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Using Fountain Pen Ink As Dye?


Norris
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Hi

I'm new here and probably being a little ambitious on my first build (although I will have experienced advisers helping me). However, I'm looking to make a blue burst telecaster. I have seen build threads elsewhere, where fountain pen ink has been used as a dye under either tru-oil or a clear top coat. Some ink manufacturers have a good range of colours, such as these here: http://www.diamineinks.co.uk/listings.aspx?catid=67

I am thinking of using an ink dye on my book-matched flamed maple top, followed by a couple of clear coats and then some tinted burst coats followed by more clear top coats.

Has anybody used ink for dyeing? Any pros & cons? If ink is unsuitable, what should I consider instead?

The closest example I can find to what I'm planning to do is this Warmoth body

Regards,
Norris

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I honestly don't know the answer to that. I've heard it kicked around as an idea, but haven't run across any project that did that. Most often dyes such as theses from StewMac are used.

http://www.stewmac.com/Materials_and_Supplies/Finishing_Supplies/ColorTone_Liquid_Stains.html

Or these Transtint dyes from Woodcraft, which are what I use and I understand are the same thing with different branding.

http://www.woodcraft.com/search2/search.aspx?query=transtint dyes&brand=TransTint

The majority of builds you see here that feature dyed wood used either of these.

SR

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Hi Norris - as you and Scott say, it's not a new idea by any means. Fountain pen inks are produced using dyes, so that is a plus. Potential issues I would want to test out would be control, and UV stability. You'd certainly need to dilute them before use. Neat ink is likely closer in concentration to raw dyes like Transtint but probably not as strong by a long way. Testing on scrap is a mantra that answers most questions, or at least gets us on the way to answers.

You're right about the range of colours. Pretty good for an off-the-shelf range. Without testing I couldn't confirm this, however I bet you'd get more mileage out of Transtint dyes, costwise. A few drops is usually enough whilst inks might require far more. Again, more information is needed to create a basis for comparison.

That Damson would be a fantastic ink to write with. Sadly, my calligraphy days over a couple of decades stale now. :mellow:

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I've fired off a PM to a person (on basschat.co.uk) that has used it on a few builds. His guitars look great.

I suppose one of the first things I should do is to set up a test. I'll finish some scraps of ash, then sit them on the windowsill half-masked to see what the UV stability is like. If I'm going to do that I may as well try with a variety of top finishes: tru-oil/Danish oil, nitro lacquer & poly lacquer. I'll let you know how it goes..

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I hope he won't mind me posting our conversation here...

Norris:

I'm very interested in the way you have used fountain ink for a base dye. I am due to start my first build soon and think I might give it a go. However I was wondering how colour fast the ink is and how it takes a clear top coat.

Have you seen any UV fading on your guitars? Have you had any difficulties using tru-oil, nitro or poly lacquer over the top? Does the wood grain rise and how did you flat it off?

Andy:

I've had no issue with fading and nor have people who I've done these for - including a strat that has been hanging on a south facing wall which has had full sunlight for 3-4 hours a day for the past 4-5 years. That's red, too, which is a notorious fader for many dyes. 

I like ink because - assuming the wood is sanded and clean (no glue / varnish / wax) it covers very quickly and evenly and you can progressively darken the shade with repeat coats. You can also mix colours for bursts or other effects.

It clear coats great. I've used tru-oil and poly. Not used nitro but can't think it would react at all.

It acts just like any other wood dye in terms of grain rise. As with any wood dye, you can't use the 'varnish slurry' approach because the slurrying will simply sand off the dye. I sand it down to my finish level, ink it, give it 3-4 coats of varnish, then flatten (gently) with 1000 grit wet and dry used wet, then carry on with subsequent coats of varnish. Ditto for Tru Oil. 

If I need to sanding-filler it, for Tru oil I use either their clear filler/sealer - or egg white - AFTER inking or - if I'm using a varnish, I mix the ink with some stainable timbermate, fill it, sand it back down to the wood and then ink-stain it. 

Norris:

Do you get any issues with it soaking into the end grain or does it colour evenly? 

Andy:

Again, it acts the same as standard wood dies so it will darken end grain and the end grain parts of figured grain more than the 'with the grain' parts. This is, of course, useful for popping the grain out on quilt and similar finishes like this:

Posted Image

If you look closely, you can see the effect on the upper waist cut-out on Bryan's (alligh8t0r) Westone:

Posted Image 

The burst look on the rest of this body has been achieved by adding a tiny bit of black ink to the green for the edges, but the variations in the cutout itself are due to the grain direction...

 

I'm not sure if those pictures will post correctly :) 

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He's correct in that it "acts like any wood dye" since they are all more or less the same kind of thing. I have a suspicion that ink might not have as much mileage in it as the concentration found in a bottle of Transtint. For the price it's a balance between a ready-made colour from an ink and long-term mileage from Transtint. Again, it's good to ascertain a comparable dilution ratio.

Fountain pen ink may contain added extras like dryers or other additions purely for its intended end-use. I can't comment on these, however to me its a consideration when using a product which is being repurposed. Underneath it all, it's pretty basic stuff though so the same caveats apply.

I'd be interested to see how this one turns out and I might try some inks from that store myself if they ship over to here.

PS. Do I win points for spotting that the Westone has been refinished in what looks like rotary-cut Karelian ("Masur") Birch veneer? That's a particularly unusual piece and the ink sets it off perfectly. If you hadn't posted the in-progress photo I'd have been happy to tell you that the Matsumoku factory where that was made didn't use such high-loss exotic (well, "local" here) veneers. :-D

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  • 4 months later...

I have been doing some colour fade tests on some ink dyed samples.

For the tests I have used a 90W LED (Royal Horticultural Society) plant light, containing red, blue and yellow LEDs.The samples are some offcuts of flamed maple, prepared with 1200 grit sandpaper, given a thorough wipe of ink in a single coat, and then placed in a stainless steel bucket with the lamp fitted on top approx 12" from the samples. The samples are left under the constant light for a week.

20151212_195748_zpskc78tuxa.jpg

 

The inks I have tested are Diamine fountain pen inks

Top left: "Florida Blue"
Bottom left: "Ruby"
Right: A sample of Florida Blue prepared several weeks ago, coated in nitro-cellulose lacquer

20160105_202733_zpsv70bqrqm.jpg.

Florida Blue: Prominent fading, which was evident after just one day of testing. Although the resulting teal colour is not that bad, there are a few hints of brown "scorching" in the darker areas

Ruby: Hardly any evidence of fading & seems quite stable

I have ordered three more shades of blue ink and will report back in due course

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Wow!  That's amazing....   I've mainly used reds so maybe they have greater staining power.  

Funnily enough, I've had this one back over Christmas for a weight-reduction mod (got it down from 9lb to 8.5lb by adding a dummy control chamber):

iGh3NUyl.jpg

It's been played regularly for over two years and - I am assured by its owner - is kept out of its case most of the time.  It is absolutely still this colour.  

This one (my own) has been gigged or wall-hung for nearly two years and, again, no sign of fade:

llXhqIEl.jpg

Clearly I've been lucky with my choices of those particular colours!!!!

I'll contact the owner of the Westone bass done in green and see how that's faring...

What I find particularly interesting is that (think Gibson Sunburst) it always used to be the reds in guitars that did fade....it's fascinating that on your sample, @Norris , it's the red one that HASN'T faded! 

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On 9/4/2015 at 9:56 AM, Prostheta said:

PS. Do I win points for spotting that the Westone has been refinished in what looks like rotary-cut Karelian ("Masur") Birch veneer? That's a particularly unusual piece and the ink sets it off perfectly. If you hadn't posted the in-progress photo I'd have been happy to tell you that the Matsumoku factory where that was made didn't use such high-loss exotic (well, "local" here) veneers. :-D

I'm only 4 months late on spotting and replying to this, @Prostheta !!!!  Yes - full points awarded with distinction.  Birch Burl it is indeed... :D

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22 hours ago, Prostheta said:

Sounds like you guys have really done the groundwork on this one. I wonder what it costs to ship them across the North Sea?

Delivery to "Europe" is £3 - I assume that includes Scandinavia.
Delivery to "Rest of World" is £5

I did have a quick peek last night, and although all of the samples have faded slightly, they do not seem nearly as bad as the "Florida Blue". The "Kensington Blue" is just a shade darker than the "Florida" but seems a lot more resistant to fading. I'm hoping that they will be usable, as the "Sargasso Sea" looks fantastic and pops the flame really well even with a simple wipe-on coat & no other preparation. The "Sapphire" was a little heavy & would require some sanding back to get the grain back in view

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Having worked for a Swedish company owned by a Norwegian group with a number of Finnish colleagues and a Danish division, I got quite adept at getting the terms correct :).  It took many corrections and reminders along the way, mind you.  

But then again, I worked a couple of years in Belgium.  Now that IS confusing...

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I fetched the latest set of samples out on Friday night having been in there for a week and we have...

20160115_190508_zpsvq591lco.jpg

From top to bottom:

Kensington Blue
A similar but slightly darker shade than the Florida Blue, but it seems to have suffered a lot less fading. Not quite as vibrant as the Florida when freshly applied, but might just about be stable enough to use.

Sargasso Sea
I'm a little disappointed with this one. It looked excellent when freshly applied and really popped the grain with pretty minimal preparation. I was really hoping that this could be the one to use, but it has faded quite a bit. The resulting colour is not unpleasant though.

Sapphire
This went on more like paint than dye. There's a lot of pigment in it, and it would probably want thinning down if used in anger. As you can see it has faded quite a bit and ended up about the same colour as the Sargasso Sea.

 

Perhaps my test is a little too harsh - it certainly seems to rip the blue inks to shreds. It would be interesting to test a sample of proper colour-fast blue wood dye to see how that holds up. I'll see if I can set up a test on that.

In the meantime, I think it's time to put this on the back burner while I concentrate on getting chunks of wood into the correct shape for my build. Plenty of time to "chew the cud" yet.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I managed to get hold of some "Light Fast" wood dye of unknown origin - it's some that my instructor has had laying around for some time. I have put it through the same regime as the other test pieces and...

20160212_074736_zpsp8ntsq7g.jpg

There is virtually no change in colour (the darker area at the bottom right of that photo is shadow from the quick snap I took this morning)

I think that ends my testing, For my build I will buy a couple of the available shades of blue light-fast dye and get mixing.

Conclusion
Inks come in a great range of shades and if you are careful/lucky in choosing a (relatively) light-fast shade you can get great results. Proper light fast dyes are a bit more expensive and are available a much more limited range of shades, but don't run the risk of fading.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/12/2016 at 1:05 AM, Norris said:

I managed to get hold of some "Light Fast" wood dye of unknown origin - it's some that my instructor has had laying around for some time. I have put it through the same regime as the other test pieces and...

Conclusion
Inks come in a great range of shades and if you are careful/lucky in choosing a (relatively) light-fast shade you can get great results. Proper light fast dyes are a bit more expensive and are available a much more limited range of shades, but don't run the risk of fading.

Thanks for posting your results!

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