How to ebonize wood
How to Ebonize Furniture
Ebonized furniture first became popular in the West in the late 1800s, when imports from eastern Asia began. Though the ebonized wood look lost popularity at the turn of the century, today it is often used on accent pieces of furniture. There are many techniques for ebonizing furniture, including using a felt pen and leather dyes. This article discusses how to ebonize furniture using iron and bark tea solutions, which produces a deep, durable stain.
Choose furniture made of wood with high tannic acid content.The wood ebonizing process depends on the chemical interaction between the tannic acid in the wood and iron oxide. For this reason, wood such as oak or walnut, both of which are high in tannic acid, work best for ebonizing.
- If woods high in tannic acid aren't feasible for a project, you can wash on a strong black tea to increase the tannic acid.
Make the iron solution.This process usually takes about a week, so get started early.
- Wash a piece of steel wool thoroughly in soap and water to remove all of the oil from the steel wool. Any remaining oil will interfere with the necessary chemical reactions, so be sure to get the steel wool very clean.
- Drop the steel wool into a plastic bottle of white vinegar and seal the cap tightly.
- Drill a small hole in the bottle cap. Gasses are released during the process of dissolving the steel wool and the bottle could burst if there is not a small hole to allow the pressure to equalize.
- Wait for the steel wool to completely dissolve. You should plan for this process to take a week, but the solution can sit for several months before you use it.
- Strain the solution through a coffee filter to remove any impurities. You can then pour it back into the jug.
Sand the furniture.You can perform this step any time while you are waiting for the iron solution to be ready. Be thorough. If you must sand the furniture after you ebonize it, you will have to begin the ebonizing process in that area again because you will sand off the finish.
Mix the bark tea solution.You can prepare this solution immediately before beginning the staining process. Dissolve 1 heaping tsp. of bark powder into a pint (0.473 l) of hot water and stir.
Apply the bark tea solution.Using a small paint brush, apply the bark tea liberally to the wood. Use enough of the solution that the wood is completely soaked and the reaction takes place in the wood. Although you want the wood to be completely soaked, be sure to use a paper towel to clean up any of the solution that has pooled on top of the wood.
Apply the iron solution.Wait for the wood to still be damp with the bark tea, but not wet. Using smooth brush strokes, apply the solution to the wood. The wood should start to blacken immediately.
Apply a second coat of bark tea solution.Let the wood dry for a few hours so it is no longer damp to the touch. Use a clean rag to polish the surface and remove any iron deposits, and then brush on the second coat of bark tea solution as though you were painting the furniture.
Wash the furniture.Use clean water to lightly wash the furniture. If you find imperfections, sand them down and perform the ebonizing process to that area again.
- If you want to ebonize a piece of furniture made with wood that does not have a lot of tannic acid, purchase a chemical tannic acid product from a woodworking supply store. You should apply the chemical tannic acid product before applying the iron solution. Strongly brewed black tea (about 5 tea bags to 2 cups of boiling water; let cool enough to work with) has the same effect.
Video: Ebonizing Wood
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