Brands of Dye Stain Differ

dye stain

This is the picture I used in my published article describing the differences in brands of dye stain. From the left: metal complex, metal complex with added acrylic resin, and acid dye. The differences when wiped with water show better here.

For my column in the current issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, April, 2017 (#231), I wrote about how brands of water-soluble dye stains sold to the woodworking community differ. One of the differences is the degree to which they can be redissolved and lightened by wiping over with a wet cloth.

My point was that you can choose for the characteristics you want, and I included a picture that was supposed to show the differences. But one of the problems with print media is that subtle differences often don’t show up well, and they didn’t in this picture.

So I realized that with this blog I have a second chance in digital media, which I think shows the differences better.

In the article I discussed the three types of water-soluble dyes available: acid, metal complex and metal complex with the addition of an acrylic resin.

dye stain

Acid dyes from Lockwood and Moser are easy to lighten by wiping with water.

Acid dyes are available in powder form as W.D. Lockwood and J.E. Moser at wdlockwood.com, Lee Valley Tools and Woodworker’s Supply.

Metal complex dyes from many sources don’t lighten much but can leave darker lines when a water-based finish is brushed directly on them.

Metal complex dyes are available in liquid form as TransTint and Non-Grain-Raising (NGR) from Woodcraft, Rockler, Klingspor and paint stores that cater to the professional trade. They are also often available in powder form from these suppliers and from Lockwood.

dye stain

When an acrylic resin is added to the dye, as with General Finishes Dye Stain, no redissolving occurs when wiped or brushed with water.

General Finishes dye stain is liquid metal complex with the addition of an acrylic resin. It is available at Woodcraft, Rockler and .

You can spray any finish over each of these dyes without problems. But brushing water-based finish directly over an acid dye will move the color around and may leave some darker lines in metal complex dyes. You should use another finish as a sealer coat, or spray a first coat of water-based finish, maybe with an aerosol if you don’t have a spray gun.

— Bob Flexner
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10 thoughts on “Brands of Dye Stain Differ

  1. keithm

    >For some reason woodworking articles always relate to products materials used by the average hobbyist not professional products and materials

    Well, it is called “Popular Woodworking,” not “Professional Finish Chemist Journal.”

    The other problem is that even if you, as a hobbyist, could find and buy these products, you might have to buy them in 5 gal. or more quantities, much more than the basement or garage hobbyist would need or use.

    By the way it’s (contraction for it is)
    – Let’s (contraction for Let us), not Lets
    – dyes (plural of dye), not dye’s (possessive form of dye) nor dies (plural form of die, n. or past tense of die, v.)

  2. Bob FlexnerBob Flexner Post author

    You lost me pretty quickly. I don’t have the knowledge to comment on the bulk of your message, but I can make a couple of points.

    One trick of successful professional writing is to write to your audience. Popular Woodworking’s is serious amateurs and small professional shops. I see no reason to go as deeply into dye chemistry as you have.

    Your first sentence doesn’t draw a distinction between dye and pigment. I realize that if you go deep enough into chemistry the difference narrows.. But, then, so does the helpfulness to the user. My definitions are much simpler. Dye dissolves, pigment settles. They color differently, and it’s easy to tell which is which.

    Concerning the difference between hobbiest and professional finishing products, I submit that it is, indeed, the size of the package. Otherwise, they are the same. For example the dyes sold by ML Campbell, Valspar and Sherwin-Williams are the same as TransTint packaged concentrated in the little containers sold in woodworking stores and catalogues.

  3. Paintress

    Less simplified breakdown of dye’s which start with similar pigments..
    Lets not forget even waterbased products contain solvents & initially hazardous materials in some degree & form.
    Common formulations of WATER-BASED dye’s & Solvent based dye’s are similar make up..
    1-Methoxy-2-propanol. has the chemical formula C4H10O2 1-METHOXY-2-PROPANOL is a methoxy alcohol derivative. The ether being relatively unreactive. Flammable and/or toxic gases are generated by the combination of alcohols with alkali metals, nitrides, and strong reducing agents. They react with oxoacids and carboxylic acids to form esters plus water. Oxidizing agents convert them to aldehydes or ketones. Alcohols exhibit both weak acid and weak base behavior. They may initiate the polymerization of isocyanates and epoxides Belongs to the Following Reactive Group(s)
    Alcohols and Polyols
    Ethers
    Tetrahydrofurfuryl. Chemically, it is a heterocyclic ester. It is made by reacting tetrahydrofurfuryl alcohol with acetic. Molecular formula C5H10O2 anhydride.formula CH3CO2CH2C4H7O Residues of tetrahydrofurfuryl alcohol are exempted from the requirement of a tolerance when used as a solvent or cosolvent in accordance with good agricultural practices as inert (or occasionally active) ingredients in pesticide formulations applied to growing crops or to raw agricultural commodities after harvest.
    Residues of tetrahydrofurfuryl alcohol are exempted from the requirement of a tolerance when used as a solvent or cosolvent in accordance with good agricultural practices as inert (or occasionally active) ingredients in pesticide formulations applied to growing crops or to raw agricultural commodities after harvest.
    Methoxy propanol (also known as propylene glycol monomethyl ether, 1-methoxy-2-propanol, PM, and PGME), is a colourless liquid that is soluble in water. It is a methoxy alcohol derivative and has a formula of C4H10O2.
    Examples of pigments used in these types of dyes..
    C I Acid Orange 139 Pigment yellow 139 is an organic compound that is used as a yellow-orange pigment. It is classified as a derivative of isoindoline. This yellow-orange solid is virtually insoluble in most solvents.[1]C.I. Acid Orange 3 is a dinitrodiphenylamine de-rivative used exclusively as a dye in semiperma-nent hair color products that are generally shampooed into the hair, lathered, and then al-lowed to remain in contact with the hair and scalp for 30-45 minutes (Frenkel and Brody, 1973). At the concentrations (up to 0.2%) used in these preparations, C.I. Acid Orange 3 is in solu-tion.

    The species is prepared by addition of ammonia to o-phthalonitrile to give the diiminoisoindoline, which in turn condenses with barbituric acid.[2]
    InChI=1S/C16H9N5O6/c22-11-7(12(23)19-15(26)18-11)9-5-3-1-2-4-6(5)10(17-9)8-13(24)20-16(27)21-14(8)25/h1-4,17H,(H2,18,19,22,23,26)(H2,20,21,24,25,27)
    Key: JSBMGPVJAADXIZ-UHFFFAOYSA-N
    2-METHOXY-1-PROPANOL Molecular Formula: C4H10O2 InChI=1S/C4H10O2/c1-4(3-5)6-2/h4-5H,3H2,1-2H3
    Methoxy propanol (also known as propylene glycol monomethyl ether, 1-methoxy-2-propanol, PM, and PGME), is a colourless liquid that is soluble in water. It is a methoxy alcohol derivative and has a formula of C4H10O2.
    C.I.Acid Black 194,CAS 61931-02-0,461.38,C20H12N3NaO7S,Acid Black L-DN,Acid Black M-SDL,Acid Black MS-RL,Neutral Black 2S-BL,Neutral Black M-SDL,Neutral Black M-SRL,Neutral Complex Black MSRL
    Molecular Formula:C20H12N3NaO7S
    Molecular Weight: 461.38
    CAS Registry Number:61931-02-0
    Manufacturing Methods : 4-Amino-3-hydroxy-7-nitronaphthalene-1-sulfonic acid diazo, and Naphthalen-2-ol coupling, and then translate into 1:2 chromium complex.
    Direct Red 173 Methods : 4-Amino-3-hydroxy-7-nitronaphthalene-1-sulfonic acid diazo, and 1-(4-Aminophenyl)-3-methyl-1H-pyrazol-5(4H)-one coupling, and then make the light
    Mordant Red 49 Methods : 4-Amino-3-hydroxy-7-nitronaphthalene-1-sulfonic acid diazotization, with 3-Methyl-1-phenyl-1H-pyrazol-5(4H)-one coupling, and then into chromium
    Direct Blue 185 Methods : 4-Amino-3-hydroxy-7-nitronaphthalene-1-sulfonic acid (2 Moore) diazo, and Bis(4-hydroxy-2-sulfonaphthalene-7-yl)amine coupling, and then into copper
    107-98-2 1-Methoxy-2-propanol
    1569-02-4 1-Ethoxy-2-Propanol Proprietary C.I. Acid Red Chromium III (as Cr) 107-98-21-Methoxy-2-propanol 1569-02-41-Ethoxy-2-Propanol
    Chromium III (as Cr) 1569-02-4 1-Ethoxy-2-Propanol Chromium III (as Cr) 1569-02-4 1-Ethoxy-2-Propanol Proprietary C.I. Acid Red or other dye color Chromium III (as Cr)

    blends make up these professional dye concentrates
    1-Naphthylamine is an aromatic amine derived from naphthalene. It crystallizes in colorless needles which melt at 50 °C. It possesses a disagreeable odor, sublimes readily, and turns brown on exposure to air. It is the precursor to a variety of dyes.[2]
    107-98-21-Methoxy-2-propanol 1569-02-41-Ethoxy-2-Propanol Chromium III (as Cr)

    It can be prepared by reducing 1-nitronaphthalene with iron and hydrochloric acid at about 70 °C. After the reaction mixture is neutralized with milk of lime, the naphthylamine steam-distilled. It can also be prepared, in the form of its acetyl derivative, by heating 1-naphthol with sodium acetate, ammonium chloride and acetic acid; by heating 1-naphthol with calcium chloride-ammonia to 270 °C; and by heating pyromucic acid, aniline, zinc chloride and lime to 300 °C.

    Vehicle for waterborne dies and stains are commonly as follows
    5-chloro-2-methyl-2 H -isothiazol-3-one [EC No 247-500-7] and 2-methyl-2 H –
    isothiazol-3-one [EC No 220-239-6] (3:1) a mixture of: 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one
    [EC No 247-500-7] and 2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one [EC No 220-239-6] (3:1) 2-butoxyethanol

    1. moonchaser

      WooHoo! So YOU are an expert and can’t resist showing off your supposed knowledge…

      WooHoo! I am NOT an expert and I really appreciate articles like this that show me differences in products and may help keep me from ruining a piece by my un-expert finish application.

      I hope Mr. Flexner keeps on writing these little nuggets of helpful knowledge for us un-experts for a long time to come.

    2. BoredCutter

      “Paintress”? (Not a real word…)
      While I guess we are meant to marvel at your tech jargon-happy cerebral dump here, whatever point you were trying to make was either lost or obscured when everyone stopped reading.

      Mr. Flexner’s articles rarely (if ever) miss their mark, and they have made me, at least, a far better informed furniture refinisher.

      Also, your grammar and spelling mistakes only serve to make your “thesis” appear superficial trite.

  4. Paintress

    For some reason woodworking articles always relate to products materials used by the average hobbyist not professional products and materials especially in the finishing world when you profess to be knowledgeable and training an Industry it seems to me you would discuss more than just as cheesy products to find it Home Depot tiny cans you find at Woodcraft or Rockler.. professional grade materials should be included if you are dealing with a professional industry as well
    Products you did not discuss ML Campbell,Valspar, Rudd, Sherwin-Williams, ICA ,Ilva just to list a few more well-known brands..
    Bairdi stains are

    1. moonchaser

      I am mystified why you bother to even read woodworking articles like this instead of reading PROFESSIONAL journals.

      Seriously, this publications is pretty much geared for the average to above-average HOBBYIST and pretty well delivers content that pertains to what we need.

      If you want scholarly, stick to the professional publications, just don’t put down those who contribute to enhancing hobbyist knowledge.

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