Fumed oak

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Blog entry by Brodan posted 03-16-2016 01:25 AM 744 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Fumed a small piece that I built to use for mounting an antique pencil sharpener to the wall in my study. The fuming with household ammonia in a plastic container for 2 days uniformly darkened the oak. Shown with a cut off of the original piece.

Now what’s the best / easiest way to get the the reddish brown look of the other pieces in the room. Shown on a table that I’d like to look similar to.

I’ve read BLO followed by amber shellac. Is this the correct path or ???

Thanks for any ideas.

-- Dan, TN

4 comments so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


4825 posts in 2234 days

#1 posted 03-16-2016 01:53 AM

I think you will need stain as well.
In Old Masters stains it would be between red mahogany and American walnut.
Make up some sample boards and try a bunch of stains. You can tint the topcoat for a final color match if needed.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View CaptainSkully's profile


1407 posts in 2980 days

#2 posted 03-16-2016 01:54 AM

Hey Dan,

In my experience, fuming only works with white oak, due to it’s specific tannins, to get that deep, brown color. I have also fumed red oak and it turned a kind of yucky green.

I used the 29% aqueous solution stuff and it’s the equivalent of chemical warfare. It was SO strong that even wearing goggles a respirator and using a custom made fuming hood, my eyes were burning and I couldn’t hold my breath long enough to fill a small Pyrex dish under the hood. Later, I found that the smell of ammonia is also linked with meth labs. Oops! The smell was so strong, I also worried about how it would affect my neighbors.

The fuming increases in intensity over time, so it’s a bit experimental about what level of darkening you use. I found whatever exposure suited me for my Limbert tabouret. Like you, I then cut into a piece of scrap left inside the hood for metering purposes and discovered that the color penetrated 1/8” into the wood from both sides, meaning it would be a much more durable finish for heirloom pieces.

My recipe, based on a ton of research, involved putting the amber shellac on first. Then various gels, stains, clear coats, etc. I also made the mistake of using an alcohol based shellac layer and an alcohol based TransTint stain (to reduce raising the grain). The amber shellac warms the dull colors of the fumed oak and increases it’s “mother of pearl” sheen aka chatoyance. I’ve also read that Stickley fumed oak to dull the chatoyance of the medullary ray fleck/flake on purpose because he thought it was undesirable and detracted from the piece. I think it’s more than a little ironic that we’re taking steps to increase the chatoyance after fuming.

You can check out my experience with fuming here:

If you’re fuming oak, then you’re making stuff I want to see, so please keep us posted!

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Brodan's profile


134 posts in 724 days

#3 posted 03-16-2016 06:41 PM

Thanks guys. I’ll start with the amber shellac and based on your suggestions add additional color, and keep lots of detailed notes.

CaptainSkully, my sights are set on the Stickley drop front desk as my next build.

-- Dan, TN

View CaptainSkully's profile


1407 posts in 2980 days

#4 posted 03-17-2016 02:19 AM

The Harvey Ellis version?!!! Awesome! Are you going to do any inlay? BTW, Willie (aka pintodeluxe) has filled his entire house with this stuff, so he’s worth listening to and checking out his stuff. He, Shroeder, TBone and Vincent Nocito make some of the best stuff on this site.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

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