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  • Question on ebonizing

    I'm making an ebonizing solution with vinegar and steel wood. I put the steel wool in a coffee filter to keep the bits of steel wood from running loose in the solution. Will this work?...or does it need to be "free floating". I let it sit for 24 hrs and it doesn't seem to be doing much to the wood. I'm wondering if it just needs to sit longer or if I should remove the coffee filter and put it in loose. I'm experimenting with several different woods to see how it works on each so I can decide which wood to use to cut out my project. I plan to test peruvian walnut, walnut, alder, mahogany - and since I know it's traditionally used for oak - I have a piece of this as well (but don't want to use it for my project).
    Janette
    www.square-designs.com

  • #2
    I let it sit for 24 hrs and it doesn't seem to be doing much to the wood.
    Janette, did you let the steel wool sit in the vinegar for 24 hours, or did you let the solution sit on the wood for 24 hours? When I did some ebonizing for a clock I made, I let the solution "age" for a few days and then filtered it before using it. The color change on the wood was almost instantaneous (granted I was using oak). If the solution is sitting on the wood for awhile and not changing the color, I'm thinking either you didn't let the solution "cook" long enough, or the wood you're using doesn't have enough tanin in it to chemically react.
    Bruce
    . . . because each piece will be someone's heirloom someday.
    visit sometime
    Hawk 220VS, Delta 40-570

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    • #3
      Thanks, I let the solution sit for 24 hours. After a little while it did darken most of the pieces some. A couple more dark purple than black but that could be the type of wood (butternut). I think another day or so soaking will probably work fine. I just wasn't sure if the coffee filter I have the steel wool in would hinder the process.
      Janette
      www.square-designs.com

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      • #4
        I've never soaked the wood in the ebonizing solution longer than a couple of minutes and I always strain the solution before using it. Woods with higher tannin levels seem to work better with it. Doesn't do a durned thing to some of them. My best success with ebonizing has been with woods like oak and mahogany. Never tried it with butternut.

        Jan

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        • #5
          I haven't tried this myself, but I remember reading that if you're trying to ebonize wood that doesn't have a natural tanin content, you can pre-treat the wood with a tea solution and then the ebonizing solution. The tea provides the tanin for the reaction.
          Bruce
          . . . because each piece will be someone's heirloom someday.
          visit sometime
          Hawk 220VS, Delta 40-570

          Comment


          • #6
            I was fortunate to try out this solution and was successful...kinda - lol! I had to leave the solution for a couple days, as the first day did not seem to darken the walnut as much as I wanted..but the second day, and third day WOW!

            However, the kinda part is...the solution does not soak thru the entire wood...or my application didn't. I didn't want to totally saturate the wood as it was 1/8" and 1/4" stock and I didn't want it to warp. So went to sand it...and poof all my ebony colored wood was gone! Of course, it was all glued up...so can't go back and apply another coat of the ebonizing solution. So, don't know if it was operator error or that you need to make sure you have your wood's the shape/size/finish sanding you want and then apply the solution.

            Good luck Janette!
            ~ Kim

            A day in my shop is like a day at the beach...full of sunshine and ya never know where the sawdust may end up!

            www.gonecoastalart.com

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            • #7
              I don't ebonize anything that hasn't been shaped. The ebonizing is only a surface effect. I give the piece a quick, gentle buffing after it's dry because it gets a bit dusty looking. Just takes a little practice.

              Jan

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              • #8
                All solution should go on after sanding and shaping is done
                After applying a new coat after letting soak for a 2nd 24 hrs I got some good results. It's interesting the coloring differences. Butternut - very dark with purplish tint,peruvian walnut was darkest - black magic marker look - probably what I will use. Walnut was pretty dark although not as dark as peruvian walnut. Mahogany darkend up quite a bit. Interesting was the pine - turned it gray - so if you need blue pine and can't find it - use this in a pinch. It also darkened the gray of the pine that was already a light gray. Oak darkened too but I don't like cutting it so given the options - the peruvian walnut was the darkest overall and is relatively easy to cut. Now to get started on my projects!
                Janette
                www.square-designs.com

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                • #9
                  Thanx gals on the tips! I guess I missed that part in any of the other post on ebonizing....I thought it was because I didn't put enough on there. Question tho...if it is just for an effect...does it fade with time? I am using it on a box that will be sealed with Shellac and then Lacquer.
                  ~ Kim

                  A day in my shop is like a day at the beach...full of sunshine and ya never know where the sawdust may end up!

                  www.gonecoastalart.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    First you need your mix to set for a couple of weeks, do not tighten the lid on it, it needs to be lose so the gasses can escape. I first washed out the oil in the steel wool using dish soap, set it aside for a few days until it starts to rust. Then place it in a quart size plastic jar, I use Jif peanut butter jars, add the vinegar and set it aside for 2 weeks.

                    To get a darker look, first wipe the item down with a rag soaked in tea. The stronger the brew of tea, the darker the wood will get. The tannin in tea will react with the vinegar/steel/rust mix and cause it to be a darker stain. Oak has enough of it's own tannin and will turn black, some woods need a little help, the tea bath will help.

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                    • #11
                      Hi Janette - somewhere in the past I posted a thread showing exactly how I set about ebonizing and the results I got on different woods. Although I'm repeating a lot of what has already be said by other responders here's a summary of what I do which works well.

                      Use fine steel wool and if there is any chance it has any oil on it wash it first in a good quality liquid soap and warm water mix then dry it out on some kitchen towel.

                      Drop it into a jar with the strongest household vinegar you can lay your hands on. Nothing too sophisticated, normal white vinegar works. Place a cap loosely on the jar and let it brew for a couple of days in a cool dark place. Normally the wire wool will show signs of rusting within 24 hours.

                      Make sure you have plenty of wire wool in the jar, the idea being to use up all of the acid content of the vinegar

                      If you want to check if the vinegar is spent after a couple of days drop a spot of it onto some bicarb or chalk - if it fizzes like heck you still have acid in the vinegar and if you wish you can add some more wire wool to the mix.

                      After 3 or 4 days you should have a workable ebonizing solution. Strain a little through a coffee filter and dab a piece of mahogany with the solution. Within a minute or so it should turn to a rich bluish black. If it doesn't you either need to give your brew longer to react or see if you can add a strong acid. If you know anyone that has access to acetic acid you could make your life a lot easier by using something like a 10% solution to eat the iron wool.

                      Mahogany will give you the best result because of its high tannin content. When you get this showing a good effect use this as a standard and test how the same solution behaves on other woods. Not all woods will work well, particularly if they are low in tannin and/or are fatty in nature

                      You can intensify the effect a little by repeated coating of the solution but as Jan said, ebonizing is only really a surface effect so has to be carried out after all shaping and sanding is done. The solution will raise your grain a little but I tend to ignore this. I let the wood dry perfectly and then apply a light coat of my finish top coat and when this is cured its easier to lightly sand off any fuzzies without removing too much of the ebonized surface.

                      I've also tried the tea trick mentioned by dogcatcher but for me it didn't make much difference even though I was using a strong black tea, but to be honest I've never needed to get a darker finish than I've achieved.

                      There's not much rocket science to this, you just need a reasonably strong acetic based acid and the finest wire wool you can lay your hands on.

                      You may find after the ebonizing solution dries on the wood it leaves a brown dusty surface. You can lightly buff this off with a soft cloth before applying your finish

                      Hope this helps
                      Let us know how you go on.
                      Jim in Mexico

                      Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
                      - Albert Einstein

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                      • #12
                        I seem to have gotten the mix strong enough. I won't be using it for a while yet until I get everything cut and shaped. I noticed that the mix gets darker and darker every day (I took steel wool out after 2nd day). Looks like a good strong whiskey right about now. I have had the lid on tight - is this a no no? Hopefully it will last until I'm ready to use it. I'll probably strain it before hand just to be on the safe side, even tho I had the steel wool in a coffee filter.
                        Janette
                        www.square-designs.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Try the chalk test and see if the solution still causes fizzing. If it does, put the steel wool back into the solution and leave it there. Straining is a good idea because you sure don't want the little steel splinters to get under your skin.

                          Jan

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                          • #14
                            Hi Janette - I'm with the other Jan.

                            Put the steel wool back in and leave until the acid is all spent. Just be sure to strain the mix before you use it.

                            Also, definitely leave the lid on loose to allow the liberated gas from the acid attack on the wool to escape.

                            Btw - Once brewed this solution keeps a long time. I've used it up to 3 months after preparation. After straining you can then use a tightly lidded glass bottle or flask to store it in - best in a darkened place.
                            Jim in Mexico

                            Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
                            - Albert Einstein

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I subscribe to Wood Magazine, and I recieved the newest issue yesterday. Anyway, there was a short article about ebonizing. One method was the vinegar/steel wool, and the other was using India Ink. Might be worth a try on a piece of scrap wood that has been shaped/sanded.
                              Paul
                              www.flicker.com/photos/woodworks44224

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