapwood with Dye

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The easiest way to stain lighter-colored sapwood so it blends with the heartwood is to stain all the wood with a dye stain, as is shown on the right side of the accompanying picture of walnut. Dye is much more effective than pigment, or any commercial stain that contains a binder. You can apply the dye several times after each application has dried to get a darker color. Or, with water-soluble powder dyes, such as those from W.D. Lockwood, you can wipe over the stain with a water-damp cloth to remove some of the dye and lighten the color. You...

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TIP: Stains can change color over time

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Many, probably most, store-bought stains are made with both dye and pigment. If wood stained with these stains is exposed to sunlight or fluorescent light for a while, the dye color will fade away, but the pigment color will remain. The effect is that the stained wood changes color. In the accompanying picture the red dye in this “cherry” stain has faded on the top half (I covered the bottom half) after only a few days in direct sunlight, leaving the color significantly different. It’s definitely no longer cherry color. The fading occurs much more rapidly in direct sunlight than...

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