I’ve been dragging my feet on the balsa wood flooring for the dollhouse floor. Partly because cutting the balsa wood strips with the miter box is a pain. Literally. My poor hand can’t take it. Would it be wrong for me to invest in an electric saw for balsa wood?
Anyway, I’m not totally done cutting the strips for the upstairs floor. However, I am done with the downstairs.
My original plan was to wait until I had cut all the strips then dye them in one big batch. My thought was using the Rit dye bath would create a lot of dye, and I didn’t want to waste it. But, then I figured there’s no time like the present. I’m not finishing the cutting anytime soon, and I might as well run this little experiment and see how it turns out. That way, if I made one of my trademarked (I really should) newbie mistakes, I could start over.
First, the Labels
As I learned from the dying wood with RIT dye experiment, it’s nearly impossible to see the numbers on the balsa wood strips after they are dyed when I use pencil. The TLDR is I numbered the dollhouse floor pattern, then transferred those numbers to the balsa wood strips as I cut them to size. That should (in theory) make it easy peasy to recreate the pattern when I glue down the floor.
As you can see, I got smart and divided the wood into different bags. Here is the downstairs bag.
Because I already experimented with pencil, permanent marker, balsa wood, and wood dye, I grabbed one balsa wood strip and traced part of the pencil number using a Sharpie. I really can’t stand how the Sharpie bleeds, though.
The tip is a “fine point”, but that’s not fine enough for me.
Then, I remembered I had this:
That’s not to say it doesn’t bleed, though. Here’s the (blurry) nine:
Over time (as in, a minute or two), the permanent ink does bleed into the wood grain. But, the finer the tip, the less it bleeds, so my advice is to stick with ultra-fine tips.
Then it was just a matter of relabeling all those balsa wood flooring strips! It’s not as bad as it sounds. It was kind of meditative. Until I got to the tiny ones. That was kind of a pain.
Eventually, I finished. Here’s what they look like in no particular order.
Dying By the Seat Of My Pants
So, there’s no “recipe” for creating a RIT dye bath for balsa wood flooring for your dollhouse. Or any kind of wood flooring for your dollhouse. Theoretically, you’d use wood stain or dye from a bottle, and then you wouldn’t have to worry about mixing the correct water to dye powder ratio.
But, I’m going the RIT dye route, so I’m going to improvise a formula for this dollhouse floor idea. Whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea remains to be seen!
Because I’ve already dyed the dollhouse shingles, I have a vague idea of how the dye bath should look and the color I want. It’s just a question of getting the proportions right.
And I do that by eyeballing it!
Ready the supplies
Here are my fancy wood dying supplies:
Those are chip and dip bowls from the party store. They’re plastic, easy to clean up, and cheap, so I love them.
I lined the two bowls up in the well-used sink like so:
Then dumped “some” RIT dye powder in the bowl.
Here’s a close up:
Then I added “some water” until “it looked right.”
Super sciency of me, I know.
Since I have no idea if my “recipe” is right, I grabbed a piece of scrap (test? I dunno) wood to test this dye formula.
Here is a somewhat blurry picture of what it looked like post dye job:
And a less blurry picture of what it looked like after the dye dripped off a bit:
That struck me as light, so I added “some more” dye and tried again.
Here’s what some more test pieces look liked:
I put them in the drying bowl and let them “dry.” The dye darkened as that test group dried, so I guess that’s the color they’ll be.
At this point, there’s nothing else I could do, so it was time to dye the rest of the dollhouse flooring.
Dying the Dollhouse Floor
Here’s a close up of balsa wood strip number 45.
I dunked it in the dye as another test to see if I could make out the number after dying. As you can see, even at a distance, the number is visible.
I took a handful of balsa wood flooring (pic) and dropped them in the dye bath.
Then I kind of swirled them around the dye bath, picked them up, let them drip, then dropped them in the drying bowl.
I did this on endless repeat until all the balsa wood flooring was dyed.
There are no pictures of this, but getting the smallest pieces out of the dye bath was hard, not because they were small. Balsa wood, I learned, floats! So, every piece was floating in the dye bath. However, they had a tendency to stick to other wood pieces, making them harder to dye. And they like to stick to my gloves and hide on them.
Also, this spending too much time in and around the dye bath will come up later.
Dying the Dollhouse Floor Again
Once everything was in the dry bowl, I looked them over and noticed the balsa wood strips weren’t dyed evenly. I’m betting that’s because the strips stuck together — and I don’t just mean the little ones. So, I ended up taking everything out of the dry bowl and putting it back in the bath. Then I made sure to dunk each strip one at a time.
Those little ones were hard, but I managed.
Here’s what the strips looked like after round two:
Wait, Dry, and Learn
I let the strips dry in the dry bowl for a little while (a few hours maybe? I wasn’t timing it). On closer inspection, I love the color but notice it didn’t “take” evenly on all the balsa wood.
As you can see in this picture, it didn’t go on so evenly on the sides.
I’m assuming that’s because of the “rough” edges. Pre-cut balsa wood strips don’t need sanding, but the grain is doing its own thing on the side of the balsa wood, hence the funky look. I think. Maybe. What do I know?
As I expected, the dye was darker on the ends. What I was not expecting was how much that affected the shorter pieces.
It makes sense, though. If the dye soaks up on the ends, it’s going to travel down the length of the grain. The less it has to travel, the darker it might get. And, given that those small strips spent more time in the dye bowl than the dry bowl, it makes sense they’d suck up more dye.
You’ll also notice at the bottom of the picture that the one balsa wood stick that’s sticking out has a weird line and some dark spots. This is an extreme close up, but I promise you, that’s how it looks in real life. Again, it must be a function of the cut and the grain.
It is what it is.
The Final Product
Here’s what the former balsa wood strips (AKA dollhouse flooring) look like when dry.
The color is nice, so I guess my recipe worked. And, it’s hard to tell in the picture, but the Sharpie isn’t as obvious anymore. Not that it would matter, those numbers will be the side the glue goes on anyway.
I did, unfortunately, end up with a ton of leftover dye that went down the drain. I had nothing else to craft that day. Oh, well. At least I kind of know what I’m doing now.
And that’s how that project went. I’m pretty impressed with my wood dye bath improv skills. Not that I’m entering myself in any talent competitions anytime soon.
Any tips or tricks on dying dollhouse flooring? Or dollhouse floor ideas? Or using rit dye? Or, anything else dollhouse-related? Let me know in the comments!
Oh, and because I couldn’t resist, here’s my dollhouse flooring dye bath “recipe”!