How to Create a Sunburst Finish
See how mixing two colors of water-based dye creates a striking two-color effect that enhances the appearance of figured wood
There are ways to work with more than one dye color at once. You can, for example, bring out the figure with two dyes applied, dried, and then sanded consecutively. Or, you can apply one dye and immediately follow up with another. That’s the technique shown in the accompanying video.
On the backs of many of the instruments I make I graduate the colors from light to dark as they move away from the center. Known as a sunburst, this effect is normally found on a circular piece but you also can use the technique on the corners of a square or rectangular panel. It’s important to keep the surface damp so that the second color doesn’t streak. But don’t saturate the wood. The secret to a smooth color transition is keeping the surface just wet enough to allow the colors to flow together. Too much water saturates the wood, while dry surfaces will leave sharp breaks in the color.
There is no firm sequence of steps, but more of a dance: Add some color, wash with water, add more color, wash some more, and perhaps add some accents to perk up the color. Practice on scrap pieces of wood and don’t be dismayed if your first efforts look more like a rain burst than a sunburst.