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Feb 27, 2020 - 7:04:25 AM
2011 posts since 2/7/2008

I'm working on a project where I'm putting a herringbone inlay into a piece that will later be dyed.

How can I keep the dye from getting into the white part of the inlay?

I 'spect I can tape it or shellac it first, but it seems like the dye might still bleed in from the sides, especially since the dye is alcohol based.

Any advice?

Feb 27, 2020 - 7:42:54 AM
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2578 posts since 2/20/2016

The answers to tape, shellac, and the possibility of bleeding anyway are all yes.

Be aware that the wrinkles in the masking tape can actually encourage bleed.  If you do use masking tape, flatten out the wrinkles really well with a finger.  Sometimes I will use electrical tape instead.  But then you may have to clean up some adhesive.

Working around the perimeter separately with a fairly dry brush or q-tip might help, but then you will have to make sure that you blend into the surrounding areas immediately.

A good sharp cabinet scraper can be used to scrape off any bleeding. I find Stew-mac's plain rectangular mini-scraper to be useful for scraping small areas.

Gibson used the back of a chisel in the old days, but that's a good way to also remove flesh.

Edited by - rcc56 on 02/27/2020 07:55:50

Feb 27, 2020 - 8:03:54 AM



2578 posts since 2/20/2016

Also, if you seal the inlay with shellac, let it cure for at least a couple of days before you stain. The longer you let it cure, the better.

Feb 27, 2020 - 8:30 AM
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12723 posts since 6/29/2005

I would recommend painting the herringbone with something pretty substantially impervious, like clear lacquer, using a good artist's brush.  The light parts of herringbone will suck stain right in, and it will wick under the edge of masking tape that's not firmly pushed down.  Some masking tape will pull up the grain of the herringbone when it's removed.

I would also recommend dying the product with a brush, steering clear of the herringbone, even though it's been sealed

Feb 27, 2020 - 8:38:12 AM

1076 posts since 8/7/2017

I'm not a wood worker, nor do I play one on TV.....but could you not figure out a work path that allowed you to dye the wood before you install the inlay?

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:59:47 AM
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12723 posts since 6/29/2005

It is a difficult workpath.  I do it all the time because I use a lot of bandings and laminations on necks and the necks have to be stained, especially curly maple,and you don't want to get stain onto the banding, especially if some of it is end-grain.

I just use a brush, as I said before. It's not easy, but it's the best way I know.

Sometimes you have to build up the stain in three or four applications to get the right color.

Feb 27, 2020 - 10:19:08 AM

10532 posts since 6/2/2008

I've used dewaxed shellac to protect plastic purfling rings and white plastic binding against discoloration from black water-based grain filler. Followed by lots of scraping with a razor blade. I need a better, smaller, flatter tool if there's a next time for rings.

To address your concern about the alcohol-based dye getting through the shellac, I'd use something expected to be impervious to the alcohol.  Maybe nitro lacquer as Ken LeVan said above, or a water-based polyurethane or lacquer.

Probably worth it to experiment on a test board.

Feb 27, 2020 - 10:32:32 AM

10532 posts since 6/2/2008

Originally posted by BrooksMT

I'm not a wood worker, nor do I play one on TV.....but could you not figure out a work path that allowed you to dye the wood before you install the inlay?

I'm not much of one either. But that doesn't me from guessing a lot!

My guess is that the challenge in staining before inlay is that if the inlay needs to be scraped or sanded flush to the surrounding surface (which it often does) then you'll be sanding into the stained work.  And there's also the possibility of glue squeezing out from the inlay cavity onto the stained surface and being difficult to clean up.

I suppose pre-sealing with a couple coats of the intended finish might protect the surrounding wood from squeeze-out or sanding. But if you don't use a finish in which each coat melts into the previous (like lacquer) then you could end up with witness lines at the border of the inlay. The border may hide or disguise them. But can this be predicted or controlled?

There must be good reasons that sealing the inlay before staining the instrument is what experienced makers do.

Feb 27, 2020 - 12:43:06 PM

7569 posts since 1/7/2005

I often let the stain "age" the purflings if my dye isn't too dark. I kind of like the look. If I wanted to remove the stain, I would use a scraper. Scraping the bindings has generally been the common factory method, and it's fast and not hard to do with a little practice.


Feb 27, 2020 - 1:12:44 PM

1076 posts since 8/7/2017

Well, if I hang around here long enough, I'll at least get the learning of a wood worker. Course, there's many a slip between the cup and the lip, so just knowing How is not, by a long chalk, the same as Doing, and doing and doing, oops, darn, doing, Nooooo, doing, doing.....

Thanks for the education, all who post on these informative posts. You guys are cool.

Feb 27, 2020 - 1:43:24 PM

12723 posts since 6/29/2005

Whenever you do something like that, it's really helpful if you have the purfling, herringbone, whatever it is, to have dark stripes on the outside, next to where you are going to apply the stain.  This allows for a greater margin for error than if you are going to stain right up to some white wood like maple or holly.

I think herringbone usually has black on the edges, which is very helpful.

If you look at the pictures below, the top ones are the easiest—the cherry on top has no stain, and the two curly maple ones just have the purfling stained along with the wood, which is a nice look, and curly maple doesn't need much help.  The mahogany one 4th down needs no stain, which is a nice thing about mahogany, and the two walnut ones on the bottom have the stain going right up to the maple edges, which is very striking looking, but more difficult to do.

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