Bamboo Tips - Tips Area - Dyeing

< Home < Tips Area < Dyeing


At the risk of breaking tradition (the thread, that is) kinda wanted to get back to the subject of dying cane.  In my limited experience have been experimenting a bit trying to color cane, not purple though, as tempting as that might be.  Have soaked some test strips in ammonia, and  water soluble dyes with putrid results, stain (pigment) rolls off like the proverbial ducks back.  Haven't tried the gas chamber yet.

In Milward's book he cautions against baking cane dark brown and alludes to the use of "strong dyes" yet tantalizingly stops short of saying which.  Does anybody know what he uses?  I would really like to know how others have achieved this result.  (Darrol Groth)

    Mike Brooks has sent me some dyes he says work quite well with bamboo, but I haven't tried them yet.  I think Bob Maulucci has tried this stuff, so heed his counsel.  (Harry Boyd)

    I have attempted to use the TransTint dyes that many recommend,  using alcohol  as a solvent,  PVC tube to soak for 24-48 hours. My own results with this technique have been far from satisfactory, IE downright ugly. Went so far as to varnish the test sections but this didn't improve anything. Guess I am doing something incorrectly since this has been recommended by several folks.  (Jaz)

      It may be the mix. I have had best results with TransFast powdered dye. I can mix the color as dark as I want, maybe the number of drops of TransTint is really something that needs to be calculated for the depth of dip tube. I did mine separately (with TF and TT) as gallons of dye, and then I poured it in the tube. Also, I used Mike brook's impregnating solution, and that really pushed the dye far to the core of the rod and locked it in. Forgot that in my prior posts. Maybe that is the secret.  (Bob Maulucci)

      I haven't tried dipping the entire section in the solution as of yet, just wiping on successive coats of the dye mixture.  What problems are you having?  (Mark Wendt)

        Mike Brooks and others have recommended using TransTint dye and denatured alcohol, fill a PVC pipe, and soak for a couple of days. My blanks came out looking splotchy, dye didn't penetrate well, wiped off easily, etc. I used the recommended mixture on the package. I may add  another ounce to  the solution and try again on a test blank - perhaps soak a tad longer as well. I did make certain that the enamel was removed from the blank. Mike also recommended Jacquard acid based dyes (a powder) mixed in alcohol, but I have been unable to find the latter in local art supply stores. It is a tad expensive. Others have stated they have had decent luck with powdered dyes as well. I was hoping for a uniform "flamed" look, but the results were just plain bad. If one gets a good dye set in a blank, following up with Mike's impregnation sauce seems to "fix" the dye in rather well. The latter according to those who have had success with dyeing. Sorry that I can't be of more help. If you get it figured out, please share!  (Jaz)


If anyone is looking for a definitive solution to dyeing cane, Potassium Permanganate is it. I have been using a solution of the Potassium Permanganate crystals for a few years to color cane and I have always had 100% positive results. This solution works like a stain in that more applications equals darker color. Potassium Permanganate is a very strong oxidizing agent so a few precautions need to be heeded, but It is easy to mix, super easy to wipe on, and will darken cane to a dark mahogany after 3-4 applications if you allow each one to soak in for a few minutes at a time. I have attached a small picture of a sample that I colored just this morning. The right side is regular blond cane, the left shows 4 applications of Potassium Permanganate. It took about 4 minutes to achieve this dark color, and it can not be wiped off.  The sample has been covered with one coat of spar. Potassium Permanganate can be purchased at any science supply store. 25 grams should cost around $20 but will make enough solution to color many rods. I mix 7 grams of Potassium Permanganate crystals to 100 grams of distilled water.  (Jeff Fultz)

    The subject of dyeing rods is an interesting one. My only concern is whether these agents applied to the cane effect the properties of the cane, other than color, making it brittle, etc.  (Mark Dyba)


Been trying to dye some rods mahogany without much success. I don't believe in cooking the cane to a right color has it tends to crisp the fibers. Tried every chemical under the sun with some acid dyes with no success. Nothing would hold. Then came the lighting bolt. I have been using iodine to darken the cane and it work well, except that it never gave me the color that I wanted.

Being a good carrier, I used iodine with some dark brown acid dye and to my surprise it worked. The color is set in the cane and it's just fabulous. Wont wash out and the only way to take it off is by sanding it off. Depending of the amount of dye you use, the color can be anything you want.

Take a look at this.

MahoganyIt is not varnished.

Have any of you ever tried this? Would appreciate your comments.  (Michel Lajoie)

    It appears that you have succeeded where others have failed.  But could you please be a little more detailed in the proportions and procedures?  I am not even sure if we can buy iodine here any more.  Would Betadine work?  (Ralph Moon)

      I did not do any scientific tests on this.  I will however do some test and I'll come back with some true figures, I just added about 1/8 oz. of iodine in a bowl and mixed in a few grains of dark brown acid dye to it. Mixed well with a brush to make sure all the iodine and the dye were homogenous and just painted it on the blank and waited about 30 seconds and wiped it off.  It gave me the results you saw in the pic. tried to wipe it off with water, lacquer thinner and varsol and it would not come off, had to sand it off. Looks good yea?

      I have no idea what Betadine is.... sorry!

      I am sure you can find iodine in your pharmacy or drug store.  (Michel Lajoie)

        What is this acid dye that you are referring to?  Is this the RIT stuff they sell at the drug store.  (Mark Babiy)

      No it's a dye that uses acetic acid to set the color. They use it to dye wool.  (Michel Lajoie)

      I may well be wrong about this, but I would be REALLY surprised if Betadine was any good in this application.  The iodophors are fine as skin preps, but I cannot see that they would function in the place of elemental iodine, or even of iodine tinctures.

      Shouldn't be at all difficult to get iodine; pharmacies, drug supplies, any place like that.  (Peter McKean)

    This sounds very interesting.  I'm not familiar with the acid dyes you refer to though, in the past I have tried spirit, oil and water stains without much success.

    Some more details would be appreciated.  (Gary Marshall)

      I would not think that the dye has anything to do with, any dye would work. It's the Iodine Tincture that is the carrier. The thing is to dye the iodine to the color you need. I used acid dye because that is what I had in the shop...

      I will however try it with other dyes and let you know...  (Michel Lajoie)

    It sounds like you have found the secret formula for changing the color of cane. I am not that familiar with dyes except for Ritz of course. Where do you buy acid dyes?  (David Ray)

      Try using leather dye. It comes in many colors and works well on cane.  (Ron Grantham)


Any suggestions on how to dye a blank.  A friend wanted an olive colored blank but since I flame that is out.  I thought I could try red, purple or black.  Tried grape Kool-Aid with no luck.  Can it be done?  (Lee Orr)

    Jeff Fultz has some stuff that works really well and is easy and pretty safe.  (Joe West)

    There was an article written by Mark Wendt (Power Fibers Volume 13, Pages 28-29) on using TransTint dyes which are available at Woodcraft.  (Bill Bixler)


Does anyone know how to remove burn marks from a blank that was caused by over aggressive application of heat in the straightening process?  How about a technique for staining a blond rod to a lovely slightly burnt color?  (Dennis  Bertram)

    Burned is burned. You'd have to sand it out and weaken the cane plus ruin the taper. Depending on the depth of the burn you already may have created a fatal weak spot. Your best bet may be to stain the entire blank a dark brown color like an old Orvis rod just to hide the burn mark.  (Larry Puckett)

      What stain would you use?  I have never found a stain that worked.  Now wood dye mixed in alcohol works fine for me.  (David Ray)

        There was a recent post on here about using potassium permanganate to stain cane. Also, Mike Brooks has posted either here or on Clark's forum his results using TransTint (I think that's the one) Dyes on cane. I may have saved that stuff in Word files on my computer at home and will check tonight if no one else comes up with them in the meantime.  (Larry Puckett)

          Jeff Fultz has an article in Issue 18 of Power Fibers on his Potassium Permanganate toning process.  Also, Mark Wendt had an article in Issue 13 about dying cane with TransTint dyes.  (Todd Talsma)

    You might want to use a Potassium Permanganate solution to color your blank. Send me an email and I will send you all the information you need to get started.  (Jeff Fultz)

    Have a look at page 11 of my new book "Cane rods tips and tapers", the leather dye system works nicely for me.  (Ray Gould)

    I just now came in from the shop and was smiling to myself about how great that stuff is Jeff!

    I tried it out for the first time today and it is wonderful!  As an artist I have made up many wood stains over the years and when I came to try rods I found they came out quite pale and weak looking unless I used it like a paste.  I did not like the results. 

    Today I used  Potassium Permanganate solution  from Jeff and was very impressed.  I took one rod down to a walnut color.  It even works well on cork if you want to get creative.  For those of you who glue up your own handles you can put some dark rings in for contrast and move up to another level of creativity.

    Thanks again for a great tip and a great product Jeff.  (Dick Steinbach)


When using TransTint to color rod blanks or strips, at what stage in the process do you use the dye?  And, will the TransTint color the nodes in a flamed blank?  (Mike Givney)

    I apply the TransTint solution after the blank has been sanded, before wrapping and applying the finish.  One thing, depending on what kind of finish you use on your wraps, you might want to put one coat of Tru-Oil over the TransTint before you start your wraps, to avoid bleeding of the dye into the wraps when you apply finish to the wraps.  (Mark Wendt)


I built a new replacement rod section for an old rod and in the process of matching the color to the two older sections.

Should I use water or alcohol based dye? I'm assuming I have to mix different colors to get the match. Any words of wisdom?  (Don Schneider)

    Go with the alcohol based aniline dyes.  You'll get much better penetration of the cane using those kinds of dyes.  I would recommend the TransTint alcohol based aniline dyes, available from Woodcraft.  Depending on what kind of color you are trying to match, you more than likely will have to mix different colors.  You will have to put multiple coats of the dye on the rod, and work your way up to the final color that you are looking for.  The good thing about the alcohol based aniline dyes, the alcohol evaporates very quickly, and by the time you are done putting a coat on, you are almost ready to put the next coat on.  What is the make of the old rod,  and what color are you trying to achieve?  (Mark Wendt)

      The rod is a South Bend 359 and about 60 years old. Gordon Hoppin was kind enough to send me the taper since there wasn't enough left of the old section to take measurement. The color of the rod is kind of a medium reddish brown.

      A trip to Woodcraft seems in order. Very dangerous place to visit, if you know what I mean.  (Don Schneider)

        Lemme check when I get home from work today.  You may be able to use the same colors I did when I did an FE Thomas repair, and just vary the amount of color to get the reddish brown tone.  I don't remember off the top of my head what the two colors were.  (Mark Wendt)

          The TransTint colors I used to get the reddish-brown of the FE Thomas rod were Reddish-Brown, and Honey-Amber, with a 3:1 ratio of each  (Mark Wendt)

    I believe Jeff Fultz sells a product that is a wipe on / wipe off product that depending on time left on and number of coats will dye/darken a rod. There was talk of it from the CRR I think  (Pete Van Schaack)

      Jeff's solution is potassium permanganate which is a strong oxidizing agent. It will only darken the cane. To change the color/shade you'll need the dyes.  (Larry Puckett)

    Mike Brooks has experimented with TransTint dyes a lot. Here are his comments from a recent post on the Classic Rod Forum:

    For TransTint, you want the ALCOHOL soluble type, not the water soluble. An easy way to apply this is to take a 3" square of an old T-shirt and dampen it with alcohol. Wipe the rod section down. While it is still damp, squirt a few drops of the dye onto your clothe and wipe the section down with the dye. It will be streaky. Don't worry about it. Allow to dry for 30 minutes and add another coat of dye. The section will be quite dark. Then, take a clean piece of clothe, wet with alcohol and wipe down the section. If you do this right, it will be even colored and very close to the color you see with the dye color swatch. For a Granger   color,  try  mixing  Golden-Brown  and  Amber  or Honey-Amber. For Ammonia treated, mix Reddish-Brown and Golden-Brown (2 to 1). The dye will penetrate the raw bamboo for a considerable depth and, if you wipe it down well, you will end up with a very even color - no streaks, etc. Easy to do and cheap. TransTint also makes a line of alcohol soluble powdered dyes called Transfast that come in a very large color range so you can mix and match and dye you blank virtually any color you can think of - purple, pink, red, orange, browns, amber, yellow. You can duplicate the color of an old Leonard, a Payne, a Thomas Browntone, you name it. Woodcraft carries most of the dyes but a better selection can be found on the web. A complete "kit" of basic dyes will run you less than $100.  (Larry Puckett)

      Mike's the one that turned me on to the stuff about a year or so ago.  It works great.  (Mark Wendt)

    The chemical I use - as recommended by several others - is Potassium Permanganate.  A tiny amount dissolved in water produces a frightening purple liquid that when applied to the cane turns it a darker shade of brown.  The tone is controllable by the strength of the liquor and the number of coats.  Best to practice on some scrap first!  I apply it by wiping on and then wiping straight off rather than leaving it to work for any length of time.

    As it was used as an antiseptic it can be obtained from chemists in the UK but in the US?  One little pot lasts forever and costs very little.

    The Hardy rod on my web site, photographs page, has had its new tip colored this way, it's not perfect but not at all bad, at the ferrule it is very near the same.

    By the way if you over do it a gentle rub with fine wire wool will tone it down. (Gary Marshall)


A while back I said I was experimenting with RIT dye.  It worked out fairly well, until I polished the rod.  Then some of the dye came off along the joints.   Not so bad that I redid the rod (I wanted to fish it.)  But bad enough I wouldn't sell it to someone. 

A few days later I was at my local gun  shop,  picking  up  some Tru-Oil and found that Birchwood-Casey also makes a walnut wood stain, so I picked up a bottle.  It seems to work MUCH better than the  RIT dye.   I used it to color a replacement tip on an old rod I'd made from a tip and a mid that were browntone.  Worked great.  I'm sure I'll use it on brown town from now on.   (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    Head to your local Woodcraft store and pick up some TransTint dye.  You really need an aniline dye for it to soak well into the cane and be colorfast.  (Mark Wendt)

      Like Mark, I use TransTint Dye. The bottles are not inexpensive but the ease of use and results are very good.

      Take a clean rag dampened with alcohol. It only takes a couple of drops of the dye to do a section. If you want a darker color, give it another coat. If you want a different color, do some combination of  a few drops of one color and a couple of drops of different color. Doing this you can match any final color you are looking for.

      It's very easy to do and you get very deep penetration and lasting results.  (Don Schneider)

    You're using the wrong dye. Go to a shoe shop and get shoe dye. The color I use is 'light brown' and apply is with the applicator supplied in the box or with a clean cloth. Mix a little alcohol with it to get the tone you want. Apply to tip and butt sections at the same time for color consistency.

    I've dyed more then one rod and they come out quite nice. I got this tip from Ray Gould, so the credit goes to him.  (Mark Dyba)

    I have bottles of nutmeg brown and cherry.  Will get you a couple of ounces each in the mail, which should do several rods.  (Carey Mitchell)


For those of you who dye blanks, any reports on how well the color holds up?  (Mark Wayne)

    A few years ago I tried Feibing's shoe dye. It fades over time.  (Ron Grantham)

      The TransTint dyes hold up quite well over time.  (Mark Wendt)

        Just used this on a rod. Had dilute about 50% to get the color I wanted. Then a coat of tung oil to seal it.

        We'll see how it holds up.  (Gordon Koppin)

    I've dyed blanks and I've used Shoe Dye, Bingo Markers, Aniline Dyes, Stains, India Ink and Vinegar and Food Coloring just off the top of my pointed head.

    The second part of your question I believe is the important part of the equation.  It depends what you've used to finish the wood with.  When I use CA and/or a Waterborne Polyurethane that has a UV Stabilizer that prevents the color from fading then it stays like I did it.  Use anything else as a topcoat and it's a crap shoot if the color stays true.  (Ron Hossack)


Site Design by: Talsma Web Creations

Tips Home - What's New - Tips - Articles - Tutorials - Contraptions - Contributors - Search Site - Contact Us - Taper Archives
Christmas Missives - Chat Room - Photo Galleries - Line Conversions - The Journey - Extreme Rodmaking - Rodmaker's Pictures - Donate - Store