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Thread: Ammonia to darken wood??

  1. #1
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    Ammonia to darken wood??

    I've read somewhere that ammonia can be used to darken wood because it makes the tanins of the wood oxidize and come up darkening the wood.

    Has anybody tried it? Does it work the same with any wood?? Does it work at all?? Are there any side effects on later products applied?

    Thanks
    Best regards,
    Toni

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  2. #2
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    A recent show by Roy Underhill he used this technique. Apparently it goes back many hundreds of years. (where did they get ammonia 500 years ago? ) He calls it "fuming" and the process doesn't take long. The wood is placed in a closed container with some ammonia in the bottom. All I know. I left the show before seeing results.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Fusco View Post
    A recent show by Roy Underhill he used this technique. Apparently it goes back many hundreds of years. (where did they get ammonia 500 years ago? ) He calls it "fuming" and the process doesn't take long. The wood is placed in a closed container with some ammonia in the bottom. All I know. I left the show before seeing results.
    Frank,

    Drink a 6 pack of beer and become an ammonia factory.

    Tony, Fuming is most commonly used with white oak, I think because of the high levels of tannins in oak.

  4. #4
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    There is currently a video available on one of the magazine sites (Popular Woodworking?) that demos this process. It was a favorite of the A&C crowd and popularized by Stickley. Very effective and it imparts a 'tone' to the wood that is difficult to duplicate with finishes, dyes, etc.
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  5. #5
    OK guys a little side note here on CAUTION. I use to make mirrors. Part of the process was putting amonia on the glass to open the pours of the glass so the silver in a liquid form would stick to the glass. We used 62% amonia. You have to be very careful because at that stringth it would kill you if you got a good lung full.
    A respirator in recomended AND a well vented area. The wood piece would have to be put in a tented area so it could darken.
    Reg

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg Mitchell View Post
    OK guys a little side note here on CAUTION. I use to make mirrors. Part of the process was putting amonia on the glass to open the pours of the glass so the silver in a liquid form would stick to the glass. We used 62% amonia. You have to be very careful because at that stringth it would kill you if you got a good lung full.
    A respirator in recomended AND a well vented area. The wood piece would have to be put in a tented area so it could darken.
    Reg
    We use it at work in a full strength concentration. Strong ammonia can displace the oxygen in a confined space. It doesn't kill from being toxic as far as I know, but can lead to suffocation. It'll sure clear your sinuses!
    Last edited by scott spencer; 07-20-2007 at 04:59 PM.
    Got Wood?

  7. #7
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    Scott, it will cause the lungs to "blister" in which state they will not process oxygen. We had a tank truck do a header off an overhead freeway in about 1975 and there were mass casualties. Those who survived are still pulling green tanks around.

  8. #8
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    Yes, I have. I followed the instructions in FWW 126 (K. Rodel) and it worked like a charm to fume QSWO. I had a small piece - built a tent as described and used household ammonia (much debate from what I read about household strength versus industrial strength-I wasn't excited about the cost/complexity/safety of using concentrated solutions, so I tried the household variety and it worked fine) and worked outdoors. As described, the piece turned grey/green, and it was not until application of BLO that I got the desired effect. Also, I placed sample boards in with the piece to test at intervals - this worked well to gauge the degree of color change I wanted. If I recall, I had to wait 1-3 hours to get the amount of coloration I wanted. Very straightforward. One thing that surprised me - as the "tent" was pretty small, I leaned various pieces of the project against one another. The "exposure" of different sides, and of the somewhat obscured areas underneath, was apparently different, and these parts actually ended up less colored - I had anticipated that the fumes would evenly coat all surfaces. The degree of variation was not very substantial, though, and not a problem. Finished off w. shellac. I'd do it again any time. Also, BTW, Jeff Jewitt at Homestead has a stain/dye schedule that is supposed to mimic fuming very closely without any exposure to ammonia.
    Good luck!
    Don

  9. #9
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    Toni, I PM'd you on an article regarding this.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Fusco View Post
    A recent show by Roy Underhill he used this technique. Apparently it goes back many hundreds of years. (where did they get ammonia 500 years ago? )
    the common known origin of this process is the noticable change of color of the wooden beams in horse barns. apparently the ammonia fumes in the horse urine causes the beams to change colors over prolonged exposure. once people picked up on this they started changing wood colors using the fuming process described in this thread. white oak is said to be the best for this because of its high levels of tannin but other woods work too im sure

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