Slightly weathered Ammonia fumed box

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Project by longgone posted 05-27-2013 05:50 PM 4232 views 6 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my latest box that I fumed with ammonia. The results were not exactly what I was hoping for…looking for more of a reddish brown color… but that is where experimenting and trial and error come in…The wood color was more gray in color after fuming but it did turn more brown after the lacquer.
The ammonia fuming was very simple…I used ammonia from the cleaning department at wallyworld. Placed the box and a glass pan with about 2 cups of ammonia in a sealed Rubbermaid container and let it sit for 24 hours. When you open the container, do it quickly and run…because the fumes are strrroooong. Worse than my farts..
I placed the container outside under the carport next to my shop.

19 comments so far

View DocSavage45's profile


8688 posts in 2964 days

#1 posted 05-27-2013 05:58 PM

Better and better! How’s the finger? Greene and Greene LOOK OUT! LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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5688 posts in 3430 days

#2 posted 05-27-2013 06:03 PM

Thanks Doc…the finger is OK if I can only stop bumping it into everything…

View rance's profile


4262 posts in 3282 days

#3 posted 05-27-2013 06:07 PM

I can’t get this mental picture out of my mind, of you putting one of your boxes in a rubbermaid box, farting in it and quickly shutting the lid. That should get the brown you are looking for.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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Monte Pittman

29801 posts in 2459 days

#4 posted 05-27-2013 07:16 PM

I really like the look. Do you sandblast the oak first?

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3430 days

#5 posted 05-27-2013 07:28 PM

rance….gotta’ experiment and see what works…maybe I could call it the bean box…

Monte…yes, I sandblast first. then the fuming.

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2634 days

#6 posted 05-27-2013 07:33 PM

LOL Rance

Very nice Greg, I’m thinking that you might not have left it in there long enough, when I fume hinges to blacken them, it take close to 3 weeks for me to get the results I am looking for.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2811 days

#7 posted 05-28-2013 12:44 AM

I like the look of this one! I hear about fuming oak all the time but I don’t understand why stain wouldn’t accomplish the same look with less fuss.

I did some oak with MinWax dark walnut (wipe on/wipe off) and it honestly looked almost exactly like your fumed oak.

Enlighten me as to the advantages of fuming vs. staining, please.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3225 posts in 3230 days

#8 posted 05-28-2013 12:52 AM

I like that rustic finish and the ammonia fumed finish! I like a wire brush to get the high/low effect, personally.


I think it is harder/costlier to experiment with different colors of stain and/or dye to get that brown tone. It is much cheaper to use ammonia, but as mentioned, the fumes can get you.

I patinated a copper project the same way Greg did his wood project and got a good whiff when I opened the tote. Also, done outside. I can’t imagine doing that inside a building.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View Dave777's profile


303 posts in 4191 days

#9 posted 05-28-2013 01:40 AM

Gonna have to give this a try one day soon. Thanks for the tips and inspiration.
I really need both of them.

-- the stone rejected by the builders will become the capstone

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3430 days

#10 posted 05-28-2013 03:35 AM

Randy…I have several oak samples in the fuming box that I am leaving in for different amounts of time to see what results each produces.

Andy…the main reason I chose the fuming was an even color in the rough aged grain. With the grain being roughed up in most areas a stain would not easily be wiped off and would most likely be too uneven. I have never been much of a stain user anyhoo… The fuming also seems to penetrate deeper into the oak than stain.

AtomJack…the wire brush is a good idea also.

Dave777…it is always fun to try new ideas..always something I learn when I do.

View Francois Vigneron's profile

Francois Vigneron

263 posts in 2441 days

#11 posted 05-28-2013 10:40 AM

Nice box. Indeed fuming provides a more “weathered” and authentic finish than stain because it is just a way to speed up the chemical reactions with the tannins contained in the wood. You quickly get the look of a 100 years old piece. I like the grey color of this particular box a lot.

A few advices for those who want to try (Greg, you obviously already know all of that !).
1. Don’t ever breathe that stuff (a particle dust mask is a false security, you need a respirator with an ammonia labeled cartridge ; don’t spare the 30$).
2. Don’t let any metal pieces come in contact with the fumes (or the fumes will “dissolve” it for lack of a better word).
3. It’s best to only use pieces of wood coming from one given tree (to ensure uniform tannin content and thus uniform color). Sapwood will not/barely react so be careful when you cut your lumber. Try different species, some work, some don’t, some get pretty, some get ugly. The final color is only visible after applying the finish.
4. The time of the reaction depends on the tannin content in the wood (choose your lumber carefully), the concentration of the ammonia used (higher is faster), the ambient temperature (warmer on the deck on a sunny day is faster). I usually include a few scraps of the same tree in the fuming tent and I get only one out, apply some oil and check the color. That way I know when to get the main project out.

Have fun everyone, but be safe !

-- Francois Vigneron, Gif-sur-Yvette, France & Altadena, CA

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8355 posts in 2450 days

#12 posted 05-28-2013 01:41 PM

got a b4 pic?

did the NH3 make the grain pop? I like the way the grain lines are almost black in you pics…. it’s different.

If you think cleaning NH3 is strong, you should see the stuff the eng. lab. techs use for their water chemistry testing on nuke boats. It’s 99% pure, and if a test tube is dropped on the deck, it would make your nose bleed.

Must be careful with all chemicals.

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3430 days

#13 posted 05-28-2013 02:51 PM

Francois…what do you mean when you say: Don’t let any metal pieces come in contact with the fumes (or the fumes will “dissolve” it for lack of a better word).? I have fumed pieces with the hinges installed and nothing dissolved on them…

Matt…Not sure what NH3 and b4 is…I use regular grocery store ammonia from wallyworld. This oak was some old spalted salvaged wood and that had more to do with the grain contrasts than the fuming.

View Eddie's profile


212 posts in 2072 days

#14 posted 05-28-2013 09:19 PM

WOW! I love it!
By any chance have you ever video’ed your sculpting process?

I would love to see your process and how this is done (especially on the wall pieces you have made)

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2811 days

#15 posted 05-28-2013 10:13 PM

Greg, Thanks for the answer. I hadn’t thought about uneven absorption from the blasting.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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