Ebonizing Wood Help Needed!!

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Forum topic by siouxdawgs0409 posted 09-10-2010 06:01 PM 3460 views 1 time favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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111 posts in 3269 days

09-10-2010 06:01 PM

Ok so I have never done this before. I have researched a little on it. Been researching how I can use the tannins in the red oak wood to turn the wood black by using an iron vinegar solution. Has any one done this? Any pictures to show? I have made a picture frame from some red oak and it will hold a black and white picture so a black frame would go great with the picture. Heres the catch, I dont want to lose all the characteristic of the oak wood. So I figured that dyeing would be a better option other than using pigmented stain and “painting” the black on. Once the dye has dried are you able to put a top coat on to make the appearance of the wood a little more glossy? I have seen some examples but the woods were all very satin in sheen.
I have some scraps that I am willing to try some different techniques on, just looking for some ideas since I have never even tried this before.

18 replies so far

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3032 days

#1 posted 09-10-2010 06:13 PM

Just make a fuming tent.
Put in Ammonia and watch it darken.
All the oak in timber framed houses was all light when new. The ammonia in breathe and from indoor sanitation caused it to blacken.
There are loads of info around.
Old 78’s record are a good source of black shellac, not for this job but if melted in methylated spirits is very useful.

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View stnich's profile


120 posts in 3100 days

#2 posted 09-10-2010 06:48 PM

I’ve used MinWax Onyx water based stain on a number of oak projects that I’ve wanted the character of the oak to come through. Basicially I just paint it on make sure it’s evenly applied and let it dry. Occasionally I put a second coat on. Sometimes I sanded it after it dries sometimes I just let it alone. I don’t generally condition the wood first but it you don’t want to sand the stained oak after you stain it than I would suggest that you pretreat it first then sand it because the pretreatment and staining will raise the grain. I’ve top coated with both MinWax Polyurathane and Polycrylic. Is has a nice grainy look to it.

View FaTToaD's profile


394 posts in 3317 days

#3 posted 09-10-2010 07:00 PM

I have tried the iron vinegar solution once on some scraps. I filled a jar of vinegar with old nails and some steel wool and let it sit for a few days. Once it had turned a nasty gray/black color I applied some to scrap pieces of red oak. It certainly changed the color immediately, but wasn’t as black as I was wanting. I also let a piece soak in the mixture overnight, it turned it very dark and gray, but not like ebony. You may have better luck, just search google ebonizing oak with vinegar and you should find plenty of information. Also, let me know how the fuming of the oak went if you go that route, I’m thinking of trying to fume red oak. Good luck.

-- David

View siouxdawgs0409's profile


111 posts in 3269 days

#4 posted 09-10-2010 07:14 PM

Just doing a little research on fuming red oak…It seems the american red oak wood tends to get a green cast to it when fuming. At least that is what some say.

View Castlewerks's profile


35 posts in 3048 days

#5 posted 09-10-2010 07:19 PM


I’ve used Brian Boggs’ technique ( on maple and it worked very well. This is not something that you can try quickly unfortunately as it takes some time to make the ebonizing solution and of course you have to order the tea bark—but since you’re using oak which is high in tannic acid to begin with, you might be able to skip the first step and simply soak in more of the ebonizing solution.

Another option might be to try black TransTint dye in alcohol.



-- -Michael ( ) Groton, MA

View saw4fun's profile


176 posts in 3515 days

#6 posted 09-10-2010 08:33 PM

The vinegar and iron works best if the wood it is to be applied to is sanded very well. When it is put on some of the grain will raise more than the rest. Then it can be re-sanded very lightly. This will make the grain that raised much lighter while leaving the other grain very dark. When I apply it I brush it on quickly and immediately wipe off any extra. Once it is dried and re-sanded a glossy finish of your choice can be applied.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10985 posts in 3604 days

#7 posted 09-11-2010 02:50 AM

A down a dirty method is India Ink.
Dick Blick has the best prices and, IIRC, it’s solvent based, so no grain raising problems.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3226 days

#8 posted 09-11-2010 09:34 AM

Gene has it. India ink. Fast, effective, cheap, looks good, easy. What else could you want?


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3161 days

#9 posted 09-11-2010 01:26 PM

Just keep in mind that india ink is not lightfast and will tend to fade over time. The iron-vinegar solution will be much more permanent. The two options I see are that or a black aniline dye. Using alcohol or oil based shouldnt raise the grain and the powders all cost about the same. If you go aniline dye, remember to wear gloves as your hands will be black for days (ask me how I know).

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Tim Dorcas's profile

Tim Dorcas

188 posts in 4034 days

#10 posted 09-11-2010 06:10 PM

General Finishes Ebony dye. I have tried all of the above and have found this to be best and fastest way.

-- - A Woodworking & Renovation Blog & - I make. You buy.

View a1Jim's profile


117276 posts in 3753 days

#11 posted 09-11-2010 06:16 PM

I agree with the India ink approach.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View siouxdawgs0409's profile


111 posts in 3269 days

#12 posted 09-16-2010 02:04 AM

I have decided to try the iron solution and bark tea idea. I have my “concoction” brewing now for 2 days. Today I decided to squirt a little on a paper towel and lay it on some scrap oak I had. wow. I am impressed. real dark color and just a hint of blueness. They say the bark tea will take care of that tho. I like how the open and closed pores show to still give the frame character and feeling. I will try to keep all posted on how this turns out. I hope I can get it without raising the grain to bad. I am going to sand and intentionally raise the grain a few times like the posted article has said to do, hopefully this will eliminate raising of it when applying the solutions.

View siouxdawgs0409's profile


111 posts in 3269 days

#13 posted 09-16-2010 02:07 AM

Funny thing is I notice after working with oak and my cast iron tablesaw top for awhile I noticed my fingers turning bluish. I wonder if the iron on my hand was reacting with the tannin from the oak?? Not too sure but might possible the the sweat on my hands had a little acid in it, mix in a little iron from the table top, and then the tannin from the oak. Who knows.

View Ger21's profile


1075 posts in 3306 days

#14 posted 09-18-2010 02:44 AM

I built a large bar from red oak. All dyed black with water based aniline dye. Just slap it on with a brush. When dry, it won’t actually look black, until you apply the finish. Use any finish you like, satin or gloss.

-- Gerry,

View siouxdawgs0409's profile


111 posts in 3269 days

#15 posted 09-23-2010 04:54 AM

Well I have been experimenting with my solutions on some scrap. I do say that this is the exact look I am going for. The vinegar and tree bark solutions that is. The only thing is that I am finding it hard to get it even into the open grain. I tried soap like the article said also tried the sanding. So far no fix. Does anyone have any other ideas on how to get this solution into those pores? I am applling with a brush and have tried paper towels already. I have been sanding 150, 220, 340 before applying the solutions.

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