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Thread: Ebonizing wood

  1. #1
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    Ebonizing wood

    Has anyone ebonized wood using Tannic Acid and a mixture of iron and water?

    I have seen it done on Legacy of A Craftsman on TV but no longer have the info on how it is done.

    Would appreciate any help.

  2. #2
    I’ve done it using White vinegar and 0000 steel wool. It reacts to the tannin in the wood.
    A Mason jar with 2 or 3 balls of steel wool, fill with vinegar and screw the top on wait a couple of weeks until the steel wool has dissolved. Paint the wood with the solution and depending on the tannin content in the wood, it will turn black.
    some woods don’t have a great deal of tannin and will not ebonize.
    An easier way to get black is to use Fiebings Marine black shoe dye. It will make any wood black.
    Last edited by Dwight Rutherford; 01-02-2020 at 8:23 PM.

  3. #3
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    Like Dwight, I have made the same juice. Works well on high tannin woods like walnut and red oak. I also used it to "age" some pine boards to make them gray. For low tannin woods like pine you can add tannins. Cheap way (and thus marginally effective) is to just use plain ol tea. I made some sun tea and soaked the pine first and let it dry before applying the acid. Results were a nice weathered look. There are also commercial tannin powders used in making wine as well as organic powders from certain kinds of tree that will really make things black. I haven't tried the shoe polish thing. Wondering if the grain shows through the polish?

    Another trick is to burn the wood with a torch. Though my experience has been that this doesn't work well with small delicate softwoods items. However, it gives a great look on open grain woods like ash.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hipp View Post
    Has anyone ebonized wood using Tannic Acid and a mixture of iron and water?

    I have seen it done on Legacy of A Craftsman on TV but no longer have the info on how it is done.

    Would appreciate any help.
    I haven't, but I've used black leather dye, Fiebings I think, on several species to good effect. Have you tried that? Looks great on holly, for example. (This was some time ago, before I got a good supply of ebony!)

    JKJ

  5. #5
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    I don't like the advice of tightly screwing on the cap with the vinegar and steel wool. I've never tested it, but assumed there would be some gassing from the reaction. I wash out my steel wool in lacquer thinner to remove oils that prevent rust, then dampen it with water and let it sit in a plastic container for 2 weeks. I find that rusted steel wool breaks down much quicker in the vinegar. I've only used this solution on white oak, it almost instantly goes very dark. Not perfect black, but dark. Solvent based leather dye for a pure black.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by John K Jordan View Post
    I haven't, but I've used black leather dye, Fiebings I think, on several species to good effect. Have you tried that? Looks great on holly, for example. (This was some time ago, before I got a good supply of ebony!)

    JKJ
    Likewise, I use India Ink. It works very well.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  7. #7
    India ink or Transtint are more reliable and smell less than vinegar and iron.

  8. #8
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    Thanks to all for the sugestons.

    Looking around I found sources that said not to leave the lid tight when dissolving steel wool in white vinegar.
    Commercial tannins are readily available but pricey.

    Time to consider the options.

  9. #9
    FWIW, i used the vinegar/iron method for a couple projects. In the end, I have found that Black ink or black dye are so cheap and easy and reliable to use, the other method just didn't make sense on any level. It's a cool trick, but a small bottle of either dye or ink will last you much longer than you think.

    All this is to say, if you are doing it to save money, you may not be saving that much.

  10. #10
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    The one advantage of the acid is that you can get lighter shades of grey/weathering. Perhaps with thinners you can accomplish the same with dyes/polishes; I do not know. On pine the acid effect looks very similar to wood greyed naturally outside over years (without the checking). Here is hickory, aged and darkened with acid.



    And here is pine.
    Last edited by tom lucas; 01-04-2020 at 4:25 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post
    FWIW, i used the vinegar/iron method for a couple projects. In the end, I have found that Black ink or black dye are so cheap and easy and reliable to use, the other method just didn't make sense on any level. It's a cool trick, but a small bottle of either dye or ink will last you much longer than you think.

    All this is to say, if you are doing it to save money, you may not be saving that much.
    One level you get with the chemical dye is that it doesn't cover the wood with color. It's a completely different type of color and with a natural variation of tones. The two are completely different looks
    .

  12. #12
    The OP was asking about 'ebonizing' wood. I took that to mean he wanted it to be black.

    The vinegar/iron method is fine for coloring the wood if you have extra time, don't mind if the results are variable depending on board and species, and just want the experience.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post
    The OP was asking about 'ebonizing' wood. I took that to mean he wanted it to be black.

    The vinegar/iron method is fine for coloring the wood if you have extra time, don't mind if the results are variable depending on board and species, and just want the experience.
    True it is. If I really wanted black I would look to use something other than the acid wash. However, I used a really strong acid wash on some red oak, and turned very black, but with a purplish tent that I hated. As with all of the methods results will vary due to wood species, chemical makeups, user techniques, and several other factors. I did have good luck getting a really black surface on white ash using an acid wash, followed by transtint black dye.

  14. I have used the vinegar/steel wool, (actually makes iron acetate, I think) on walnut. It works extremely well. Give it a try!

    One thing I am trying is adding walnut shavings to the mixture to see if I can up the tanning enough to treat ash, or other woods with less tannin. Anyone tried this?

    Jon

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    I've had excellent results using vinegar and wool but only when also applying a tannin tea. I've made oak jet black with this solution and to my eye it looks better than dye, it is a nicer black without the bluish hue to it common to dyes.

    hHOoDGJqTFi8YfmkNnMT5Q.jpg

    I apply finish by hand and found dyes to be tough in that context. I used alcohol based dyes and water based dyes and both have lifted lightly when a finish is rubbed over them. This method does not lift at all because of how the color is created. Very good for hand applied finishing.
    Last edited by Brian Holcombe; 01-17-2020 at 9:28 AM.
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