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Believe me, stains are a pain in the posterior. They are hard to apply, generally complicate and compromise all further work on the wood and believe me....best avoided. Problem is, sometimes we just can't avoid using them. UV can make some mahoganies darken, but in general it makes them fade. This is especially true for the light toned gaboon faced plywood that is used so much for old and new dinghy decking. So after a few years of steady use, you think about redoing the varnish, a proper back to the wood job. First thing you do is pull off the fittings and straight away notice that the decks under the fittings are beautiful dark tones of golden mahogany, but outside the fitting where the UV has been doing its work, the colour is by comparison just shaded of grey. OK ....you have got a problem and how do we fix it?
The hardest, most annoying fact is.....the best way to fix it.....if you can be bothered and if there is enough wood (check the thickness of the veneer used on the ply) is to just sand the discoloured wood off. This is hard work and although easier and possible on solid wood parts, often is just not feasible on a cheaper thin faced ply (also remember you might want to do it again in the boat's life). OK, so that might work for the mahogany superstructure, but what about the decks and other ply bits.
The next tool in your armoury is one of the proprietary wood cleaners. These are based on mixtures of Oxalic acid (which is a teansy weensy bit poisonous - so don't mix the can of cleaner for your tea now) I have used two and the name of both escapes me ( I will try and add them later). They can help....I don't know why they don't do more really. They work just brilliantly at cleaning un-protected UV damaged wood. Bits of old weathered wood come up a treat....but UV damaged wood that has lived under varnish, seems to be largely unaffected by the cleaner.....Damn and Blast. I keep trying....it keeps working - a bit.....but unfortunately chemical cleaners/bleaches/restorers just don't seem to work (for me) on wood that has been varnished (of course you have to take the varnish off first - Doh).
So......you pull off the varnish.....you sand it a bit....get bored and frustrated.....try using a wood restorer... but just bleach your hands, make a mess and its a little better, but still really grey...so now what....well the only thing left is to stain it!
Of course there might be other reasons to use a stain. The Gaboon faced ply used by Fairey Marine was really golden coloured, really beautiful and nothing like the pink faced ply we get now. A little yellow dye, or even a little bleaching followed by some yellow dye can make it much more original. I should warn you up front that there is a big problem about staining new ply.......it changes colour in the first few months anyway. It's bad enough seeing your perfect coloured stain job change colour by the end of the summer, but spare a thought for the daft bleeder who spends hours, bleaching and dyeing a perfectly inserted piece of new ply into the middle of an old piece of ply. Finally it is perfect, it's all varnished....you can hardly see the difference. Then the UV gets to it and within a couple of weeks....it is a completely new colour....at which point you realise that if you had not stained it.....the wood would of faded (or sometimes darkened - it does happen) to exactly the same colour anyway......mmmmmm.....My friends....I was that soldier! But as I said at the beginning of this.....Don't stain unless you really feel that you have to!
But OK....despite all my warnings....you know you just have to stain this knackered old ply (I know, that's what I always think too).
So what do you need to know?
I am going to stick my nose out here, because plenty of people will disagree.....but in my exceedingly humble opinion the pigment stains just look like someone has smeared dog-poo under the varnish.....I (again very personally) think they just look crap. Stains should stain the wood....not hang about on top...it just isn't the idea......so......DON'T DO IT. I know someone will disagree, but if you want to know how to use these stains, ask them how to (but look at their boat first <G>)
OK.....so this is my little bit about using 'dye-based' stains....
1. You can only use them on bare wood, there is no point in using them
on varnished or sealed woods, it just won't be absorbed by the wood.
What makes of dye do I use? Well I have used the Ronseal and the Colron stains and they both do exactly what they say on the tin. Liberon amongst others make the Pigment dyes.....so if you like that just smeared on the prison wall look....you know what to buy.
Well that is stains for you.....bet you wish you never asked now