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Thread: Ebonizing

  1. #1

    Ebonizing

    Hi there,

    What would be the best wood, product nad technique to ebonize a piece to a very dark black color.

    Thank you

    Alfredo Alamo

  2. #2
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    Alfredo, there are several methods I've read about. The only one I've used so far is to simply wipe the wood with black India ink, let it dry, then finish with either a wipe-on varnish like Minwax Antique Oil or spray-can lacquer. So far I've user this method on both walnut and maple with good results. I like the maple a bit better, since it has smaller pores and looks more like ebony when done.

    Another method involves soaking steel (like steel wool) in vinegar for a period of time (a few days to a few weeks, as I recall), then using the darkened liquid to stain the wood. I'll let someone else who's actually used this method describe how they've done it.
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  3. #3
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    This is a timely post for me also. I tried the the vinegar, and steel wool but the mix
    didn't turn rusty like it should. The liquid mix is then spread on walnut, and it should
    turn black. That's what I read. My problem is the vinegar is not turning rusty. Mine
    has been soaking now for a week, and a half I even added some nails to the mix.
    I'm using white vinegar, and my jar is sealed with a cap on it. Maybe someone can
    tell me what I'm doing wrong!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Les Hoste View Post
    This is a timely post for me also. I tried the the vinegar, and steel wool but the mix
    didn't turn rusty like it should. The liquid mix is then spread on walnut, and it should
    turn black. That's what I read. My problem is the vinegar is not turning rusty. Mine
    has been soaking now for a week, and a half I even added some nails to the mix.
    I'm using white vinegar, and my jar is sealed with a cap on it. Maybe someone can
    tell me what I'm doing wrong!
    Steel wool - fresh out of the box - has an oily coating (rust preventative) on it. Try washing it in paint thinner, naphtha, or even just soap and water to get rid of that, and the vinegar ought to work its 'magic.'

    DO NOT tightly cap the mixture. It generates some gases during the reaction and could burst a bottle or jar that's tightly capped.

    I generally leave the mixture to 'cook' for about a week, then strain it through a coffee filter to remove the dross.

    One application on oak generall turns it a dark gray, and a second application leaves it a very nice black. Same thing with walnut. Other woods with less tannin in them won't take the blackening as well.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  5. #5
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    I've just recently used the vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar) and steel wool mix on oak. My mix had been sitting in the cold for the entire winter, frozen and thawed a few times in a plastic folgers coffe can with the lid on. I forgot about it until a few nights ago. I brushed it on a simple oak spindle turning and the wood close to the bark turned gray, but the interior wood went black almost instantly. It raised the grain a bit, I over sanded and it all turned gray. Re-applied and it went back to black again. I've heard this works very well on walnut as well, but I haven't tried it. I'll try and get a pic of it up later today.
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  6. #6
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    I tried the steel wool in vinegar bit without success on oak.
    And, do heed what Jim said. I tightened the jar and had a mess, my shelves got rusted and many tools also.
    OTOH, a member of my woodturning club uses this technique frequently. He puts white liming wax over the darkened finished piece and get spectacular results. I get wet, ugly wood.

  7. #7
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    Thanks Jim I'll clean my steel wool, and give it a try again. The nails in there are not
    turning rusty either thought. I might try some apple cider vinegar too.

  8. #8
    I attempted a simple process... Just FYI... it didn't work.

    I tried popular with ebony stain (minwax). I went over the wood several times over a period of days. Just couldn't get it to soak up the stain very good. It turned out like a transparent stain.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Les Hoste View Post
    Thanks Jim I'll clean my steel wool, and give it a try again. The nails in there are not
    turning rusty either thought. I might try some apple cider vinegar too.
    If the nails are coated...and they probably are, since the manufacturer and seller don't want their nails to rust before you buy them...you'll need to clean them first, too.

    As for cider vinegar - any vinegar will work. They're all basically acetic acid. Common cider or white vinegars are generally 5% acetic acid. All you really need is something to oxidize the iron in the steel wool, nails, or other scrap. It's the ferrous (ferric?) oxide that reacts with the tannin to blacken the wood.

    Ever notice the black stains around the nails in a wood fence, or the black staining where your pipe clamps touched the oak glue up you didn't want stained? It's the same process - minus the vinegar. The vinegar just accellerates the process.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  10. #10
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    Hi Alfredo ,
    As far as the process I cannot say but I have done an entertainment center and a credenza in rift cut white oak that was ebonized and they looked marvelous. (white oak has a great color of it's own.)
    Shaz
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