How to Dye Imitation Ivory

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How to Dye Imitation Ivory

Post  Smjprogrammer on Fri Mar 04, 2011 7:51 pm

Does anyone know how to dye Imitation Ivory a nice burnt orange color?

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Re: How to Dye Imitation Ivory

Post  Yuri on Fri Mar 04, 2011 9:58 pm

I know most plastics will not dye at all, but some will, usually during boiling the guts out of them. The best is to contact the manufacturer of the specific material you think of using as if dyeing is possible, you might need to use specifc dyes, too, and chances are only the manufacturer will make them.
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Re: How to Dye Imitation Ivory

Post  MichaelLoos on Sat Mar 05, 2011 12:42 am

The mounts on this old Hardie set are made from "catalin" (actually a brand name), an early plastic based on caseine and formaldehyde which has been in use with pipemakers from the 1920ies into the 1980ies. While snow white when freshly worked it turns to yellow within a couple of weeks and orange within years, depending on exposure to ultraviolet light and oxygen, temperature also matters. All pipemakers were happy when alternatives to this material became available as turning catalin is not a joy - not only is it very brittle but also extremely smelly and very unhealthy. The production of catalin has been discontinued in the middle 80ies, IIRC. The above mentioned change in colour was generally regarded as a further disadvantage of the material, however, I have seen some 200+ years old real ivory on a vintage set of uilleann pipes, and the ivory had over the years turned to exactly the same colour as the catalin mounts on my 1980ies McLeod bagpipe.
As Yuri wrote, dyeing plastic is problematic as the smoothness of the surface and the density of the material usually does not take up any pigments. Some procedures will chemically interact with the plastic so worth trying is
- boil in strong tea for a couple of hours (many people gave me this tip, I never got any results with this method)
- treating with tincture of iodine
- collect dust from cocobola wood and let it sit in linseed oil for a couple of weeks. This dyes some imitation ivories to a nice, very natural-looking antique colour, although not the orange you're looking for.
- heat treatment (dependig on the type of plastic, between 80° and 150°(centigrade) in the oven, or running in the lathe at top speed while rubbing with an old cloth until heat develops, or even using a blowtorch. All heat treatments are very dangerous as the material might deform, shrink, crinkle or crack on the surface or even burn. In any case, inform yourself well about the chemical and physical properties of the particular plastic).
- hair dye can give very good results, the cheapest and smelliest products are usually best for this purpose, they seem to dye just anything.
Whatever you do - first try on scrap pieces!!!
The better option would probably be, ask established pipe making firms who have been working for more than 30 years; some of them still have catalin left and might be willing to sell you some. Reproduce the mounts, leave them outside in the sun over the summer, and they will have the colour you want.
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Re: How to Dye Imitation Ivory

Post  Smjprogrammer on Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:04 am

How well does this tincture of iodine work?
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Re: How to Dye Imitation Ivory

Post  MichaelLoos on Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:10 am

Depends on the type of plastic - I'm afraid trial and error is the only method to find out.
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Re: How to Dye Imitation Ivory

Post  Yuri on Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:13 pm

I have tried iodine on bone, and while initially very appealing, in the longer term it faded away quite quickly. Don't know if this still would be true for plastics, but I'd guess probably it is.
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Re: How to Dye Imitation Ivory

Post  Smjprogrammer on Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:48 pm

I have heard about people using Rit Dye on plastic’s, and have read up about it before. I am just not sure what to think.
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Re: How to Dye Imitation Ivory

Post  MichaelLoos on Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:24 pm

Try it - it's just impossible to say beforehand. Plastic isn't the same as plastic, there are many different types, and what might work well on one type can show no result on another.
However, as RitDye seems to work for vinyl and Polyester fabric, there is a chance it might work for some (but certainly not all) other types of plastic, too.
Yuri, I'm quite surprised the iodine didn't work well for bone - I would have expected it would have penetrated into the pores of the material by capillary action and left a more durable result - but that's theory vs practice, I suppose...
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Re: How to Dye Imitation Ivory

Post  Yuri on Sun Mar 06, 2011 12:49 am

Oh, it worked all right, just not for long. I suspect it might be a chemical reaction with something in the bone, not a light-related fading. I know potassium permanganate does that. It is used for staining by some woodcarvers, and unless you use certain additives, it will break down eventually because of chemical reaction with the organics in the wood. But don't ask me just what, I'm really hopeless at chemistry.
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Re: How to Dye Imitation Ivory

Post  verdatum on Wed Mar 09, 2011 9:42 am

Iodine is not terribly good for dyeing because it sublimates (transitions from a solid straight to a gas) and disappears into the atmosphere. What remains are the random chemicals in the tincture that are not elemental iodine. Plus, it has no mordant; no chemical that forces a bond to the plastic.

Polyester resin is the only plastic I've heard of taking dye. You can see this process on the How It's Made segment on buttons. I'm told it works because the heat opens pores in the plastic which lock the dye in place as it cools. I've only ever been able to find genuine polyester (fabric) dye sold in industrial quantities.

I've heard others bemoan attempts to use Rit dye on plastics. This doesn't surprise me as it doesn't even work that well on cotton (compared to procion dyes).

In the replica prop world, we get this sort of look on plastic through paint effects. Specifically, you'd want to use a heavily reduced paint, applied with an airbrush. Reducing means to mix with clear paint so it has the same thickness, but dries more translucent. On any part that is treated roughly, you'll either want to use automotive grade polyurethane paint (expensive!!) or use whatever paint, and finish it with two layers of clear lacquer or enamel. If the finished product feels too smooth for your tastes, you can knock it back with a fine scotch pad or steel wool.

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Re: How to Dye Imitation Ivory

Post  verdatum on Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:08 pm

Oh, another thing possibly worth trying would be an amber shellac. That should give a translucent orange effect, and much easier than what I described above. That being said, I haven't had the chance to work with true shellac before (Its on my list though), so do a test to see how well it works over imitation ivory.

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