Open Apron Nesting Tables #2: Ebonizing and Burl Matching

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 08-28-2014 12:51 AM 4316 reads 6 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: An Interresting Commission Part 2 of Open Apron Nesting Tables series Part 3: Assembly and Finishing Up »

I didn’t take any photos of the ebonizing process originally, but since several people expressed an interest I made a little video today. It shows the process in real time on a piece of off-cut Walnut from one of the legs.

Ebonizing is a simple process that lots of people do and it works well on any naturally high tannin wood. I understand that with the addition of outside tannin in the form of a tea wash it can be effective on non tannin bearing woods as well although I have no experience with that.

My first experience with the process was probably the same as yours. ....... wondering why the oak trim on my boat was going all black everywhere there was a nail. When I found out that you could harness this disaster to do your bidding I was intrigued and have since used it many times mostly on Oak and Walnut. The first instructions I read said to add the worst, flakiest rusty iron or steel you could find to a jar full of white vinegar and wait three weeks. That worked amazingly well but since I have found many references to using steel wool and that is what I’m now using.

The process is fast and easy.

Here are some before and after photos.

Next up was to get the edge molding done. I don’t use the shaper that much but it does such a nice job on these.

I made the molding to trap the leg ends and to overlap the bottom plywood base for good glue area.

On to the burl Matching. This was another point of consultation with my customer. We looked at the available Walnut burls on Certainly Wood’s website and she chose the one she liked best. I ordered eight pieces for two identical matches in a size more than double what we needed to give us lots of choices.

When it arrived she visited the shop again and we got out my acrylic mirrors and chose a sweet match. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of the match but that doesn’t matter because I have the actual match to show you.

I’ve droned on long enough for one night here I guess. Next one should get the project pretty much finished up.

Thanks for looking in.


-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

21 comments so far

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4640 days

#1 posted 08-28-2014 01:09 AM

man i just love it…i love burl walnut, and SWEET it is…or as ralph kramden use to say ‘HOW SWEET IT IS”....THESE ARE SWEET TABLES…..thanks paul..ill be doing more ebonizing in the future…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View SteveGaskins's profile


762 posts in 3924 days

#2 posted 08-28-2014 01:30 AM

Paul, I really don’t know what to say….WOW, Paul. Absolutely beautiful work. Your work always blows me away. Thanks for posting, Paul.

-- Steve, South Carolina,

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10963 posts in 5389 days

#3 posted 08-28-2014 01:32 AM

Very very interesting…

Thank you.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View gbear's profile


544 posts in 5436 days

#4 posted 08-28-2014 02:02 AM

Awesome table Paul…nice way to handle the edge trim. Also, thanks for the lesson on ebonizing. It’s different
than what I’ve done before and it looks like you get great results in a easy manner. The burl is a great touch.
Thanks for sharing!

-- gbear, Carmichael, CA

View sras's profile


6518 posts in 4466 days

#5 posted 08-28-2014 02:27 AM

Another fun build! Thanks for sharing.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 5261 days

#6 posted 08-28-2014 02:30 AM

Thanks Paul it came out just great. Have you ever tried the ebonizing on tiger maple? What do you think it would look like if it was not left to long? May give that a try on some scrap.

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 3951 days

#7 posted 08-28-2014 02:44 AM

going to be a awesome table

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4646 days

#8 posted 08-28-2014 03:26 AM

Very nice Paul…that is going to be one much appreciated table. The burl is amazing and the ebonizing is top notch.

View shipwright's profile


8781 posts in 4135 days

#9 posted 08-28-2014 05:30 AM

Thanks everyone.
Bob, tannin bearing woods are usually the brown ones. The lighter colors usually have less so I’m thinking you won’t get strong results without adding tannin in some way. Try some on a scrap, it’s the best way to find out.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4671 days

#10 posted 08-28-2014 07:04 AM

Love the ebonizing Paul, but that walnut looked beautiful too, even though your client wants black. The burl match looks great, but I hope you will be trimming off the ‘eyes’ at the ends. I love the table design, very graceful and not overstated. Lucky client.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View jinkyjock's profile


488 posts in 2912 days

#11 posted 08-28-2014 10:32 AM

Very good easy-to-follow video, as is your whole blog.
Thanks for posting.
Cheers, Jinky (James).

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5219 days

#12 posted 08-28-2014 12:05 PM

Very nice Paul.
That Ebonizing is remarkable. I love the look of walnut, but wow, that is really a transformation.

Thanks for the looks into your build. You got skills.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View CFrye's profile


11409 posts in 3177 days

#13 posted 08-28-2014 01:03 PM

Beautiful tables, Paul. The ebonizing info is greatly appreciated, especially the tip about wetting the wood first and sanding off the raised grain. Does it matter if you use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar? Thanks for sharing.

-- God bless, Candy

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 5451 days

#14 posted 08-28-2014 02:25 PM

I’m planning to Ebonize some wood in my next project. Earlier this week I started to make my Vinegar and Steel Wool solution, so it’s ready when I get to that point. I found this article on Popular Woodworking Magazine web site, written by Brian Boggs. The article has a lot of good information on the process. I’ve also ordered some “Quebracho bark powder” in case I need more a reaction.

View shipwright's profile


8781 posts in 4135 days

#15 posted 08-28-2014 02:33 PM

Actually Mike the owl eyes are in the larger table but not the smaller one. It was one of those choices. If you wanted the particularly fine match in the middle they would be there in one table. The client made the choice. I don’t mind them at all really. The finished appearance has enough going on that they don’t detract (IMHO).

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

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