These rightly require a complete textbook devoted to their manipulation, and therefore only general observations are possible here. Of the three categories, water, spirit/alcohol and oil, the water stains are most troublesome to apply but penetrate fairly deeply and yield the clearest finishes; they are therefore firm favourites with the hand-worker. The old tried recipes are still viable, i.e. Vandyke brown crystals dissolved in hot water with a little 0.880 ammonia to bite into the wood and a teaspoonful of household detergent to break down surface tensions; mahogany crystals for red staining, water black aniline dye and potassium bichromate. As all photographers will know the last is light sensitive, and an aqueous solution of the orange crystals obtainable at most pharmacies will yield any shade from fierce red-brown to light tan on certain woods after exposure to light. The concentrated solution should be stored in brown or covered bottles, diluted and tested on scrap wood, for the results are never predictable. Both oak and mahogany are affected (some African mahoganies do not respond), and the results are fairly permanent although inclined to fade somewhat in strong light, as will most other stains. Other shades of brown are easily obtainable with mixtures of red, yellow and black anilines with the addition of a little blue for coldness. Modern anilines are reasonably fast to light and some pronouncedly so.
Before applying water stains the work should be flashed off with clean water, dried, sanded and the dust cleared from the fibres with a stiff brush. Even staining without streakiness is facilitated if the surfaces are first lightly swabbed with water; moreover this dilutes the stain and gives more time for levelling off. Two coats are always better than one, for one strong coat may strike too dark in places; moreover, a first coating gives another opportunity to ease off upraised fibres. The stained surface can be coated or finished with all types of polishes.
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