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Adding Colour to Wood in Woodturning

Updated: Jun 4

I will preface this Post by stating that I have always been a fan of the natural grain in wood and I normally hate to cover wood with paint or any kind of embellishment. When I started my Woodturning business I created natural grain pieces exclusively.

About a year into the business I noticed a few videos about Hampshire Sheen Intrinsic Colour Collection and saw the amazing transformation of the exterior of bowls with added colours and a natural grain inside. I was intrigued and thought for the first time about adding colour to my pieces to contrast between natural grain and colour.

Taking a Gamble

I bought the Hampshire Sheen Intrinsic Colour 125ml Box set as an experiment yet still had major reservations about adding colour. I'm so glad that I took the risk as these colours are now a major part of my Woodturning.

Before writing this Blog Post, I went looking for early examples of my experiments with Intrinsic Colours and found the picture below. These were snapped up in the shops very quickly to my surprise. I then found myself making these regularly.

Intrinsic colours added to Irish Ash Ornaments
Hampshire Sheen Intrinsic Colours added to Irish Ash

I wasn't a very experienced Woodturner back then and was largely trying to find my feet. These experiments encouraged me to keep going. Thankfully, I got better over time. The piece below which is a more recent creation also includes the use of Hampshire Sheen Gold Embellishing Wax which accentuates the open grain in species like Ash, Elm, Oak etc. The shape is far more artistically pleasing than previous versions.

Intrinsic Colours bringing this Irish Ash Ornament to life
Hanging Ornament with Intrinsic Colours and Natural Grain

What About Bowls?

My first experiment with colouring on Bowls was an Olive Ash Bowl that had cracked severely during the drying process. I turned it to 7mm wall thickness for practice and I figured what the hell, I might as well experiment with colours and embellishments.

Once the Black Intrinsic Colour was dry on the outside and sealed with a Hampshire Sheen Sanding Sealer; I then applied a base coat of Hampshire Sheen Electric Green Embellishing Wax to fill the grain and the drying cracks. The Green wax really made the grain pop out. An overcoat of Hampshire Sheen High Gloss was then used to finish the exterior to a high sheen. Embellished this way, the cracks actually add character to the Bowl or so I am told. I now agree with that assessment!

Hampshire Sheen Intrinsic Colours on Irish Olive Ash Bowl
Olive Ash Bowl with Intrinsic Colours

In order to show the inside of the Bowl in a more natural way I chose to add Hampshire Sheen Gold Embellishing Wax to the inside grain and cracks follow again by the Hampshire Sheen High Gloss Overcoat. There is no way I could have thrown this beautiful piece of wood away. One of my Friends saw the same value in the Bowl and it currently resides in his house. In truth, I could have kept adding Gloss Coats to make the shine even better but I believe the Bowl looks great with only one finishing coat.

Natural Grain Embellished with Gold Wax and High Gloss overcoat
Embellished Olive Ash Bowl from Tralee

How Best to Apply Intrinsic Colours

There are quite a few ways to apply colours and you'll be delighted to hear that they are all messy. Make sure you mask off or use waste cardboard on the Lathe Bed to catch the drips and oversprays. I usually use a small brush or a swatch of cotton cloth to apply the colours but I have also used a small air compressor that I bought in Lidl. The compressor means more masking off and cleaning of the spray gun etc so it's only of value on large projects or multiple pieces at the same time. I will try and find a Video or Pictures of my application process and add it here.

Here are a few bullet points with various methods I know of;

  • Paint Brush, any size

  • Cloth Swatches

  • Sponges, can be great for added texture

  • Air Compressor

  • Sanding Sponges

Tip From Me to You

One piece of advice if you go down the colouring route is to get some Magnetic Cup Holders like the ones I got on Amazon UK to stop the bottles from being knocked over. See image below. Please Note: As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases. You can buy the Magnetic Cups using my Amazon Affiliate Link and I may receive a credit for the referral. Check out Magnetic Cup Holders on Amazon UK. Nothing worse than losing the contents of the bottle while destroying the lathe bed and surrounding floor with colour. These are also very handy for holding 400ml spray cans in multiple locations and angles. I bough 4 initially to test them out and they were so strong and reliable that I bought several more.

Keep your bottles locked on the lathe bed with these Magnetic Cup Holders
Magnetic Cup Holder from Amazon UK

In Conclusion

If you are still hesitating after reading the paragraphs above, my advice is to just power through it. Buy the Intrinsic Colours with a view to experiment, once you start you will see the benefits almost immediately.

The Hampshire Sheen Intrinsic Colour 125ml Box set Box Set costs somewhere in the region of €60 and represents the best value for money. Act fast though as the Box Set size is now discontinued. I am lucky enough to have bought more so I can still sell them for the next year or so.

If you have a damaged piece, colouring and embellishing is a great way to hide or feature effects without throwing the piece of wood away. After a while you will find that you use some colours more than others so the 250ml Intrinsic Bottles are a great way to top up. These are also now discontinued in favour of smaller 125ml sizes but I have a good supply of the 250mls built up.

Don't be afraid to experiment!

Thanks for reading, David.

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