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How can I naturally (or more naturally) give this checkerboard blue squares?

 
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My son has a woodworking class, and one of his assignments is to make a checkerboard. He's wants to make the squares (and checker pieces) be blue. My husbands thinks we should just paint them with acrylic paint and put polyurethane over it, or spray paint it blue. I think it'd be nice to do a more natural option. But, what?

Would having him color it with markers (washable or permanent?) and then oiling it work? Are there natural stains we could pick up at the local hardware store? Maybe buy ink and stain with that? I'm just a bit lost.

Here's the checkerboard, with the non-blue squares taped off so that they can stay natural.

Any ideas?
20210118_132831-1-.jpg
The checkerboard
The checkerboard
 
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Dr Pinterest suggests making a blue stain with copper (not pennies, but copper) and hydrogen peroxide. I made some super awesome wood stain a few months ago using a similar process with steel wool and it was awesome, I would totally try it, but it seems like it might take a while.
https://www.apieceofrainbow.com/make-wood-stain/ see the comments, but keep in mind i didn't do blue so I can't vouch personally.

I wish I had access to indigo or woad!
 
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Tereza Okava wrote:Dr Pinterest suggests making a blue stain with copper (not pennies, but copper) and hydrogen peroxide. I made some super awesome wood stain a few months ago using a similar process with steel wool and it was awesome, I would totally try it, but it seems like it might take a while.
https://www.apieceofrainbow.com/make-wood-stain/ see the comments, but keep in mind i didn't do blue so I can't vouch personally.

I wish I had access to indigo or woad!



I found a video for that, too! His stain came out rather weak, but apparently that's because he used only a little hydrogen peroxide, rather than a lot.



This person also made a stain with old pennies: http://maraandtheoutre.blogspot.com/2012/09/pinterest-awesome-game-of-telephone.html (the irony is, I found this link through pinterst, and she'd made the post because "I have come to realize MANY pins are in fact just repins of previous pins of previous pins where the original had a false caption about the image it posted. Now this has become so common I pretty much look over it and giggle at those who repin with out even looking at the website they so happily added to their board.")
 
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This says to use red cabbage and that it will turn blue the longer it is cooked.

Other suggestions are blueberries, blue corn, purple potatoes, cornflower, borage, and butterfly blue peas.

https://www.instructables.com/Blue-Foods-Colorful-cooking-without-artificial-dy/

I can't wait to find out what you tried and succeeded with.
 
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Tereza Okava wrote:Dr Pinterest suggests making a blue stain with copper (not pennies, but copper) and hydrogen peroxide.



I don't know anything about making wood stains so I can't really comment on that part.  However, if it is copper you are looking for pennies are copper, BUT they have to be the right pennies.  US pennies dated 1981 or older are actual copper.  In 1982 they could be copper or they could be the "modern" type penny which I believe is copper coated zinc.  I don't know the dates for coins of other countries.  If memory serves me though Canadian pennies were real copper a few years later so playing it safe you could still go by the 1981 date and know you have copper.

I do a lot of patina work on copper as part of my art career and can say the colors I'm seeing in the photos do remind me of the look of cupric nitrate.  It also reminds me of cupric sulfate which I believe you can more readily find as a soil amendment for those who want to increase the copper content of their soils.  Around me I can buy it at the local feed supply store.  I have no idea how it would work as a wood stain though.  The final colors are more likely to be like that of a Robin's egg in my wild guesstimation.  
 
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Another thought would be to make your own oil paint.  Back in the day this is what artists had to do before commercially made paints were available.  I've made my own printmakers ink.  I imagine the process would be the same.  You get an oil, I would think a natural linseed oil could work, and using a putty knife just keep working in pigment powder until it thickens to the viscosity is what you want.  If you look online you can likely find natural blue pigment powders.

Of course, that said it would probably just be easiest to purchase a tube of oil paint made with natural pigments.
 
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If only the desired colour was red! Red wine makes its purple-red presence known, persistently, whether you like it or not. Usually on some carpet or shirt, inconveniently. Beets do the same, with great efficiency. I'm not sure how to translate these magical dyes to blue though.

Somewhere there must be a checkers warrior stained with woad who can help?
 
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I'm not sure how "natural" these are, but there are some stains intended for wood and could be used as a comparison.  Oddly enough ... blue food color is also a pretty good option, although I'm not sure how stable it is!

https://www.woodcraft.com/products/homestead-transfast-dye-powder-accent-color-blue?via=5d112bea776f6f4e030006e2%2C5d112e45776f6f2c7b000622%2C5d1132a1776f6f1ffa000fa9
https://www.woodcraft.com/products/transtint-dyes-blue?via=5d112bea776f6f4e030006e2%2C5d112e45776f6f2c7b000622%2C5d1132a1776f6f1ffa000fa9

And for both historical points, botanical points and .. get this... ORGANIC dye go for good old Indigo!
https://botanicalcolors.com/shop/natural-dyes/natural-dye-extracts/organic-indigo/

In all instances, carefully stain and then seal.    If your woodworkers haven't yet discovered it I highly recommend Tried & True finishes (https://www.triedandtruewoodfinish.com) my understanding is that they actually physically boil the oil to polymerize it, actually cooking it instead of "cooking" with chemicals.

Now ... does anyone know how to play chess??
 
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Eliot Mason wrote:

Now ... does anyone know how to play chess??



I do!  Alas, my Wednesday afternoon chess group has been on hiatus due to Covid.
 
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I recall that in pine beetle killed trees, the wood is deeply stained blue by the destructive fungus. There have been attempts to make use of this kill wood before it rots, not only for structural wood but for decorative projects. Perhaps this might be relevant?
 
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That's an interesting thought Douglas ... the "blue pine" I've seen is blu-ish, like it was splashed with watercolor paint and was more of a "blue tint" than a deep blue.  Has anyone seen a deep blue pine?

I know the OP is about blue... but for a chessboard there are a multitude of white woods and then of course Black Walnut.  Cherry, if left out in the UV light of the sun a while, can also be quite dark.  There's a whole roster of exotic/tropical woods that are dark or black
 
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To get a really good, permanent, non-fading, vibrant blue finish on wood takes a couple of steps. You can use either artists' oils or acrylics; I recommend acrylics. They can be thinned with water, and while they dry a lot faster than oils, that's okay when you're dealing with small areas like this.

I use two shades of blue--Phthalo Blue and Ultramarine, in artists' grade paints (NOT craft paint, which has white added).

The Phthalo Blue has a slightly greenish cast to it, and it goes on first. Since the wood is yellowish in tone, it will make Ultramarine (which leans more toward red) look dull. Undercoating with Phthalo Blue will counteract that. Thin it out with water, brush it on as evenly as possible (dampening the raw wood first helps), let it dry, and apply a second coat. You should have a mid-tone teal/peacock blue by then--but not too dark, because once the Ultramarine goes on, it will darken considerably.

Repeat with the Ultramarine. As with any paint or stain, it's best to build up thin layers than to try to get it all in one shot. Lightly sand/buff between each coat. Do every square/chessman at each step so you can keep the color consistent. And before touching your project  try all of this out on a piece of scrap wood to see how much to thin the paint, and how dark to get it before applying the next color, and how many coats of each to get the color you want.

Hit it with some spray polyurethane, and the depth of the color will be amazing.

This also works with purple, by the way, only I use a Quinacridone Magenta base coat, and either Dioxazine Purple or Ultramarine Blue over it to get either a reddish or violet shade.

These work best on lighter-colored woods that have been bleached, or on something already cool and pale, like birch. The more yellow the wood, and the darker it is, the more the wood color will counteract the blues, and it'll just look ugly.

 
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The problem with thin stains is that they bleed and run into areas where you don't want stain to run.  On a checkerboard, it's difficult to keep thin stain from messing up the non-blue squares.  Commercial paints and some stains have been formulated to be thicker (thus, less bleed).

 
Nicole Alderman
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We ended up doing the copper stain. It took a lot of coats to get dark, but it worked!

We used 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide and 3/4 cup vinegar. It made that peracetic acid, which is great at oxidizing/corroding metals. It's also a bit stinky, and we made sure to have good airflow when applying the stain, and to wash our hands.

Here's what it looked like a few hours after putting the copper pipes in there:

copper pipes in the vinegar+peroxide.


And, here's what it looked like after 3 days:

copper stain--you can see what a few coats of it did to the popsicle stick and holly stick


And here's my son applying the stain...I think this was the second coat?

applying natural copper blue stain

And here's the final project, naturally finished with shellac!

chessboard stained with natural blue copper stain
ignore the purple lines. My husband thought we should use permanent marker in the cracks. This was a bad idea...


The copper stain does bleed a lot. You can see how it bled into the other squares. These squares were originally blue-ish, but I took baking soda+hydrogen peroxide (which makes oxygen bleach) to them, and that took away the blue.

Also, you can only really do so many coats (like 10) before pretty metallic flakes form on the surface. These make it look darker...but also scrape off. We ended up doing something like 14+ coats to get it nice and dark for my son, and decided to shellac it to maintain the extra blue so it didn't scrape off.

(The permanent marker was my husband's idea. It didn't work out because [1] it was a different hue of blue, which detracted from the lovely blue of the squares, and [2] the shellac made the blue ink bleed and turn purple, and it bled into the plain squares. Apparently, waterbased markers--like kid's washable markers--don't do this. But permanent markers are alcohol based, and so are activated by the alcohol used to liquefy the shellac).

All in all, it was a great chemistry experiment, and turned out pretty well.

Eliot Mason wrote: Now ... does anyone know how to play chess??



Hahaha! A good question. As you can see by the placement of the pieces, we did not! Thankfully, we had a rule book in a different chess set, because out power/internet/phone were out due to the storm, and neither my husband nor I liked chess enough as kids to remember how to play it!
 
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Thanks for sharing the results!

I remember learning about the problem of alcohol soluble pigments...unfortunately shellac is at the top of my list for wood finishes.  It might be possi ble to make shellac with acetone and it would leave the copper alone.

And not to criticize the project, but there are ways to avoid those seams and gaps.  They might require equipment you (and most people...) don't have.  Paint/stain the wood, then glue strips together then cut.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Oh, the shellac worked fine with the copper stain--it just made the permanent marker bleed. The copper stain bled all by itself into plain squares.

And yeah, if we'd stained the squares together before assembling, that would have saved us a lot of pain. But, this was a pre-made chess board supplied by my son's woodworking class, so we worked with what we had! The slight bleeding did give it a more natural look. I just wish we hadn't used the permanent marker. But, hey, it was a learning and chemistry experiment! I'll just file this under "homeschooling adventure" and call it good!
 
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Good to know that the copper solution wasn't affected by the alcohol... and yeah, just figuring out an Alderman-eco-acceptable method for doing this is a victory in itself!
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