Ebonized Drawer Pulls (with Attached Tool Drawers)

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Project by Lazyman posted 04-03-2015 08:29 PM 5109 views 11 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I had a bunch of tools just laying on the shelf beneath my bench that was a driving me crazy so I decided to make a set of drawers to organize and declutter the shelf. My neighbor was cleaning out their attic and gave me a couple of old table leaves that I decided to use to make the chest. The leaves were so darkly stained that I couldn’t tell what kind of wood they were but after stripping off the finished I discovered that it was ambrosia maple. I went to the local Lowes to get some red oak for the drawer fronts and found a quarter sawn piece in the bin. I used some poplar for the drawer sides and back.

I looked around for some nice contrasting drawer pulls but finally decided I wanted them to be made of wood but still look a little like wrought iron. After a week of sketchup designs and a little experimentation I settled on this look. I was initially thinking that I would experiment with ebonizing the entire chest but after discovering the ambrosia maple and quarter sawn red oak I decided to keep the finish as clear as possible and just experiment with ebonizing the drawer pulls. After applying the iron/vinegar solution, it left the pulls with a very chalking feel and I didn’t want to sand them any more so I simply burnished them with a coarse shop towel on a wood block. The 5th picture shows the before and after affect of the burnishing. I probably spent more time on the drawer pulls than the drawers and chest (hence the title).

I still need to fine tune the runners to adjust drawer spacing a bit but I couldn’t wait to declutter the bench shelf.


I may have to find a more prominent place to show off the maple.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

12 comments so far

View jeffswildwood's profile


4952 posts in 3259 days

#1 posted 04-03-2015 11:30 PM

Very nice!

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View tyvekboy's profile


2138 posts in 4295 days

#2 posted 04-04-2015 02:50 AM

I like the look of the ebonized drawer pulls. Nice job.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

View jburklow's profile


96 posts in 3955 days

#3 posted 04-04-2015 11:47 AM

well done looks like it will serve you well for years to come!

-- Jeff Midlothian. Texas.

View JimInNM's profile


334 posts in 2498 days

#4 posted 04-04-2015 02:06 PM

What a find, beautiful wood and you did it proud with the workmanship

-- JimInNM........Space Case

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3972 days

#5 posted 04-05-2015 12:08 AM

Very nice! You scored when you found that QS red oak with the great ray fleck. Love the ebonized handles but need a little more info on how you did the ebonizing? Vinegar and steel wool, then soak the wood in the resultant solution for hours/days?

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Steve's profile


5 posts in 2433 days

#6 posted 04-05-2015 02:42 AM

Very nice indeed!

View Buckethead's profile


3196 posts in 3150 days

#7 posted 04-05-2015 03:07 AM

Excellent! Great looking carcass, beautiful oak drawer faces, and handles look machine made. Great workmanship.

Reading your description, I had to chuckle. My neighbor also gave me her table leafs as she had stored them for years without use. Very dark stain. Upon planing, maple! About half was ambrosia, but it’s mostly 3” rips glued up. I’m now finishing up…. You guessed it, a tool chest with drawers. (Smaller than yours) I used the maple as drawer carcasses though.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Lazyman's profile


8200 posts in 2669 days

#8 posted 04-05-2015 03:44 AM

gfadvm: The ebonizing process below looks like a lot of steps but is really pretty simple. You should be able to find instructions on LJ as well as other websites on the net but here is the basic process I used:
1) Get some steel wool and soak and agitate it for a few minutes in warm water with a little bit of dish detergent to remove any oil that is put on it to prevent it from rusting. You can buy oil free steel wool but it is pretty expensive just for turning to rust. I used the 0000 stuff I bought from Home Depot years ago I had sitting on my shelf but any steel wool will do and if it is already rusty, all the better and you may not have to wash it first. Rinse it well to remove any detergent residue.
2) Find a plastic or glass container that will hold at least 4 to 6 oz of liquid. You want something you can loosely close for while brewing. If you use a glass jar just realize that a metal lid will eventually rust.
3) Place the steel wool in the container and pour in enough white vinegar to completely cover the steel wool. You can place the lid on it but the chemical reaction will release some gas so you may not want to tighten it all the way down. It can smell a little so you probably don’t want do this in the house.
4) Let the solution steep for at least a week. You’ll see little bubbles forming and within a few days, you’ll notice the steel wool will start to rust.
5) After about 5 days I started testing the solution by dipping small scraps of wood into the solution. As you coat the wood, you’ll think that nothing is happening but within a few seconds it will start to darken and on a wood with a high tannin content it will be completely black within 5 minutes.
6) Strain the solution through a coffee filter or paint filter to remove any flecks of rusted steel wool. You might also want to skim off anything floating on the surface. If there was any oil left on the wool it may be floating on the surface. Store it in a clean plastic or glass container. Even if the solution appears clear, this stuff will stain just about anything so you’ll want a fairly tight lid on it and you will want to put down some plastic under the wood you are staining.
7) Sand the wood you want to stain to a fine finish and you might want to pre-raise the grain by wetting the surface with water and then lightly sand it smooth again with the final grade of paper.
8) Liberally flood the surface with the solution and let it soak in. This is why you want to pre-raise the grain. I used a foam brush. This will basically ruin a regular paint brush so use a cheap one if you use one. After it has achieved the color you want (5-15 minutes should be plenty of time), you can dry the surface with a rag to speed the drying process . You’ll want to wait until it is completely dry before final finishing.
A few notes:
You’ll want to experiment with different woods to see what colors they turn. For example, the ambrosia maple scraps I tested turned a jet black almost immediately but an old piece of white oak turned a reddish color almost like cherry heartwood and it took 10 minutes to completely turn. The handles on this project are made from the same red oak that I used for the drawer fronts. If it isn’t turning the color you want, you can take any black tea such as Lipton and brew a few ounces of very strong tea and use this to soak the wood before you apply the ebonizing fluid. The tannin in the tea helps get a blacker black. You can also apply the tea after you apply the ebonizing solution if it didn’t darken quite enough. I applied the tea to these handles before the stain. Note that some of the websites recommend using a special tree bark tea to achieve a really black color. Let the tea soak in for a few minutes before applying the stain. Note that when I put the tea on the white oak, instead of the reddish color it turned a greenish black but still wasn’t dark enough for what I was looking for so I decided to use the red oak.

As I mentioned in the description, the handles were rough and chalky feeling after the stain dried overnight and I didn’t sand my handles any further but you should be able to do some very light sanding to get the wood smooth again if necessary. Burnishing with a cloth on a hard surface worked amazingly well for me. I did put 3 coats of wiping poly on the handles but the 2nd picture at the top shows them after burnishing them but before applying the poly.

Give it a try. This was my first experiment with it and I’ll definitely use it again.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3972 days

#9 posted 04-05-2015 01:16 PM

Lazyman, Thanks for the in depth tutorial! I really like the look you achieved on the pulls.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Ocelot's profile


3559 posts in 3920 days

#10 posted 10-24-2021 05:24 PM

Well it’s 6 years later. I was searching for drawer pulls and found this. How are your ebonized pulls holding up? I like them!

-- I intended to be a woodworker, but turned into a tool and lumber collector.

View Lazyman's profile


8200 posts in 2669 days

#11 posted 10-24-2021 07:34 PM

Thanks. They are holding up great. i just walked out to the shop to take a new picture.


A little dusty but no worse for wear.

I think that the only thing I might do differently is make the base of the pulls a little thicker to give the screw a little more meat to hold on to. I was a little worried they might pull out over time. That hasn’t happened (knock wood) even though I use them nearly every time I am in the shop.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Ocelot's profile


3559 posts in 3920 days

#12 posted 10-24-2021 09:32 PM

Great. Thanks! I wouldn’t mind having those on a dresser even.

-- I intended to be a woodworker, but turned into a tool and lumber collector.

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