3 Tips for Practical Colour Matching

As most of us already know, woodworking isn’t all about making furniture. From time to time we will be called upon to do some furniture restoration. One of the most challenging tasks when it comes to furniture restoration is colour-matching (or ‘color-matching’ if you are reading this on the other side of the Atlantic).  Several people have approached us asking for colour-matching advice and so our resident expert, Graham Davies, has agreed to share his top three colour-matching tips.



Tip 1: Choose your wood very carefully

This often calls for an interesting balance depending on whether you want to focus on matching wood or colour.  I believe that close-grained walnut is the single best wood to use if perfect colour-matching is required.  I would especially recommend it when trying to match a mahogany piece.  If you are doing a dark colour-match, then use heartwood (wood from the centre of the tree).  If you are doing a light colour-match then use sapwood (the ‘living’ wood away from the centre of the tree).

Tip 2:  Only ever use water dyes and gradually build up layers

One of the most common mistakes I see new students make on our woodworking courses is trying to get an exact match in a single layer.  It just doesn’t work like that.  The fact is that the colour on your pallet will dry to a different colour.  Your first layer should always be a light yellow. From then you should gradually go darker.  In this way if you make a mistake you can use a kitchen scourer and some water to go back a step.

Tip 3:  Think carefully about your polish

There are basically 3 types of polish that can help you.  If you have a perfect match, then use a white polish.  If you need the wood to have a slightly older, ‘mellowed’ look then use a button shellac (yellow) polish.  For a really old, antique look then you need a garnet shellac polish.  And don’t forget that once you have polished you can still vary the colour through the use of different waxes.

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