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Adventures of a dresser, part somewhere in the middle

I dyed the drawers of my dresser (pic heavy)! Behold! It really was an adventure, and I’ve decided that I love dyeing wood. It’s so forgiving; I found it much easier to use than stain, 10/10 would recommend.

So, I’ve gotten the entire dresser rough sanded, the back removed (it was damaged and needs replacing), and the top off (there’s some bowing that needs fixing), next I wanted to dye the drawers while the top was clamped, so I could have a firmer game plan for getting the rest of it done in much shorter order, and to keep my motivation going in order to keep this project from sitting fallow for six months. I sanded them to 120 grit, but idk, the 120 I used was more like 240 of this other sand paper I got so who the fuck knows. I sanded each grit until the surface felt uniform to the touch and kept going until it was smooth. Maple is hard, guys! It got really smooth, like glass. I briefly felt like someone who knew what they were doing.

I got really lucky with the quality and condition of the wood under all that paint and muddy stain:

Bare wood
Wiped down with mineral spirits. Yellow!

At this point, the men on the woodworking forums would growl at me to just finish it with a wipe on varnish because wood should be wood because it’s wood, but I didn’t want to hear that, so I didn’t ask them. Instead, I took to the YouTube and looked up guitar dyeing tutorials.

(Aside: The guitars made me think that men like bright colors and shiny things just as much as us girls, but they only allow themselves to indulge in those things if they’re counterbalanced by also being super manly, like Italian sports cars and guitars.)

The guitar dyeing videos told me to use a dark dye, sand it back, smear on another layer of dark dye, sand it back, and top with the main color. Sure, I can do that!

This is my first layer of eggplant. Huh.
That first layer sanded back with the 120/240 whatever it is. Huh.
I mean, I think this is what it’s supposed to look like?
Second coat of eggplant. This was darker and actually the exact color of an eggplant in person. I’m starting to see why I’m doing all this damn sanding.
Second coat of eggplant sanded back. I hate sanding.

Alright! That’s quite enough of that. I’m trying to match this purple from a wall hanging my mom made, and I started with 3:1 Dances with Raisins(DwR):Eggplant:

Close enough.
Oh, wow! Pretty, but not what I was going for.

That ended up really warm and pink! Like I said, maple is really yellow and I should have seen this coming. I was so worried about not having a Barney-purple dresser I didn’t stop to think that I wouldn’t be able to achieve that if I wanted to. Barney-purple actually would have given me the color I was going for. Now, I know that more than a few of you are aghast at how I’m winging it and didn’t I make a test board, and, sure, I tested out the concept and saw how the dyes reacted on the wood (shockingly, they all pulled warm. Yellow!), but it was always my plan to ultimately wing it. It’s just how I do.


No worries, this is where the flexibility of the dye comes into play. I mixed my existing dye solution 1:1 with the Eggplant, which is a cooler purple than DwR, and then diluted that with vodka (because I mixed the original dye concentrates with Everclear and distilled water and I was fresh out of distilled water. Good thing I don’t really drink the hard stuff!). I wiped that on. I considered it. Then I rummaged through my dye collection and mixed up some Robins Egg Blue and wiped that on. I considered it. Some parts were a little too light, so I dipped my rag into full strength Eggplant, then my diluted mix, then selectively rubbed that on, feathering out the edges and blending with a rag dipped in vodka. Some places were too dark now. I rubbed it off with my vodka rag. Ah. Now I was pleased with my efforts:


I was finally happy with the color, but now I had to deal with the raised grain. That’s the thing about using water-based dyes: they raise the grain. I used 400 grit (320?) to knock down the grain, but it took a lot more of the dye off than I would have liked. Back to my dye rag. I wiped on another layer of the diluted dye mix and rubbed enthusiastically at the light spots until they blended in. I also, at several points, dripped water and alcohol and dye on the wood, these all blended out with my vodka rag. It was almost like I couldn’t fuck it up, and I like things that can’t be fucked up.

Anyway, Mr. Misfit nicked some incredible sand paper from the auto body shop he works at and I sanded down the grain without affecting the dye with 800 grit. I felt vry professional using 800 grit. Sand paper is much more of a thing than I thought it was.


Now, according to a page on the internet long lost to me, I was supposed to rub on a coat of oil to pop the grain even further. I dutifully bought Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO) and promptly discovered that it’s yellow. Yellow! A theme is emerging. I forged ahead with the oil anyway, I’m flexible about the end result and after all that alcohol it just felt right to condition the wood. I followed the directions on the can:

Pretty! Shiny!

I accept that trade-off. It was really hard to capture the true color in the photos, btw. The color is deeper, cooler, and more purple-y irl. The color at the lower right hand corner of this pic is closer to the real color, except without the glare:


I have to wait a week before I put on a finish, which is good because I don’t really know what I’m doing yet. I know that using a water-based finish (which is my preference) has the potential for bleeding with the water-based dye, but would the BLO provide enough of a barrier? Or should I toss on a layer of unwaxed shellac to provide a barrier? It seems like when in doubt, put on a layer of unwaxed shellac.

I also have another idea about counteracting the warmth of the color (yellow!). Maybe it’s a bad idea, but I was thinking that I could tint the poly blue to add a translucent, cooling layer. Either way, I’m pleased as punch with how this is turning out!


I feel like I’ve lost all perspective, there were so many times where the drawers looked brown instead of very clearly being purple.

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