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Pine or Oak?

In this blog we'll take a look at the differences between applying our wood dyes on pine and oak.  We'll explore what issues you may encounter and give advice on how to achieve the best possible finish!

Pine and oak are two separate types of wood. Pine is classed as a softwood, whereas oak is a hardwood. Our dyes can be used on both types of wood, for example, our light-coloured dyes can create an attractive aged effect on oak, such as doors and stair parts! Our Traditional Range includes a variety of pine and oak colours. For pine we have our: Antique Stripped Pine, Dark Pine and Golden Pine. For Oak we have our: Golden Oak, Light Oak, French Oak, Medium Oak and English Oak.

If you do not know what the type of wood is that you are planning on using our dyes on then please continue reading, this will help you tell the difference! 

Pine and oak have their own features that enable them to be distinguished from each other. Firstly, the colour! Pine varies from creamy white to yellow and is a much lighter wood than oak. Whereas, oak generally has a dark reddish colour to it. Secondly, the grain and texture! Pine tends to have closed grain with ‘knots’ that can be visibly seen as well as a smooth texture. Whereas, oak tends to have open grain, which can resemble the contours found in your fingerprints as well as an uneven texture. 

How to apply our wood dye on Pine & Oak?

In general, these guidance words relate to finishing pine (and other softwoods), as our dyes tend to penetrate these types of wood better. However, our dyes can be applied to oak (and other hardwoods), but if you do not want an ‘opaque’ finish then we would recommend that you dilute the dye, up to 50%, for more of a light, washed effect. Our dye tends to dye hardwoods darker than softwoods and they also take longer to penetrate as they are more resistant! 

Our dyes are formulated to penetrate bare sanded or raw wood - always ensure that the wood is in its raw state as this will enable the wood to be more receptive to our dye! By sanding the wood it will also help remove any machine marks which usually become apparent when the dye has been applied. 

To help create a fine finish, you could raise the surface of the grain before final sanding. Start by dampening the wood with a thin film of water, rather than soaking, similar to wiping over a worktop with a damp cloth. Once dry, a final sanding will restore the flatness ready for applying the dye. We recommend using ‘Wet and Dry’ type abrasive sheets for the final sanding. 120 grit will be suitable in most cases. Avoid using white spirit to clean off the surface dust; the best method is to use a vacuum and a soft, dry brush. 

The first coat of dye should be applied liberally along the grain with a good quality brush. Generally, the light colours work best with a single coat. A light second coat or further coats will deepen the shade when applying the darker dyes. Work quickly and confidently if you can as this will help you maintain a ‘wet edge’ and avoid overlapping. The dyes will be dry in about one hour and can then be re-coated. If you intend to finish your item with wax polish, varnish or oil, please allow the dye to dry for several hours, perhaps overnight if possible. 

Our traditional wood colours could be described as transparent dyes. Whereas, the pastel shades will both penetrate and build up on the surface. Therefore, they can be applied as a pale wash effect or create a more solid chalk paint like appearance with further coats. 

Any problems? 

Any problems that may be encountered when applying our wood dyes are generally overcome after sanding the wood and removing any previous finishes on it, whether it be an oil, wax or varnish. However, if you are going to sand the wood that has had an oil wax finish on then it will require extensive cleaning. We recommend that you undertake the following steps before sanding the waxed surface:

Firstly, you could use a cabinet scraper to remove as much wax as possible from the flat surfaces. Next, scrub the surface with an abrasive sponge and white spirits, mopping up the dissolved wax as you go along with kitchen roll.

This process could be repeated paying particular attention to details and mouldings. Once dry, the wood can be scrubbed and cleaned further with hot water and washing up liquid to remove any residue. Allow the wood to dry thoroughly, then sand thoroughly as necessary.

An older oiled surface will require quite deep sanding to remove the oil and residue that will have penetrated the wood. - Words from Mr. Littlefair! 

As our dyes tend to dye oak darker than pine - then it is recommended to dilute the dyes with cold water (up to 50%), if you are not wanting a ‘uniformed’ finish as this will enable more of the background of the wood to show through. You could also apply the dye with a sponge or cloth to produce a lighter effect! 

Driftwood Grey on Planed Pine 

This shoe bench has been made from planed pine, then finished off with one coat of 80/20 diluted mix of our Driftwood Grey Water Based Wood Dye. Once dry, the customer gave it a light sanding with 120 grit sandpaper to give it a more distressed look.


If you require further advice on applying our dyes on pine or oak, then please get in touch!  We also have a Littlefair’s Facebook Fan Forum where our customers share tips and advice and photos of projects that they have completed. It is a great way to connect with everything Littlefair’s and be a part of a fantastic community!



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