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Dyeing feathers a report from a guy on WFF

 
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Grey Hackle
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 4:33 pm    Post subject: Dyeing feathers a report from a guy on WFF Reply with quote

Dyeing feathers for those that wish to know.................


"I've been dying fly tying feathers, furs, tails, hackle necks, etc. since 1978 and I've learned a few things along the way.

1) Acid dyes are best because they are designed to use with protein based substrates (materials for those who don't know the terminology). Acid dyes are called acid dyes because they require a mild acid be added to the dye bath in order to activate and set the dye in the substrate. Use about 1/4 teaspoon of acid dye poweder to 2 quarts of water and about 1/8 teaspoon to 1 quart of water. Less dye will give you a lighter shade, but more will only waste dye. 1/4 teaspoon of acid dye poweder in 2 quarts of water is enough to dye about 2 oz of feathers, 2 hackle necks, 4 calf tails, 2 bucktails.

2) Plain old ordinary white vinegar is an excellent acid to add to the acid dye bath, simple explanation, the mild acid in white vinegar sets the dye and makes it color fast and wash fast (wash fast means it won't get washed out in water).

3) Always add a specialty dye degreaser and dye dispersant to the dye bath called Synthrapol. Synthrapol removes any residual grease or dirt from the substrate, which is necessary because grease, fat, or dirt will prevent the dye from working properly. Also, since Synthrapol is a dye dispersant as well as degrease/detergent, having it in the dye bath prevent uneven color saturation and splotchiness. In other words, Synthrapol works to make the dye enter and color the substrate evenly and properly. It is a sort of magic elixer of dying.

4) Never, never, never, never heat the dye bath above 150 degrees F or the temperature will cause damage to feathers, neck and saddle skins, hides, and tails. In fact, too high a temperature will cause the feathers on a bird skin, neck, or saddle and the hair on calf, bucktail, Artic Fox tails, etc. to come loose from the skin and just make a mess. Granted it will be a nicely colored mess, but a mess nonetheless.

5) To dye black use twice as much acid dye as needed or you won't get a dark enough end product. Also, when dying black, keep the substrate in the dye bath twice as long as with other colors.

6) Always mix the acid dye powder with warm water in a small plastic, glass, or stainless steel cup before putting it in the dye pot. Then stir the dye and water in the dye pot until it is completely dissolved in it.

7) Add the Synthrapol to the dye bath before you add the substrate. The white vinegar can be added anytime after the dye is dissolved in the dye pot.

Cool You should have complete color saturation with most colors in between 15 and 20 minutes. In fact, if you used the correct amount of dye powder for the amount of material you are dying, the dye bath should be nearly clear or clear after this time.

9) After getting the color you want, dumped the substrate into a stainless steel pasta drainer and rinse with warm, not cold, water until it runs clear. This will take a few minutes.

10) After rinsing, set the substrate out on ordinary newspaper (avoid anything but black ink) or paper towels to air dry. Substrates will be dry usually after laying out like this overnight.

You did remember to use rubber or vinyl gloves didn't you? If not, you will have dyed fingers and hands.

Acid dye will work in cold water, it just takes longer-like several hours for it to saturate the substrate. If you are worried about ruining a good genetic hackle neck, cold water is best to use.

The above are the basics of dying.

If you want to get a shade or color that there is not acid dye available for, or if you don't have the color, you can get nearly any color you want by overdying an already dyed substrate. For example, you want to get a nice olive but don't have olive dye. First dye the subtrate grey (yes grey), then rinse it and put it a dye bath of yellow. The yellow overdyed on the dyed grey will give you a very nice olive. You can also produce the exact shade of olive you wish by simply keeping close watch on the color change from grey to olive in the yellow dye bath and once it is the shade you want, take it out and rinse it. I use the overdye method to get fiery brown. I first dye a substrate chocolate brown, then after rinsing, I over dye it with bright orange. This produces a wonder fiery brown.

The big advantage of overdying as opposed to trying to mix different shades of dye powder together is that you have complete control over the final color and you don't have to worry about having 2 different types of acid dyes (yes, there are different types of acid dyes and each one sets in a different time although all use the same basic method) and different types of acid dyes don't set in the same time, which would give you a color very different than what you wanted by simply mixing them together in a dye bath.

Never, never, never, never use RIT Dye. It is a so-called union dye. This means that it is composed of many different typs of dye, one of which may or may not be an acid dye for a particular color, and all but the acid dye in it is useless for dying tying materials. I learned this one the hard way because it was the dye I used when I started dying. I was never happy with the results and switched to acid dyes after taking a day-long tying seminar from
Dave Witlock in 1981 where I learned he used acid dyes for his dying and his color were superb. Besides, he was a dye chemist before he became Dave Whitlock the professional fly fisherman and fly tyer, so I figured he knew a thing or two about dying. Witlock is also who I learned about Synthrapol from at that same seminar.

Fiber reactive dyes might work, but be very careful because they weren't designed for use on protein substrates. Procion MX is one of the few I know will work, but the colors aren't as bright as with acid dyes and there will be a lot of unspend dye left in the dye pot from it. Procion MX can be set with white vinegar, but you need to use twice as much dye and like I mentioned, there will be a lot of it not absorbed by the substrate. In fact, some of the Procion MX will even react with the water, unless the water used was distilled water. I'd avoid even Procion MX unless you want a relatively light pastel shade.

Unsweetened Kool Aid's coloring agent is an acid dye (I didn't mention above that acid dyes can be ingested in smaller amounts without causing a person harm. Your urine might get colored and you poop can turn color, but it won't hurt you, just freak you out.) Anyhow, back to Kool-Aid. Since it is an acid dye, it can be used to dye tying materials. However, it isn't very economical because most of the package is not the acid dye, it is the flavoring, which is wasted. That is unless you really want to have your fly tasting like say a cherry or grap. However, since you still need to use white vinegar to have Kool-Aid set properly and be both color and wash fast, the vinegar will negate any advantage you might gain from having a grap flavored fly. And oz of acid dye will dye a minimun of 1 pound and may dye 2 pounds of tying materials. Since an oz of acid dye sells for between $6.00 and $16.00 depending on the color, it is far more economical than Kool-Aid. Plus acid dye is available in a huge range of colors including florescents, unlike Kool-Aid.

If you can't find acid dye and Synthrapol in a local craft store that sells wool craft items, there are several companies I have been buying it from for years. All of them have great customer service and will answer questions you many have.

Jacquard's Acid Dyes can be found at some fly shops, especially if the get materials from Rumph & Sons. However, Dharma Trading Company in CA sells Jacquard's Acid dyes, including in 1/2 oz bottles that sell for about $5.00 for any color. Dharma also carries a stunning true bright florescent chrome yellow dye that doesn't have any green tint to it. This bright florescent yellow when combined with Jacquard's hot fushia can by used to make nearly any shade of florescent orange you wish. This bright florescent yellow can also be combined with Wash Fast's Rhodamine Red (which is cerise) to produce wonderful florescent oranges. And you can mix them in the dye bath to get the shade of florescent orange you want. Just use a white paper towel to check and make sure you get the shade you wish.

Pro Chemical & Dye sells Wash Fast and Kiton acid dyes. Wash Fast has the nicest hot purple I've ever seen it is Violet 17.

Orco Dye Co. packages most of their acid dyes for fly tyers in a line they call Fly Dye (Anglers Workshop carries it in WA State). At any rate, they have the nicest dark dun I've seen, and their olive is also very nice.

All three of these companies (Dharma Trading Co., Pro Chemical & Dye, and Fly Dye) have web sites, just Google them. All three also carry Synthrapol.

One last warning, never, ever, under no circumstances use Veniard's dye. This is because although they are acid dyes, they are blends of different colors and types of acid dyes, meaning they set at different times. Thus, it is extremely difficult if not impossible to get the same shade twice with most Veniard's dyes. Veniard's Hot Pink, Kingfisher Blue, and Hot orange are single color dyes which produce nice colors, but I'd avoid all the other colors. Since Veniard's was the only acid dye I could find in fly fishing catalogs back in 1981, I made the mistake of buying and using it. It worked well enough, but I could never get the same shade twice, except the the three colors I mentioned and I was not a happy camper as a result.

Before anyone starts quoting A.K. Best or saying the A.K. wrote about using RIT and Veniard's dyes in his bood on dying fly tying materials, I am very aware he did so. In fact, I bought a copy of his book on dying sight unseen because I mistakenly thought I might learn something valuable from it. Instead, I was sorely disappointed because a lot of the info in it is just plain wrong. I seems to me that A.K. was asked to write a book on dying and did so without having had much experience doing so because there are so many errors in his book. Not the least of which is his insistence on using RIT dye and saying that Veniard's is a "super powerful dye". It is when compared to RIT because it is an acid dye, but nearly all of its colors are blends of different colors and even different types of acid dyes. Heck, A.K. even tells folks to use baking soda to neutralize bleach when burning feathers like schlappen or goose shoulder to get rid of the little hooks that hold the fibers together. Baking soda will not neutralize bleach because it is also a base or alkaline, just like bleach. In fact, it could be downright dangerous to try and put feathers that have just been in a bleach solution to burn them into a baking soda solution. One has to use an acid to neutralize an alkaline. White vinegar is what should be used to neutralize bleach burned feathers."

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thats a great article I may have to get some of the stuff from this ebay seller as it is cheaper than the veniards stuff.
acid dyes
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arkle
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are several dye manufacturers that produce alternatives to Veniards. One of which is Jacquards, I have some materials dyed from their products & it's from a different planet to the usual stuff we see.

Christina Tooley, of Chevron imports, uses & wholesales several American dyes. The results she gets are fantastic.
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Hi there, I have around 40 yrs exp. of tying flies, incl. some semi-pro work. I've taught at adult evening classes, written for and supplied photos for most U.K. fly magazines. Given talks/slide shows/lectures/demonstrations etc. Am founder and life pres. of local Fly Dressers Guild (27years), our members have won more prizes for tying than any other similar club, we've also won several national flyfishing comps. I look forward to both learning from and contributing to this highly respected forum.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I work with mostly natural dyes but an easy way to get started dyeing is with Cushing acid dyes. They come in convenient packets and in many colours. The best way to use them is to dissolve the powder in hot water and store it in a bottle and pour out only as much as required. Bill

http://www.earthguild.com/products/dyes/cushacid/dycahome.htm

http://www.pburch.net/dyeing/FAQ/KitonAcidDye.shtml
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the forum and thanks for the link Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's great to be here. The link below is a UK source for acid dyes with excellent directions for the serious dyer. Bill

http://www.dyes.co.uk/acid-dyes-wool.html
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wsbailey wrote:
It's great to be here. The link below is a UK source for acid dyes with excellent directions for the serious dyer. Bill

http://www.dyes.co.uk/acid-dyes-wool.html


I take it that the wool dyes would be the best for dyeing capes.

Do you do much dyeing yourself
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In dyeing, the main division is between protein fibers (wool, silk, feathers) and cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, hemp) Union dyes like RIT contains dyes for both so a lot of dye is always wasted. I do a lot of dyeing because I sell fly tying materials dyed with natural dyes. In today"s market I am but a drop in a bucket so I specialize in reproducing materials for classic salmon flies.

The links below are for a different type of dye used for silk. While expensive, they would be ideal for feathers. With the three primaries, plus brown and black, you could blend most any colour. I haven't used them myself but I have thought of trying them for reproducing illegal to own feathers. Bill

http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/2146-AA.shtml?lnav=dyes.html

http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/1629-AA.shtml?lnav=dyes.html

http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/1970-AA.shtml?lnav=dyes.html#colors


Last edited by wsbailey on Fri May 01, 2009 12:29 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 8:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bill do you tie salmon flies and do you have any pictures as I would love to see any you had.
We dont get much salmon up this way apart from lots of foul caged things I did however catch a grilse 2 years ago more by luck than anything else.
There is another guy on the forum who has started getting in to tying salmon flies his name is Dai but I would imagine he is out hunting the sewin.
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PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2009 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To tell you the truth I haven't had time to tie a fly or even fish in a long time. Dyeing with natural dyes is similar to your quote comparing angling and mathematics. I recently finished bleaching some pig's wool and dyeing it twelve different colours. I have pounds of mohair to dye and so on and so forth. My main interest is in the older, simpler flies thus natural dyes. I have a copy of the "Shetland Dye Book" but I don't suppose people do that much anymore. I have to travel quite a way north to find an abundance of lichens to use for dye. I sell black oak bark as a dye and that means that I will soon be busy peeling logs and grinding bark.
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PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2009 6:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your right in that not many dye the old way up here there will still be a few just for specialist items but not doing it in the burns as I think that would get them in to trouble.
You should try and get out and fish a little while even for a short while its good for the soul Wink
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

very informative, ive recently started dying materials and this thread has really helped
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes FT / FlyTier has written several good post on dying fly tying materials on a few forums. Well worth a look if your wanting to learn.
FT on using Acid Dyes
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