All About Driftwood Grey!

Littlefair's Driftwood Collection which includes Driftwood Grey and Driftwood Brown, has been specially formulated to both penetrate and coat new or old bare, sanded wood to create a textural ‘salty’, weathered effect. It can also be applied to pressure treated, rough sawn or smooth planed wood.

Littlefair’s Driftwood Grey was the first dye developed within this range and it was originally developed for use on pine. This is because pine has a lot of contrasting grain. As the dye reacts to the dark and light areas of the pine, this will beautifully show the contrasting grain of the wood.

However, if you intend to apply the dye to hardwood or pressure treated (tanalised) wood then you will see the dye creating a more uniform grey look. Therefore, we recommend that you try diluting the dye with cold water (up to 50%). This should create a more transparent wash of grey, allowing more of the natural wood colour and texture to show through. The reason as to why the dye produces more of a ‘uniform grey’ appearance on this type of wood rather than the ‘driftwood’ effect, is because hardwoods do not contain a lot of contrasting grain in comparison to pine. Although the dye may allow the grain to show through, it will provide an effect that makes the wood look textured as opposed to distinguishing the grain.


Driftwood Grey on pressure treated wood, sanded with 80 grit 

Oak is the wood that we’d say would be the hardest to achieve the ‘driftwood’ effect, as is mahogany, as both woods do not have a lot of contrasting grain. Therefore, the dye isn’t going to react to the hardwood in the same way as pine. But, as all our dyes are water-based (including Driftwood Grey), this effect can be overcome to a certain extent by diluting the dye up to 50%. We’d recommend starting with 10% first then increasing up to 50%, if needed. For example, people have diluted the dye when they’ve applied it to a parquet oak floor or on something that is made from mahogany, which has a lot of natural colour in it. Therefore, by watering down the dye before application, it will enable you to stand back (after application) and see the overall effect, in which you’d get more of a sense of grey. 

We have started to see an increase of customers using scaffolding boards for their projects, these are traditionally made from a higher grade of pine because it needs to be structurally strong. Therefore, the grain on this type of pine is tighter and straighter, so again, this means that there is not a lot of contrasting detail in the grain. Although you can use the dye on this type of pine, you may see a clearer ‘driftwood effect’ if the dye is watered down slightly.

A popular question that we get asked is if our Driftwood Grey will work on engineered wood; a manufactured wood made up of thin layers of wood (usually plywood or mdf). Engineered wood is also similar to pine-faced timber/engineered doors - all of which the dye will still work on.

It’s important to note that the final appearance will be a combination of the natural colour of the wood, the effect of the dye and the finishing product (if used). With this in mind - always produce a test piece so you can properly judge the result!


Driftwood Grey on planed pine, watered down by 20%, with a light sand after dye application 


Now, before you get started here are a few tips when using Driftwood Grey:

  • Thorough and careful preparation of the wood will achieve a better result, - i.e. sanding, cleaning off any previous finishes, so there is no oil, wax or varnish and ensuring that the wood is free of dust.
  • It is best applied as an even wet film, working quickly and confidently.
  • It is best applied as a single, liberal coat along the grain. Further coats will create a more opaque, solid colour.
  • The more detailed or ‘grainy’ the surface is the greater the effect.


Raising the Grain

The dye will raise the grain when applied straight onto the wood, so if you want a smooth sample or finish then it is recommended that you first sand before dying, wet the wood after undertaking a rough sand - this will raise the grain. Then once dry, finely sand the wood back before applying the dye. After applying the dye and letting it dry, if you are finishing with varnish then dilute the first coat with 20% cold water, then give a fine sand before applying the final coat.


Now it is preparation time! 

Careful, thorough preparation will result in a far superior finish. Ensure your wood is as clean as possible and free from previous finishes. Do not apply the dye to wet surfaces. Avoid cleaning the wood with white spirit!

Upturn and shake well for between 5-10 minutes prior to use, ensuring any sediment is well mixed and the colour of the liquid is consistent throughout the entire bottle. Repeat prior to each use of the dye to ensure the shade of the dye is consistent. You could also try pouring half of the contents into a suitable container and replace the cap tightly. You can now shake the bottle/jerry can vigorously, ensuring that all settled ingredients are fully mixed. Now pour the remaining mixed liquid into the same container and continue to stir the dye as one. Always remember to stir often during use. The dye can be poured back into the bottle/jerry can for storage – repeat this process before each use.

It is always important to ensure that any settled ingredients are fully mixed before each use. Driftwood Grey and Driftwood Brown must be kept in a constant state of suspension!


Next up is the application! 

Apply the dye liberally as an even wet film with a good quality brush rather than brushing back and forth. Once applied, the wood should look as if it has been painted grey/brown for a few moments - simply allow the dye to soak into the wood and dry completely. Avoid the temptation to brush it again at this stage.

The driftwood effect will become more apparent as the dye begins to dry. You will notice the colour will start to separate, allowing more of the natural wood to show through. Wood with more detailed grain will show the effect more dramatically but will provide more of a uniform grey/brown colour on hardwood surfaces. If you intend to apply the dye to hardwood, try diluting it with up to 50% cold water to create a more transparent wash, allowing more of the natural wood colour and texture to show through – you should always produce a test piece when experimenting with the formula.

Drying Time: The dye will be touch dry in approximately 2 hours.


Nearly complete!

Once dried, the dyed wood can be finished with a variety of finishing products depending on the desired result and location:

For Indoor Use: Littlefair’s Water Based Extra Strong Matt Varnish will protect the wood while retaining the natural rustic appearance of the dye.

For Outdoor Use: Littlefair’s Water Based Titan Topcoat will further enhance the colour and provide protection for use outdoors. If applied to decking, use our Decking Oil Plus+ for greater protection against wear and tear and maximise the UV protection.

Please note: Varnishes will always change the final appearance of a colour to some extent – however our matt varnishes will have a lesser effect on the colour.

These words relate to both dyes within the Driftwood Collection.


Project Recommendations

We have several project recommendations for both indoors and outdoors and this is just listing a few: table tops, shelving, doors, floors, outhouses, decking, fencing, gates, sheds and benches - all of which our Driftwood Grey produces a lovely finish on! 

Please see below photos that have been sent in from our customers who have used our Driftwood Grey:


2 coats of Driftwood Grey and 3 coats of Satin Varnish


Driftwood Grey on old scaffold planks (not the decking)

 Thank you for taking your time to read all about our Driftwood Grey! If you have completed a project in this dye and you’d like to share your photos, then you can do so via any of the following: for social media please use the #littlefairs and tag our account, request to join our Facebook Fan Forum (if you’re not already in) and upload them in there or email - and you may even see your photos featured on our social media channels!

 But.. if you haven’t used our Driftwood Grey yet then why not give it a try.. and don’t forget to provide us feedback on the results! :)