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Almost every woodwork has used stain to change the color or wood at one time or another, but few of them have ever used "wood dye" to color wood, in fact, few woodworkers have even heard of wood dye so now is the opportunity to see the differences and understand the pros and cons of each. With this information we can then go about choosing which products to select for any given project.
Stain - Pretty much the standard of the woodworking industry, wood stains are primarily made from dirt. Yup, that's right dirt. Ground up and pulverized clays of various colors are the primary ingredient in stains. They are then often mixed with some sort of oil type base and a few other ingredients like driers and emulsifiers to give them specific paint-on and adherence features. Because stains are made from earthen material they are very color fast, in fact, that is why they are used on fences, the outsides of buildings and many other out-door applications, because they are so color fast. Basically if you can get a stain to adhere to a wood, and leave it in the sun, it will barely fade after years and years of exposure. What actually happens in most cases is the stain dries and slowly falls off after time because the oil base can no longer keep it adhered to the wood. The key with stains, is they are earthen and that when they are painted on, they are primarily coated on the surface of the wood. There is very little penetration of the stain into the wood, mostly the stain lays on top the wood. Because most stains are oil based, they don't raise the grain of the wood and all in all, for most projects they give a great finish.
So now you may be wondering, if stain is so good, why would anyone even bother with a wood dye? The answer of course is in what are the properties of wood dyes and why should a woodworker know about them and want to use them? Read on for the answers ....