Applying a Colour Finish to your Woodturning

It can be fun to decorate woodturning with a colour finish, it can enhance the piece that you have turned, it can save a piece that has cracked or split or it could help sell your work.


There are many reasons to try decorating your work. I for one love to see the natural wood as really this is what woodturning is about, but at times adding something extra to the wood is also a useful tool to have in your armament as a woodturner. So here I’m just going to open your mind to try colouring your work and share the technique of painting your work.


Please don’t for a second think that by painting your woodturning you will be able to hide a poorly turned piece of work because that wont happen, in fact it will highlight any tooling marks that you have. The piece needs to have a perfect finish before you start this process.


To demonstrate here we have a piece that has been purposely left with a poor finish and then painted and you can see the result.


Poorly Painted Woodturning


So to colour your work you will need first to turn a piece of work and bring it to a good finish without marks, only then are you ready to start on the adventure of colouring.


There are all sorts of paint and stains that you can use. Chestnut Products do a range of coloured spirit wood stains that are very good. Liberons supply a range of water-based dyes, which I also use, or you can pick up acrylic paints from an art shop.


The main difference between spirit based colour and acrylic colours is the drying times. The spirit based colours dry very quickly; dependent on the temperature. The longest you would wait for a spirit-based colour to dry is around 20 minutes, the water-based acrylics sometimes have to be left overnight.


If, like me, you have no understanding of colours then a colour wheel is a good idea. This simply shows which colours complement each other and to get the best effect it’s worth taking the trouble to use one.


There are three primary colours, blue, red and yellow. Primary colours are so called because you cannot blend other colours together to create them. In addition to the primary colours there are three secondary colours, which are made by mixing two of the primary colours, blue and red make purple, red and yellow make orange and lastly blue and yellow make green. All other colours are made from a mix of these. It’s worth understanding these colour principles before you start, so that the work blends together.


Once you have decided which paint to use and which colours you are going to use the fun can start!


Your colour can be applied by brush, cloth or sponge and each can give a different effect. Care should be taken if you are using cloth to apply the colour as the lathe is spinning, make sure the cloth is folded in your hand and there are no bit’s that can be caught by the spinning lathe. This could take the fun out of it!!!


If you are looking to blend the colours on your work this should be done while the paint is still wet. If you want to highlight colours in different areas of the work it’s best to let each coat dry.

Green Wood Finish

So here we have a piece that the colours have been blended on I started with the lighter colour, which in this case was green. I covered the whole piece with the green paint. Then added the blue working from the top down. As you get to the point where you want the green to take over you gradually lift off on the blue and there you have your blended colour. If you need to blend the joining colours more you could always use yellow.

You might also notice the image above has a silvery effect to it, this was done using pearlescent paints to give it a slightly different look. This vase was made from a piece of Cherry.

You might find that the paint or stain lifts the grain just a little dependent on the wood, so once dry give the piece a very light sanding so that you don’t remove the colour and then finish with something like Chestnut Products spray on lacquer.

The image below was done using two different tones of blue on a Horse Chestnut burr.
Blue Bowl


If you want to highlight the colours like on this piece of Horse Chestnut burr below. You start with the darker colour in this case blue again and let this fully dry. Once dried you then sand the work until there are areas where the wood is again showing. The paint will penetrate to different depths with in then wood dependent on the grain in the wood.


Once sanded dab your next colour on the bare wood where the grain is showing through. It does not matter that a little over laps on to the blue.


You let this dry. Once dry sand again you will fined that there are areas where the wood shows through its time to stop. You should now have a piece that has blue with some green areas and natural wood showing.


Green Bowl

Lastly in my case here I added yellow to the remaining bare wood that was showing and once dry gave the whole thing a very light sanding to make sure there where no fibres sticking up. Then you put on your final finish, which can be lacquer, polish or wax.


I hope that this is an insight to another way to finish your work and encourages you to try something different from time to time.


Happy woodturning