Can You Stain 3D Printed Wood Filament? 5 Simple Steps!


Filament composites have greatly expanded the possibilities of what you can create with 3D printing. Composites allow you to create models with a different look, texture or material performance than traditional filaments. 

With composites, you can print objects that have the appearance or feel of metal, clay, ceramic and of course wood.

With a wood filament you can print a wood-like object that is virtually indistinguishable from a real wooden piece. 

Real wood always has a finish added to it to protect it from pests or enhance its natural appearance. This might be paint or dye but in most cases staining, polishing or waxing is preferred as these bring out the natural grain and texture of the wood. 

Can you apply the same finishes with a 3D printed wood filament? This is the question we want to answer in this article. Can you stain or paint your wood filament? How do you make your 3D printed objects look more like wood?

3D Printing Is Here To Stay

Can You Stain Wood Filament?

Staining produces a transparent finish like varnish, lacquer or shellac. Like most clear finishes, staining wood filament can bring out the underlying grain pattern added to a wood filament and give it a more realistic appearance. 

There are two main types of stains, namely water-based and oil-based stains. Water-based stains are typically used where seeing the grain is not a priority. 

However, if you have gone through the trouble of adding a grain pattern on your print, you will want to show it off. This is where oil-based stains come in. Oil-based stains highlight rather than hide the grain pattern.

Types of Finishes Used on Wooden 3D Print

Wood filament is not actually made from wood. It is a synthesis of plastic filament, usually PLA, and wood fiber in a ratio of around 7:3. The wood fiber makes the filament more porous which makes it easier for it to absorb dyes, paint and stains. 

As it is part wood, a wood filament can be finished in much the same way you would finish real wood.

There are several types of finishes that can be applied to wood filament.

Oils

Oils are more easily absorbed and penetrate deep into the print. There are several types of oil including linseed, tung, cedar and danish. 

Application: Oils are easy to apply with either a brush or rag and they are great for enhancing the appearance of your print. 

Shellac

Shellac will give your print an amber to orange tint. Shellac easily dissolves in water or alcohol so is not as durable as other finishes.

Application: Shellac is more difficult to apply. It typically requires spraying equipment.

Lacquer

Lacquer is one of the most popular finishes used on everything from doors to kitchen cabinets. It’s a mix of different finishes that gives a more durable finish than shellac. 

Application: Like shellac, lacquers are difficult to apply. They require spray equipment or a natural bristle brush.

Varnish

Varnish is easily the most popular wood finish. It is a transparent finish that really lets the grain of a wood piece stand out. 

Application: Varnish can be rolled or sprayed but does require some brushing skill.

Wax

Wax is possibly the least durable finish. It requires frequent retouching as it wears off quickly.

Application: Wax is however one of the easiest finishes to apply as it can be applied using a brush or cloth.

Polyurethane

If you’re looking for a durable water-resistant finish, then polyurethane is a good choice. Polyurethane is ideal for prints that might be exposed to moisture. 

Application: Use a natural bristle brush. 

These are some of the options for finishing wood prints. In the next sections of this article we will look in detail at two other options, namely staining and dying. 

How To Stain Wood Prints ? (5 Simple Steps)

These are the steps you should follow when staining your wood prints:

  1. Prepare your print. Your first step should be post-processing your print as you normally would. This would be filling gaps and repairing any blemishes.
  2. Sand your print. If you added a grain to your print, it’s important to sand it in the direction of your grain. Start with a hard grit sandpaper and work your way to a softer grit. The softer grit will make the print more porous. 
  3. Mix and apply the stain. Make sure to thoroughly mix the stain before applying it with a brush or rag. 
  4. Allow to dry. Water-based stains dry in about three hours. Oil-based stains take a little longer, requiring between four to six hours to dry. Make sure to wipe off excess stain with a clean rag before it dries. 
  5. Apply a sealer. The longer the stain sits, the darker your print will turn out. Apply a polyurethane sealer when the stain dries. 

How Do You Make Wood Filaments Look Like Wood?

There are several ways to make wood filament look more like wood. The simplest is to try to simulate the rings and lines of real wood by adjusting the print temperature settings. A more advanced method would be to add texture that simulates the rough appearance of wood. Displacement maps are one way to create a textured appearance. 

sherifjallad

I am a very well experienced techie civil engineer who's extensively interested in 3D printing technology and even more captivated by the potential of 3D printing livable structures

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