Creating your own wood dye is a good way to gain the depth and richness of color you desire while retaining the freedom to experiment with different materials. Using dyes made from plants and minerals is a centuries old tradition that can give your wood old world charm using simple, easy to find ingredients. Your homemade dyes can be either water based or oil based, with oil-based dyes providing a deeper color than water-based ones. DIY wood dye is as effective as commercial dyes, with the single exception that they require you to finish the wood in order to bind the stain permanently.
Wet the wood in preparation for dying. Soak the surface of the wood and then allow it to dry in order to raise the grain of the wood. Sand the raised grain to a smooth finish so that when you apply the dye, it will not leave a rough finish.
Create a dark gray wood dye by soaking iron nails in a jar containing vinegar for 3 to 5 days. The vinegar will darken from the presence of the nails. Remove the nails to use the liquid as a dye. Brush the altered vinegar onto the wood to stain, and allow it to dry completely. The more dye you apply, the darker the wood will become.
Create a brown dye by combining chewing tobacco with an equal amount of liquid consisting of half ammonia and half water. Soak the tobacco for 3 to 5 days before removing it from the colored liquid. Brush the wood with the dye. The more dye used the deeper the color.
Soak walnut husks in water until the water turns dark enough that you can barely see the husks. Strain the liquid through a strainer and then brush the wood with the dye. The color with be a rich dark walnut stain.
Create an oil-based dye for a color that seems deeper in appearance but shows less of the natural wood-grain detail. Soaking the nails, husks or tobacco in a jar filled with turpentine or mineral spirits gives you a less transparent color. Soak the materials for 3 to 5 days until the liquid has changed color. Remove the materials from the liquid and brush the liquid onto the wood. Allow the dye to dry completely.
When the stains have dried, wait for at least 72 hours and then apply a clear wood finish to the stained wood. Brush the entire surface with the finish, applying it in thin layers until a solid coat has been built. Allow the finish to dry in order to bind the stain to the wood completely.