LumberJocks

Stain Experimentation #1: Attempt #1 - Steel Wool and Vinegar

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by TexasOak posted 04-10-2014 10:59 PM 1226 reads 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Stain Experimentation series no next part

Woodworking I am fairly comfortable with. All this new technology stuff, I am not. This is my first blog entry…ever….anywhere. I have been a member here and on a few other forums (of varying interests) for a number of years but I’ve never been a “contributor” in any real way. My wife (whom I love DEARLY) recently suggested that I start “getting my name out there” in an attempt to possibly start a business (albeit small and part time) so that people can see my work and I can attempt to improve myself. And, since I love my wife (DEARLY), I agreed to her urgings…begrudgingly.

So, perhaps of bit of background and my thoughts…only to show where I’m going. (I promise I will keep it short as I am NOT very interesting). I started woodworking when I was around 10 years old (20 years ago) with my dad. He had been doing it since he was about 8 (he’s now a young 55) and he learned it from his Grandfather. From the time I was old enough to hold a tape measure or use a saw, I was in my dad’s “shop” (read: 1/2 of a 2 car garage) helping him build projects. Fast forward those 20 years (for me) and you get to my point now. Fairly confident in my own abilities to start, plan and complete a project. I would not consider myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I do think I have a firm grasp on the basics.

Currently I sit between a decent paying job with good benefits (that I DETEST) and wanting to do woodworking as my full time job. My father, being the 25 year retiree from the federal government (and myself 2 years into the same type of career) tells me to stick with the “steady paycheck and good retirement”. I can’t really blame him, he does well for himself and is comfortable in retirement and can do woodworking whenever he chooses.

But that does leave me in a precarious spot and, this one lingering question: “If I were to do this full time, what type of woodworking would I do?” I’ve done cabinets, furniture, picture frames etc etc. And along with that question, we (FINALLY) get to the point of this blog entry. “How can I make my stuff look different?” or “How can I get creative with __?” (Fill in the blank with various techniques and finishes and what have you.

All this led me to this website and reading a lot about this “Steel Wool + Vinegar” stain I kept hearing about. So, I stopped by the store today and got some vinegar (2 kinds) and poured it into some plastic containers and plopped in the steel wool. I just wanted to do a blog entry about it because I didn’t really find any “step by step, this-is-how-I-did-it” things so, I thought I would in case anyone wanted to see the process and, again, just to get used to this “internet/marketing/networking” thing my wife was telling me about. (I love you honey!)

So, below you should find (as long as I figure out how to put them in correctly), some pictures and brief explanations of whats what. Please feel free to offer any input, comments, questions or jokes at my expense that you feel may be necessary!

Apple Cider Vinegar and Distilled White Vinegar

0000 Steel wool from a big box store

16 ounces of each type. White vinegar on the left, apple cider vinegar on the right.

1 steel wool pad in each container. The pads are roughly 3 inches by 5 inches and about 3/4 of an inch thick each. I pushed them all the way to the bottom so they were completely submerged and poked each a few times to get the air bubbles out so they would be completely saturated and (hopefully) not float to the top.

Everything I read had differing time parameters for how long to leave the steel wool in the vinegar. Some said over night, some said until the steel wool was completely dissolved. I’m just going to check on them periodically and possibly sample the liquid at various intervals and try and document the changes at those times.

As I’ve said before, I don’t find myself very interesting and, as I read back over what I’ve put in here, I think the “proof is in the pudding” as they say. Sorry, I’ll hopefully get better over time….or….I’ll just stop and put us all out of our misery! Until next time.

Texas Oak



16 comments so far

View 7Footer's profile

7Footer

1287 posts in 673 days


#1 posted 04-10-2014 11:26 PM

TO – looking forward to seeing how this works out. I’ve been meaning to try it for quite some time, its pretty fascinating to me that vinegar will dissolve steel wool. Do you know if it matters what grade of steel wool you use? I watched a vid where Izzy Swan used grade 0 SW, but I imagine it doesn’t make a huge difference.

-- Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes." -

View TexasOak's profile

TexasOak

13 posts in 324 days


#2 posted 04-11-2014 12:18 AM

Everything I’ve read so far said to use the 0000 (fine) but I’m not sure what difference (if any) it would have on the final result.

View dawsonbob's profile

dawsonbob

383 posts in 480 days


#3 posted 04-11-2014 12:26 AM

The reason for using the 0000 is that, being finer, it dissolves more quickly — no other reason. You should put a lid on your vats of vinegar and steel wool.

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

View TexasOak's profile

TexasOak

13 posts in 324 days


#4 posted 04-11-2014 01:09 AM

Yep, I put lids on them. Just waiting for science to do it’s job now lol.

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

5232 posts in 1523 days


#5 posted 04-11-2014 01:09 AM

When I first did this years ago the formula called for flaking rust, the rustier the better. I think the idea is any iron with lots of surface area. It will work really well on high tannin woods and apparently, although I haven’t done it myself, it will work on lower tannin woods that have had tannin added by basically soaking them with a high tannin tea first.

These stools are all Garry Oak, some pieces treated with the ferrous ion solution and some not.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/

View TexasOak's profile

TexasOak

13 posts in 324 days


#6 posted 04-11-2014 05:49 AM

Here is the progress so far. The steel wool has been in the vinegar for 8 hours. The liquid is a little darker but just barely. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the bubbling and popping sounds. Every few hours I’ve also “burped” the containers (just snap on lids) to let off the gases that have built up inside.

View dawsonbob's profile

dawsonbob

383 posts in 480 days


#7 posted 04-11-2014 05:54 AM

I’ve got some that’s been bubbling and brewing for about 2 months now (not because it’s an experiment, but because I’d forgotten about it). I just checked it and there’s oxidation (rust) in there. I tried some on a piece of pine, and it makes a really neat dark reddish color. I’ll have to check it out more thoroughly tomorrow. Thanks for reminding me. If I left it much longer it might have grown fangs and taken over the planet Earth.

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

View DIYaholic's profile

DIYaholic

14155 posts in 1400 days


#8 posted 04-11-2014 11:44 PM

Just last week, I applied this technique to a “work in progress”....
3/4” ply (of some sort), banded with QS White Oak.
I used white vinegar and “00” steel wool. The “solution” was sitting about a week before I applied it.

Before:

After:

I was hoping for a darker, more black effect, like Paul (shipwright) achieved.
However, a nice “aged” look did result.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View KurtaKalbach's profile

KurtaKalbach

34 posts in 543 days


#9 posted 04-12-2014 12:59 AM

If i may. The darkness level depends on the amount of tannic acid in the wood. Oak works best in my experience. If you do want it to darken farther…try another coat. I usually find that oak will take on a dark grey color with a hint of rust….lol. I rub out the finish to remove most of the residue. If you want a truly black color you can cheat a little with some ebony stain. The vinegar/steel wool combination does give you a more even color so when or if you do cheat the color is more uniform. Check out my projects… i use this method to achieve the black color i need. Oak tends to load up in the grain but with this method it does turn out nice and even. Thanks for letting me ramble. oh and there is a good article on ebonizing in “No-Fuss Wood Finishing” put out by american woodworker.

-- Kurt K.

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

5232 posts in 1523 days


#10 posted 04-12-2014 03:19 AM

Randy, the difference may lie in the concentration of ferrous ions in the solution. My mixture was a jar 1/2 full of heavy flaking rust, topped up with vinegar and left for three weeks. It turns both oak and walnut dead blue black. I have a photo somewhere of a test piece of walnut beside a piece of ebony and it is very hard to tell the difference. Perhaps the rusted iron and the longer gestation just makes a stronger solution.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

5232 posts in 1523 days


#11 posted 04-12-2014 03:26 AM

OK, found the photos.
The first is the solution being applied to the rungs of one of the stools.
The second is the photo of the walnut and the ebony. The ebony is wetted with water.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/

View Chris Peroni's profile

Chris Peroni

101 posts in 663 days


#12 posted 04-12-2014 05:34 AM

how interesting someone or something is, depends on the audience. you have found your audience here! we love this stuff and the stories and surroundings which give that human context – keep it coming. I for one enjoyed reading your post and would not have even considered whether it was interesting or not if you hadn’t brought it up :)

-- Never discourage anyone...who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. -Plato

View TexasOak's profile

TexasOak

13 posts in 324 days


#13 posted 04-13-2014 11:39 PM

THE RESULTS:

Well, it has been approximately 72 hours since I plunged some steel wool into vinegar in an attempt to make some stain. Below you should find the final pictures of what my solution looked like both before and after straining it.

Looking ominous even before I open the containers.

Small chunks of…..something.

What is left of the steel wool pad. I squeezed as much liquid out of this before discarding it.

After the liquid has been strained and all the chunks and “powder/sand” like stuff was filtered out. Also of note. When I opened the 2 lids, I didn’t notice anything different between the 2 (apple cider vinegar VS distilled white vinegar) so, I just poured them both into the same container. Reasoning: 1 – No descernable difference between the two. 2 – I only had 2 buckets and nothing else to pour the contents into while straining it! (<——-probably> foray of woodworking. Also, thanks to those of you that gave me feedback/ideas and encouragement and for giving me the idea in the first place as this is where I first heard the idea!!! Looking forward to doing a lot more in the future.

View TexasOak's profile

TexasOak

13 posts in 324 days


#14 posted 04-13-2014 11:41 PM

A piece of scrap white oak before applying my new “stain”. Not sanded (at least no more than I did for the last project I had used it in)

The same piece of white oak with only 1 coat of the mixture/solution. I noticed that where I first made contact with the wood, it was darker than where I spread the stain to (wiped it to) further down the board. I continued to rub the solution in and after about 20 or 30 seconds the color became uniform and all of it began to darken. (fortunately it darkened fairly uniformly). I attribute this to the chemical reaction that I have been reading about between the solution and the tannins in the white oak.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I have absolutely NO clue or idea what I will be using this stain/solution on. However, I am VERY excited that (in my mind) it worked….especially being the first time that I’ve ever done something like this. I really do like the color that it has produced. I will continue to watch it to see if it darkens and also see what it looks like when a finish is applied over it. (the pictures were right after the surface seemed dry with no finish). I’m very anxious to see it completed with a polyurethane over it and to find a suitable application for it.

I would like to thank everyone for watching along with me on my first blog, first experiment and first “public” foray of woodworking. Also, thanks to those of you that gave me feedback/ideas and encouragement and for giving me the idea in the first place as this is where I first heard the idea!!! Looking forward to doing a lot more in the future.

View DIYaholic's profile

DIYaholic

14155 posts in 1400 days


#15 posted 04-14-2014 12:18 AM

I would say that you can call your experiment a success.
The results look much better than mine.

I may try a second application to see what happens.

Thanks for sharing and taking the time to document this.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

showing 1 through 15 of 16 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

GardenTenders.com :: gardening showcase