It is a good idea to make your own wood stains when you embark on furniture refinishing projects. Commercial stains contain synthetic pesticides, including fungicides, that can cause environmental problems and health risks. A rule of thumb for buying stains is that the darker the stain, the fewer pesticides, since the pigment provides more protection from ultraviolet light. Clear sealants exposed to the sun won’t last long, so more chemicals are added.
Natural pigments are made from minerals (from earth and clay, called iron oxides) and vegetables (roots, bark, leaves, and fruit such as alkanet root, beets, walnuts, purple cabbage, coffee and tea, indigo, and madder root). Natural pigments make exquisite, mellow colors.
To make your own plant dye/stains:
- Simmer a handful of plant
matter in 4 cups of water for an hour, adding more water as it evaporates.
- Cool, strain, and add 1/2 teaspoon of alum (available in the spice section of supermarkets) as a fixative.
- Paint on, dry, and recoat two to four more times
or as desired.
*You can make your own earth pigment in the old way, by finding interesting colored dirt and washing it well.