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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Red dye stain on walnut


Red Dyed cupboard
Red Dyed cupboard  
I recently purchased a primitive walnut cupboard that has a red finish.  After trying a stripper and achieving poor results, I guessed I was dealing with a dye stain as opposed to a normal stain or paint.  I searched for advice and noticed your conversation in 2009 about a dye stain on a piano.  In your advice, you strongly discouraged/forbade using any type of bleaching to remove the stain.  The link to the stripper you suggested was no longer active.  Can you tell me what type of stripper you suggest, and why bleaching is a no-no?

Hi David
Nice to hear from you.
Here is a fresh link to the stripper I use but there are other brand names of course.
Just make sure its a methylene chloride stripper.

While I could not locate the question you refer to, my thoughts have not changed regarding wood bleaching.
I only do this as a very last resort if I have an unsightly stain that must be removed. The results are never favorable.
If the stain is on a table top for instance, you cannot just treat the stain or you will have a very light spot that can never be stained to look like the rest of the top. So you have to bleach the entire top. Then you have legs that don't match the top LOL.
If your furniture is walnut, it will bleach not only the red stain out but also the lovely old color of the wood. That can never be replaced.
I have seen the bleach actually take out the color of the lovely wood grain in oak.
With the piece I see in the picture, my advice would be to strip it with the MC stripper, Then when you think you are finished, go over the piece one last time with the stripper then apply your stain. Done properly, you will be amazed at the red that comes out. Yes it will still be slightly red but the stain will tone it down.
I will include here the stripping info for you.

The first thing you must do is assemble the material to do the job.
The stripper is the most important item.  
I am hoping you can get "CIRCA 1850" brand paint and varnish remover in your area.
Here is a link

MATERIAL LIST For the stripping stage.
1 gallon stripper
3 boxes of Bull Dog steel wool in medium grade.
One 3 inch oil based paint brush.
Rubber gloves (like you do dishes with), and a pair of cotton gloves inside the rubber ones.
People react differently to stripper. A lot of people feel heat through the rubber gloves, but I feel cold. Have no idea why.
An empty large coffee can. (for the stripper)
A couple of old tooth brushes.
Lots of old rags (I like t-shirts or cotton but for this first stage whatever you have)
Lots of newspaper to protect the garage floor
That's all you need to get started.
Work in sections.
Brush on the stripper with the brush. Stripper will quit working if it dries, so keep it wet till the finish softens.
Then take a rag and wipe this mess off.
Then another coat of stripper, rag off again, then while the wood is still wet, take the steel wool and rub with the grain till the wood is nice and clean. In the case of your red stain, it will likely take 4 coats, but you will know this as you progress into the job.
Use the toothbrush in crevices.
Thats all there is to it ...move to another section and continue.
No other prep is necessary...and DO NOT SAND
When the stripping is complete, stain with Minwax stain applied with a rag. In your case David I would use Minwax oil stain in "walnut" (not the dark walnut though).
Then 3 or 4 coats of low lustre Minwax tung oil also applied with a rag. Please let me know if anything is not 100% clear.
I'm here so get back if needed

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Eileen Cronk


I can answer most questions about the repairing and refinishing of all your old furniture items (the things we call antiques). I can also give you advice on what wood items to choose and what wood items to avoid at auctions, flea markets etc. I DO NOT give appraisals on antiques as this is not my field of expertise.


I have been repairing, refinishing and of course buying old furniture for the past 30 years. On any given weekend I can be found at auction sales or flea markets searching out a good buy. I have taken several courses in this area over the years, but I find "Hands On" learning to be the best teacher. I can help you avoid the pitfalls and problems of this wonderful rewarding craft.

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