product review: minwax custom color wood stain (shingles)

For house #3, Earth and Tree’s Rye, I plan to cover the top of the house (an area around the shed roof) and the wall that surrounds the front door in side shingles. I wanted to dye them deep purple to order to contrast the weird yellow-green I’m considering for the house-body, but I couldn’t find a pre-packaged, oil-based wood stain that was even close.* So, I was happily surprised to come across Minwax Water-Based Wood Stain, a product that can be tinted about two dozen or so pre-selected shades, including burgundy.

Disclaimer, right off the bat: I’m guessing Minwax would not recommend this product in the way dollhouse hobbyists traditionally dye shingles, so this whole post pretty much discusses an off-label use. That said…

First, it does not have the viscosity of traditional, oil-based wood stain. It’s closer to the consistency of paint, so the result is less transparent. When I dyed the shingles using the method I’ve been taught, some of the shingles did have a lighter coat, but others ended up thickly layered. Again, to be fair, the instructions said to brush on the stain and then wipe it off in under two minutes. I poured both my shingles and the dye into a plastic container, stirred them to coat, and then dumped them onto a tray to dry.

When they dried, I have to admit it wasn’t a total disaster. The color was close-ish to the color sample at the hardware store, and the shingles with a lighter coat looked similar to shingles dyed with oil-based stain.

Just for the heck of it, I tried two more things. First, I hand-painted a few shingles and then wiped off the stain in under two minutes as directed. That was better, a little light, but I could always leave on the stain for a longer time. Next, I cut the dye, 50%-50% water-to-dye, which increased viscosity, thus led to a lighter coat. The result was closer to the look I was used to and I was able to batch-dye, so a little less time consuming than hand-painting. Note, though, some sites warn water and shingles don’t mix, at least in terms of attaching them with water-based glues, which can cause warpage. The water-dye did not appear to have the same effect, but I want to put it out there.

Would I recommend the product? A reserved yes. In part, because crafters are an artsy bunch and they would do the same thing as me, tweak and experiment with the product until they got it right. Just fair warning, it might not work straight out the can for shingles dyed using the batch-dye method. On the other hand, the result you get might be what you’re looking for if you want less transparency.

Now, back to my dilemma. Will I use them on my house? Stay tuned. I’m still building the house body. These colors are running around in my head today, but I tend to let the house decide over time what it wants to be.

*As usual, I dove right in without seeing if there was any advice on the Internet. Had I done a little more research, I would have found other options when you want the shingles to be a different color than available stains:

  • Here is a discussion of choosing between stain and paint for roof shingles, as well as whether to place them on the house in “raw” form and then paint or stain, or to batch-dye them.

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