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"Ebonized" wood

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Forum topic by HammerSmith posted 11-28-2018 06:23 AM 1777 views 3 times favorited 76 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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HammerSmith

301 posts in 534 days


11-28-2018 06:23 AM

I’ve become fascinated by “ebonized” finishes… I read some things about it, but I’m wondering if anyone here actually does it and can speak from experience..

I’ve read stories about soaking it with tea first, to build up the tannins…? And how some woods work better than others, etc..

Any of you guys have any secret recipes that you want to share?

Cheers,

-- ~Jim


76 replies so far

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TheFridge

10858 posts in 1936 days


#1 posted 11-28-2018 01:32 PM

Ive used the tea and steel wool/vinegar on pine. It worked. Works great on oak because of its tannin content. Not sure red or white or both. Not a huge fan of the finish but it works.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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shipwright

8340 posts in 3248 days


#2 posted 11-28-2018 01:36 PM

Check out this blog entry. There is a video of ebonizing walnut in real time.

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

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ArtMann

1417 posts in 1266 days


#3 posted 11-28-2018 04:34 PM

I’m with Fridge – not a fan of the appearance. The video link was very informative but I certainly wouldn’t do it on a nice piece of walnut. It totally obliterated the grain and color of the wood. He may as well have been using sweetgum.

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Lazyman

3677 posts in 1837 days


#4 posted 11-28-2018 04:46 PM

I’ve used the vinegar and steel wool (iron oxide) solution a few times with good results but usually just for small pieces or accents (look at my tool drawer pulls and mallet projects for examples). I like it because the natural grain of the wood still comes through.

You’ll want to experiment with the wood before you commit. different woods and even different pieces of the same type of wood can yield different results. I’ve seen different colors including jet black, reddish and even slight green or purplish overtone on various types of wood. When the color wasn’t dark enough I’ve been able to darken the result by applying a really strong tea to the wood first to add some tannin. I’ve been wanting to try brewing some tea using acorn shells to see how that works, especially for woods with a low tannin level.

EDIT: If you look at my tool drawer project, I posted my technique in one of the responses.

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

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EarlS

2957 posts in 2798 days


#5 posted 11-28-2018 06:24 PM

So I’m that guy that ebonizes walnut. I could swear I wrote a blog entry about it but I can’t find it. At any rate, ebonizing stain is made with steel wool and vinegar. There are a number of places you can find the recipe and instructions so you don’t blow up the bottle from the hydrogen that is generated. The iron and acetic acid react to make iron acetate which is what reacts with the tanins to “ebonize” the wood.

Since tea has tanins in it, you can mix up some extra strong lipton tea and liberally wipe it onto your wood. Let it dry, lightly sand off the dust nubs, then apply the iron acetate. The wood will start darkening immediately. Subsequent applications of tea and iron acetate may darken the wood further.

The tricky part is getting a consistent penetration so the “ebony” looks consistent. The post ebonizing sanding can also remove the ebonized outer layer of wood which means you have to reapply the tea and iron acetate. The most troublesome spots are along edges. Generally, I only sand enough to get the raised grain off and then apply sanding sealer.

I made this desk and it looks amazing. I also ebonized a chair for it. I’m in the process of making an ebonized walnut shelf unit as well.

Ebonizing cherry makes a blotchy dark mess that ruins the look of the cherry. On the other hand, ebonizing white oak brings out the grain and really makes the oak look nice. Sanding the oak removes the ebonized wood from most of the wood but leaves it in the grain recesses.

Hopefully this gives you a little more information.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

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JADobson

1445 posts in 2561 days


#6 posted 11-28-2018 06:27 PM

I’ve also used black India ink on oak. I liked that look a lot more than the vinegar and steel wool. This project has the result though the pictures aren’t as close up as you might like:

Click for details

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

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shipwright

8340 posts in 3248 days


#7 posted 11-28-2018 07:53 PM



I m with Fridge – not a fan of the appearance. The video link was very informative but I certainly wouldn t do it on a nice piece of walnut. It totally obliterated the grain and color of the wood. He may as well have been using sweetgum.

- ArtMann


Just so you know …... this was quality furniture. The lady was paying for quality wood, not sweet gum and she wanted black. Yes it totally obliterated the colour of the wood as intended, however ebonizing does not obliterate the grain.
She was so pleased that she overpaid me by 25%. Sorry you don’t like it.

I’ll go have a look at your projects …... oh … you don’t have any.

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

View Rich's profile

Rich

4689 posts in 1039 days


#8 posted 11-28-2018 08:39 PM


I m with Fridge – not a fan of the appearance. The video link was very informative but I certainly wouldn t do it on a nice piece of walnut. It totally obliterated the grain and color of the wood. He may as well have been using sweetgum.

- ArtMann

Just so you know …... this was quality furniture. The lady was paying for quality wood, not sweet gum and she wanted black. Yes it totally obliterated the colour of the wood as intended, however ebonizing does not obliterate the grain.
She was so pleased that she overpaid me by 25%. Sorry you don’t like it.

I’ll go have a look at your projects …... oh … you don’t have any.

- shipwright

I like your style, Paul. I guess the critic doesn’t realize that starting with a high tannin wood like walnut makes total sense.

-- My grandfather always said that when one door closes, another one opens. He was a wonderful man, but a lousy cabinet maker

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JADobson

1445 posts in 2561 days


#9 posted 11-28-2018 08:42 PM


I m with Fridge – not a fan of the appearance. The video link was very informative but I certainly wouldn t do it on a nice piece of walnut. It totally obliterated the grain and color of the wood. He may as well have been using sweetgum.

- ArtMann

Just so you know …... this was quality furniture. The lady was paying for quality wood, not sweet gum and she wanted black. Yes it totally obliterated the colour of the wood as intended, however ebonizing does not obliterate the grain.
She was so pleased that she overpaid me by 25%. Sorry you don’t like it.

I’ll go have a look at your projects …... oh … you don’t have any.

- shipwright

HA! Awesome.

My comment was confined to oak. Iron acetate works great on walnut.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

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EarlS

2957 posts in 2798 days


#10 posted 11-28-2018 08:55 PM

Paul – I just took a look at your tables – gorgeous. It is always difficult to take pictures that show off the grain of the wood, especially with the ebonized wood you used since there isn’t any color variance to highlight the grain.

The top of the ebonized walnut desk I made has crazy grain that still looks good ebonized.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

8340 posts in 3248 days


#11 posted 11-29-2018 12:27 AM

Thanks Earl,
This was meant to actually resemble Ebony which walnut does very well in this technique. The grain is very subtle as in real ebony but can still be seen.

Very nice desk by the way.

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

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

10858 posts in 1936 days


#12 posted 11-29-2018 12:46 AM

I wonder if I could ebonize some alder? It would probably be even better than real ebony in my opinion. Since it is the god of woods of course.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Rich's profile

Rich

4689 posts in 1039 days


#13 posted 11-29-2018 12:58 AM


I wonder if I could ebonize some alder? It would probably be even better than real ebony in my opinion. Since it is the god of woods of course.

- TheFridge

Around here alder is known as Ebony del Oro.

-- My grandfather always said that when one door closes, another one opens. He was a wonderful man, but a lousy cabinet maker

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shipwright

8340 posts in 3248 days


#14 posted 11-29-2018 01:46 AM

We used to ebonize a lot of alder. About five minutes after it went in the woodstove it was nice and black. .... or it would have been if I took it out…..... :-)

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

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

10858 posts in 1936 days


#15 posted 11-29-2018 02:20 AM

Paul you son of a bitch… that’s how serial killers start off. Burning alder because they think it just like any other wood and next thing you know the police are digging up a dozen bodies from behind their woodshop… where did you go wrong?

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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