Wenge stain on White Oak - not working very well

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Forum topic by AllanK posted 11-08-2017 09:20 PM 1329 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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31 posts in 4009 days

11-08-2017 09:20 PM

Finishing is NOT my strong point, so I’m in a bind. I am trying to get a dark wenge color on white oak (yes, maybe I should have made it from wenge in the first place, but the white oak was soooo inexpensive!). I bought Olympic Semi-Solid stain and tinted it with wenge. I then applied a pretty thick coat with a foam brush, and let it sit for a few days. It was still sticky, so I figured that I must have applied too much. I washed it down with mineral spirits and the result can be seen in the photo.

Not too bad, I suppose, but my wife wants the very dark, almost black color of wenge and doesn’t want to see the prominent grain. What can I do at this stage? Should I use a solid stain as a second coat? Any other words of wisdom?


-- "Stupidity is forever, but ignorance can be fixed."

11 replies so far

View 01ntrain's profile


243 posts in 1002 days

#1 posted 11-08-2017 10:03 PM

I just used General Finishes Water-based Dye Stain in Ebony on a Birch countertop, it came out very dark, and I’m thinking with the open grain of your Oak, it should come out looking like Wenge. Since you’ve already started with an oil-based stain, you might try their oil-based stain.

View OSU55's profile


1567 posts in 1921 days

#2 posted 11-08-2017 10:29 PM

Next time you might want to TEST YOUR FINISH SCHEDULE on scrap before committing to the project so you dont end up here. 1st get a few pieces of scrap and get them to this point – now you have something to test with so you dont have to strip it off. Some MW dark walnut might do it, or anything very dark. I would mix up a shellac based dye toner and spray over it but it doesnt sound like you have that capability. You might try some oil based thinned paint since the wife wants the grain reduced.

View AllanK's profile


31 posts in 4009 days

#3 posted 11-08-2017 10:33 PM

01ntrain: the stain I used is water based, so I’ll check into this.
OSU55: 20-20 hindsight, you’re absolutely right! I don’t have the spray capability, so … maybe paint isn’t a bad idea.

-- "Stupidity is forever, but ignorance can be fixed."

View Rich's profile (online now)


2466 posts in 521 days

#4 posted 11-08-2017 10:48 PM

Thing is, wenge isn’t just black. All of the pieces I’ve worked with have alternating black and dark brown rings. The vanity top I did for the guest bath was quarter-sawn, so the rings alternate at a tiny fraction of an inch in nearly perfect straight lines. On the flat sawn side, the black portion looks like plastic and the brown areas have some texture to them.

Where I’m heading with this is that wenge isn’t a color you can mimic with stain. Probably ebonizing is the best you can do, but it won’t resemble wenge.

-- No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

View AllanK's profile


31 posts in 4009 days

#5 posted 11-08-2017 10:54 PM

Rich, she’s looking for the black color not so much the grain, so ebonizing will probably be OK. Thanks.

-- "Stupidity is forever, but ignorance can be fixed."

View pintodeluxe's profile


5592 posts in 2745 days

#6 posted 11-08-2017 10:56 PM

I ran into a furniture maker at the Pasadena Craftsman Weekend that has found a solution for getting woods darker. First use a dark water based dye like Transtint. Then follow it up with a dark oil based stain. It seemed to work wonders on the cherry and oak furniture he had displayed.

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

View Rich's profile (online now)


2466 posts in 521 days

#7 posted 11-08-2017 11:48 PM

Rich, she s looking for the black color not so much the grain, so ebonizing will probably be OK. Thanks.

- AllanK

I went back and found this article by Jeff Jewitt on Mission Oak finishes. I’d completely forgotten about it until pintodeluxe mentioned a dye/stain combo. That’s the basis for these finishes and Jeff offers a pretty detailed recipe. There’s even a link to a video of the process in the article. I gotta say that the colors in Sample 3 look darned close to wenge.

-- No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

View shipwright's profile


7937 posts in 2729 days

#8 posted 11-09-2017 01:46 PM

Ebonizing will do the job and will get nice and black on oak. This stool seat is Garry (white) Oak.
Here’s a real time ebonizing video I did a few years back.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View splintergroup's profile


1928 posts in 1154 days

#9 posted 11-09-2017 02:10 PM

Inexpensive white oak? A pox on you! I’ve been paying north of $5/bf lately 8^(

For dark WO, I like to fume, but it requires boards rich in tannins. Various home brew solutions like a stain made from steel wool dissolved in vinegar over several days makes for a penetrating color.

Generally stains don’t really work well with WO, the wood just does not like to let stuff in. Dyes will do almost anything, but be aware that they still are somewhat light sensitive and will fade if exposed too much.

A “test” for tellign WO from red oak is a solution of sodium nitrate (meat preservative) and water. WO will turn black.

View Lazyman's profile


1810 posts in 1319 days

#10 posted 11-09-2017 04:14 PM

I’ve had good luck darkening a GF water base stain using Transtint dye. I started with the GF black cherry stain and added a walnut dye to it to get it darker and browner. Just mix the dye and stain in a glass jar, measuring the amount carefully so you can mix more if you run out. Nice thing is you can keep adding drops of dye to sneak up on the color you are looking for. Black aniline dye might work too and is cheaper than Transtint. Also, I saw a GF display in a Rocker once that showed that you can mix the water base stains to get custom colors. I looked for the info on the GF website but couldn’t find it there.

Edit: Note that Transtint dyes are more light stable than aniline dyes.

I’ve tried ebonizing white oak in the past using the vinegar and steel wool solution that shipwright demonstrated but the white oak turned more of a reddish color, almost like cherry heartwood, so had to switch to red oak to get the black that I was looking for. Could have just been the salvaged white oak I was using?

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View AllanK's profile


31 posts in 4009 days

#11 posted 11-12-2017 08:03 PM

OSU55: followed your advice and 01ntrain’s suggestion, and laid down two coats of GF Ebony Dye Stain on top of the Olympic Wenge tinted stain. The sample looked good, got the wife’s approval, and the color came out just the way she wanted it.

Thanks to both of you and all others who contributed.

-- "Stupidity is forever, but ignorance can be fixed."

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