Publish365 032: That Time A Thing Worked

If you're a maker you can relate to things being different in your head from how they appear in real life. Even when you do things by the book, sometimes it just doesn't work. Today was a happy dose of the former.

A customer requested a farmhouse style family name sign, and I was more than happy to oblige. I've never made one before, but so what? That has never stopped me before. I set out with a piece of red oak and a plan. I was going to gray-wash it using vinegar and steel wool, and then take it from there. Before I started working on it this morning, I thought about it. Why just gray wash it? Why would I want it to be boring and single-panel? I took a small V-bit and set up my router table, then ran two very subtle lines down the board. It now looked like panels (as if I glued three strips of oak together). I readied my "station" and set up the "dye." This time, unlike prior times when it also worked (just not as well), I strained it through a rag, then brushed on multiple coats. Immediately the oak turned black as the reaction happened. It wasn't the color I was looking for but it looked good and I knew I could either sand it or whitewash it. Then a miracle happened: as it dried, it turned the exact gray color the client wanted.

I'm not going to lie: I've been down to the shop multiple times since I made this and I can't stop looking at it. It's so much the exact starting point I was hoping for that it almost feels unfair for it to look as good as it does. In hindsight, a few factors contributed to this turning out the color I wanted it:

  1. The solution I dyed with has been sitting and fermenting for about 2 months. I think that made a difference.

  2. I sanded the oak meticulously before I applied the dye so the grain was nice and open and ready for the dye.

  3. I strained the solution to get any particulate out, and to make it thin enough to soak into the board easily.

  4. I was patient and didn't immediately sand it off as soon as it went on and wasn't what I was hoping for.

I'm so happy with this and I can't wait to get the letters on it, which will hopefully happen tomorrow. I am way more excited about this sign now! Who knows; maybe this will be the thing I make that everyone orders when they're bored with cutting boards?

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