color match


Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

Has anyone worked out a recipe for staining/coloring new cedar planks/ribs to match the existing planks and ribs. I was thinking about mixing something out of “rare earth pigments” but I’m a little skeptical about using Japan drier under lacquer.

If only a recipe existed! Unfortunately, there are too many variables - the age of the boat/wood, grain tightness of the new wood, how clean a stripping job, wheter the wood was bleached after stripping etc. Best advice is to save some of the old wood and make sure it is treated the same as the remaining wood - stripped, bleached etc. Sand it like you would before the finishing step and cover with your spar varnish (I noted you said lacquer - why?) Note the tone of this wood.

Now take samples of your new wood (from scraps etc.) pick a stain color that is close, then use that as a base for experimentation. Add a little red, brown, orange, yellow, green etc to make the color match. Take good notes on the formula you use (I write it on the back of the sample) Make sure you check what it looks like under a few coats of varnish - spar will add an amber tone.

Good luck - if you find a recipe, bake some up for us!
I can share a couple of stains that have worked well for me. As Mike said though each canoe and finish is somewhat different. I use 2 stains made by Minwax "golden oak" and "early american". On new material ,ribs or planking I stain first with golden oak and then a small amount of the early american. You can stain a little more or less with the early american to produce the shade your looking for. In MOST cases it comes very close and in some it matches perfect. I hope that helps.
Thanks for the heads up guys. I think I will go your route Larry, so thanks for the info on the stain combination that seems way less complicated then making a stain from scratch.


Noted your "rare earth pigment" comment and just had to reply. When I was restoring my OT the replacement planking obviously needed some treatment so it didn't stand out like a sore thumb. After scratching my head for a few days, I was wandering out the path to the workshop and suddenly realized that Prince Edward Island is "red clay country" -- a lot of iron in a sandstone based soil. Picked up a few handfuls of the finest silt I could find, played around with turpentine and a bit of this and that, rubbed it into some scrap planking -- and with far more luck than good management found a really great match with the existing. A few coats of varnish and it still matches the originals just fine.

Ain't rare -- but it worked!

That’s fairly handy Morley – from what I understand the “rare earth pigment” (see the Lee Valley Catalogue) is little more then mining refuge, so basically just various metallic oxides. I’m going to figure it out one of these days, however, this summer is looking a bit to packed to be messing around making stains.

I've become a convert to aniline type stains. Most pigment stains hide the grain and will not stand up to sunlight very well. Lee Valley sells them at a fairly reasonable price (same page as the Earth Pigments). It's actually pretty easy to mix them for color matches. Just buy a couple of stains close to your color and some black. With a little experimenting you can get a good match that won't fade easily and will not hide the grain. A really nice feature of these stains is that you can make the color richer by repeated applications. These stains seem to give you much better control than trying to mix off the shelf stains by adding colors in oil, pigments or other stains. They do raise the grain, but if you wet the surface first, let it dry and then sand, grain raising can be minimized. Another alternative is the Transtint dyes sold by Woodcraft. They are a bit pricier, but since they are in a liquid state it's easier to mix them in small quantities. Experiment on some scrap and test its final varnished appearance by weting it with mineral spirits after the stain dries. This will duplicate the final appearance of the stain under varnish.Give it a try, I think you'll like it.
Staining New to match Old

Hi Everybody;

I just want to let everyne know that this site is great.
I've picked up alot of good tips here.
I will be sending in my membership application shortly.

In regards to this thread, I'd like to know more about Larry's method of staining new wood to match the old.
I've got a 50 year old Huron ready to start planking and would like a little more info.

Do you use Minwax water based stains, because I cannot find "Early American" at my local Home Depot. I can find it in the stain/polyurethane, but
not sure if that's the right stuff.

Also, do you let the stains dry between coats or apply the second stain while the first is wet.

Please help, I'm not much of a wood worker, but am really enjoying this project and would like good results in the end.

Once again, thanks for all the great tips and anymore that you may have to offer.

Looking forward to meeting some of you at Canoe Hullabaloo and WCHA Assembly this summer. I'm already planning my vacation around these two events. Maybe I;ll get some paddling while I'm down there. Most of my tripping has been in and around Algonquin.

Rob Kozak
Hey Rob:

I did exactly as both Larry’s and Mike’s posts suggested. Although I did break up a bit of charcoal and add it to the last coat of stain to darken up the grain a bit to make the aging look a little bit better.

I did experience one problem; I oiled everything and then left it a month before staining. However, there was still enough oil kicking around to repel the stain.

When I do this again I will be oil the canoe after I have striped off all the rotted pieces and such, I will then apply the new wood without oil and having stained everything before it gets secured. That way you are also matching the stain to the oiled wood. This is a common sense step, but requires some foresight.

Anyways I will try to post the pictures so you can have a bit of a look. If this photo works, I replaced the majority of wood on the bottom of the boat and about 8 ribs.

I would also like to thank everyone that helped make this possible, so thanks, this was the seconded canoe I have had to do a complete restoration on and I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help.



Hello, I have had good luck using Potassium Permanganate to match the new wood to old in repairs to antique classic guitars. I'm new to canoe building but so haven't tried it on some of the traditional canoe woods such as Eastern White Cedar. I have used it to age Beech, Maple, mahogany, European Spruce, European Pine, some fruit woods, Western Red Cedar and Yellow Cedar. Although, the last two have been a bit hit and miss. I'm not sure why but it can give unpredictable results on them. Although, sometimes it works great. I'd try a scrap of the exact piece of wood you are using before commiting to it. It works best on Mahogany and Maple is pretty good except that it can get a little too blue/grey if you mix it too strong.

You can get it at a drug store and it's very cheap (I paid CDN$2.95 for a 4 oz. bottle, enough to do dozens of board feet). I just mix it with water and sponge it on. Some people add the chrystals until the water will absorb no more but I find that can be too strong for what I use it for. Might work for you and what you need. Don't be turned off by the deep purple color when you first put it on as this goes away as it dries.

Another thing a buddy of mine has used on furniture restorations to fake age is Guinness Beer. He just pores it on and rubs it in with his hand. Works great for him but I cannot talk from personal experience. No matter how hard I try I cannot bring myself to intentionally spill a good Guinness.
The only thing I would be worried about is water displaying anything that goes on with a water base. However I’m really not sure, I have been meaning to get a good book on the chemical composition/properties of different stains as well as the pros and cons of each.
The one I have my eye on is “Understanding Wood Finishing” by Bob Flexner, however suggestions are more then welcome.

When it comes down to it though I think anyone on here will agree it’s more of an alchemy then a science.

You can't go wrong with Flexner's book. I have several books on wood finishing and I'd rate his as the very best. He debunks a lot of the B.S. the finishing industry puts out. He's spent years experimenting with wood finishes and really knows whereof he speaks.
Hi Rob,
The type of stain I use is the Minwax brand,, the first one being Golden oak #210B and the second one is Early American #230. I purchased both of these from Canadain Tire.

All of my results are from applying this to west coast yellow cedar. I first apply the Golden Oak to achieve the aged varnish look and compare it with the original. If it needs a more weathered look I apply a small amount of the Early American. I usually experiment on some scraps to achieve the desired look. Most times I dont let the first coat dry to much and kinda blend the 2 together.

In most cases it will match perfectly. Just take your time and experiment with the stain.