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Blog entry by IowaWoodcrafter posted 12-28-2007 08:24 AM 14528 reads 2 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After my experiment with the clocks I made for Christmas I want to try something a little different. A co-worker liked the clocks but commented that she would prefer something in black.

My sister happens to be an interior decorator. She has commented that I should make some items for a shop she deals with. This shop happens to cater to contemporary items.

These two comments formed an idea for something I’d like to try that includes two things I’ve never done, bent lamination and ebonizing. The idea is to create a bent laminate piece of wood in an arc. The center would be cut out to form a rectangular area. Inside this area I would float a flat piece of wood. The arced piece of wood would be ebonized while the center piece would be hard maple. The floating center would hold a clock.

I’ve read many comments online about ebonizing with differing opinions. I decided to try two different approaches, India ink and black dye. The wood used for this experiment happens to be soft maple. The picture below is the result of my experimentation.

The left 1/4 is India ink alone. The next 1/4 is India ink washed with black dye. The remaining 1/2 is black dye alone. I can see uses for the outer two techniques.

The dye retains a lot of the grain from the wood. I feel I could get it a bit darker and still retain the grain. The technique I used with the dye, (after many attempts), was to place a couple drops of the dye directly on the wood and then use a brush loaded with water to wipe it around. Trying to mix the dye with water dilutes it quite a bit. From pictures at I see quite a few pieces of gaboon ebony with brown streaks within the grain. If going for a natural ebony look I think I’d prefer the dye.

The India ink provides a nice deep black. If I had sanded this piece of wood before my experiment the India ink would have likely had a more consistent texture. If going for a piano black finish the India ink would be my preferred method. With either method I have found that any finish applied would be better sprayed rather than brushed on.

One additional comment. I have tried taking pictures of this piece of wood with the flash on as well as off. Every picture make the wood appear much brighter than it appears to the naked eye.

These are Sketchup’s of the clock I was considering….

-- Owen Johnson - aka IowaWoodcrafter

6 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35279 posts in 5685 days

#1 posted 12-28-2007 08:29 AM

Great Idea. You might take a look at Todd Clippinger’s latest doors . He has a lot of black there also.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 5350 days

#2 posted 12-28-2007 10:14 AM

Really interesting looking project. I hope that you will post a photo of one of your finished clocks, as well as a blog outlining the steps taken.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 5159 days

#3 posted 12-28-2007 12:09 PM

Very nice design for the clock. I can’t wait to see the finished project.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 5384 days

#4 posted 12-28-2007 12:12 PM

I just shot out a personal message to you and then I found this open posting of yours.

I use solvent based black lacquers. The lacquer is not a high build and will allow the grain texture to show through. If you want the finish smooth like an automotive finish you need to use a grain filler or if the pores of the wood are tight as in poplar, a couple starter coats of clear lacquer with sanding in between will fill the pores.

I use the black and then finish with the clear lacquer for a deep effect. Even with a satin finish the color gets deep, with gloss it gets really deep.

I have used a lot of black lacquer on my current project and it looks fabulous. One of the things that adds, is the grain texture still coming through on it.

You can check out the project in my web gallery at and click on the album “Cooper Closet” for a step by step photo documentary that is still in progress. Be aware that there are over 230 photos over several pages but it is all visual and simple one line titles.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 5384 days

#5 posted 12-28-2007 12:20 PM

One of my favorite contemporary furniture stores is Abante Contemporary Furnishings in Des Moines. It is only about a block away from the WoodSmith store and I love stopping at both places when I am in the area.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Harold's profile


310 posts in 5132 days

#6 posted 12-28-2007 05:20 PM

I you have a chance, try a vinegar/iron solution for the ebony effect. I like it because it seems to pull the patterns in the grain out. Regardless of the method soon you will be know as “ébénistes”. Keep in mind that after you have sanded a piece the effects of the tanins within the wood will migrate,or concentrate back on the surface, so if you have the time let your work sit for several days or even a couple weeks before you begin the finish. You can see this in purple heart, as the color rapidly changes. All wood does this to some extent, but when we finish the wood shortly after we have completed shaping and sanding, we sufficate the wood and these changes takes months or even years. Looks like a wonderful project

-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.

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