African mahogany: Dye and shellac combinations

I have some African mahogany that I would like to darken with dye. I want to limit my  finishing products to a dye component and a shellac component, but there are many ways to sequence the application steps. I want to test some combinations to see how the final surface comes out.

I want to answer some simple questions with this test: Will directly applied dye or dye mixed with the finish (toner) give the most justice to the natural look of the mahogany? Is it better to fill the grain before or after applying dye? Would it be best to leave colouring out of the equation?

The wood surface  is prepared by sanding to 220 grit. Raising the grain with water and then re-sanding.

First, here is the description of each step:

  • Fill: Pore filling using 4F pumice rubbed in with very dilute shellac.
  • Dye: A water-based dark brown mahogany dye.
  • Tone: Rather than a separate dye coat, adding concentrated dye directly into the shellac creates a toner.
  • Final: An over coat of shellac. Either brushed on or rubbed using French polish technique.

And here are the combinations of steps I tried out:

  1. Fill, Final
  2. Fill, Tone
  3. Fill, Dye, Final
  4. Dye, Fill, Final

I have decided on the “Fill & Tone” method, as it gave me the most red colour.


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