Wood stain

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A solution or dispersion that changes the color of a wood surface. Wood stains have transparent or semi-transparent formulas that penetrate the surface allowing the natural grain and texture to remain visible. Early stains were water-based or oil-based. Synthetic resin and latex-based stains appeared on the market after 1940. Wood stains typically fall into one of the following categories:

1. Chemical reactions: ammonia turns Mahogany a rich red; caustic soda can gray or lighten woods such as Pine, Elm, or Oak; Potassium dichromate can produce a dark orange color.

2. Organic dyes: Turmeric (yellow), Ferrotannin (blue-black), Alkanet (red), rhodamine (fluorescent red), creosote (black).

3. Pigment dispersions: iron oxide (red), Burnt sienna (mahogany color), Vandyke brown (walnut color)

Synonyms and Related Terms

wood bleach

Resources and Citations

  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981

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