Wood stain consists of a colorant suspended or dissolved in a solvent which can either be water, alcohol, petroleum distillate, or the actual finishing agent: shellac, lacquer, varnish, polyurethane, etc. The colorant can either be pigments or dyes. “The difference is in the size of the particles. Dyes are microscopic crystals that dissolve in the vehicle and pigments are suspended in the vehicle and are much larger. Dyes will color very fine grained wood, like cherry or maple, which pigments will not. Those fine-grained woods have pores too small for pigments to attach themselves to. Pigments contain a binder to help attach themselves to the wood.”
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