White Vinigar and Mettle Bits Finish

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Forum topic by Charlie75 posted 06-07-2014 11:53 PM 1333 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Charlie75's profile


312 posts in 2287 days

06-07-2014 11:53 PM

Some where, it might have been on this site, I read about a person who makes his own finish using white viniger and bits of metal or steal wool. I don’t remember what the formula was for making this finish.
I want to try it on some band saw boxes I am building.

-- Charlie75, Alto

14 replies so far

View Dave Rutan's profile

Dave Rutan

1709 posts in 2210 days

#1 posted 06-08-2014 12:20 AM

I’m not aware of any proportions, but I’d put a steel wool pad (plain, not the kind with soap) or a handful of old bent nails in a quart of white vinegar and leave it over night before using. First time I encountered this stain was on an episode of Furniture on the mend. Warning, this stain will turn oak and other high tannin woods very very dark brown if not black.

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3330 days

#2 posted 06-08-2014 12:25 AM

Vinegar and steel wool ( or other metals) is a finish that works different depending on the wood type. The most dramatic effect I have seen is when used on oak because it really gives it a darker finish. Might be a good idea to experiment on scraps before using it in any of your boxes

View dawsonbob's profile


2881 posts in 1777 days

#3 posted 06-08-2014 01:19 AM

If you do a search for “vinegar and steel wool,” you’ll find a number of threads on this topic. It’s a stain that I’ve been experimenting with for quite awhile, and I love it. Simply take one or two steel wool pads (not, as Dave Rutan pointed out, the kind with soap, and preferably not with oil in them) and put them in a quart or half gallon plastic or glass (not metal) container, and fill the container with white or cider vinegar. Cover it loosely with the lid, and wait at least 24 hours (longer is better).

As has been pointed out, this concoction works really well with high tannin woods. If, however, you’re working with pine or another low tannin wood, there’s a simple way to get it to react: green tea. Just boil some green tea, let it cool, and brush it on prior to using the vinegar solution. Green tea is very high in tannins.

Be sure to filter the vinegar solution before you use it, to remove any metal (which might cause rust marks on your project).

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

View bondogaposis's profile


4755 posts in 2373 days

#4 posted 06-08-2014 01:30 AM

This what I do, I take pint of white vinegar, add a handful of steel wool, let sit for a few days. Then strain the liquid through a coffee filter. That will remove the lack sludge on the bottom of the jar. The resulting liquid will be clear. If you apply it to oak or walnut it will turn it black, it will make poplar look like walnut. It will also raise the grain and it does not penetrate very deeply. It is best to raise the grain with water before using then sand it smooth then apply the vinegar iron solution.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2820 days

#5 posted 06-08-2014 03:14 PM

On the left, Ebony. On the right, Walnut with ferrous ion solution.
That’s why the process is called “ebonizing”.

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

View bandit571's profile


20209 posts in 2705 days

#6 posted 06-08-2014 03:38 PM

I seem to recall that Gunsmiths would use this stuff to bring out the curly grain on their Rifle stocks. Apparently it bring the figure out on curly Maple stocks.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Woodendeavor's profile


276 posts in 2629 days

#7 posted 06-08-2014 03:47 PM

Brian boggs wrote a great article in popular woodworking that you can find online where he explains his ebonizing process. It works great if you are looking for a strong black color

View Charlie75's profile


312 posts in 2287 days

#8 posted 06-09-2014 01:02 AM

Interesting comments all. Got some vinegar last evening and I have lots of steel wool to tomorrow I’ll see what happens when I put the wool in the vinegar. I didn’t realized it turns some wood black. Interesting.
Thanks all.


-- Charlie75, Alto

View dawsonbob's profile


2881 posts in 1777 days

#9 posted 06-09-2014 01:05 AM

Just out of curiosity, Charlie, what did you think it would do?

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

View Charlie75's profile


312 posts in 2287 days

#10 posted 06-09-2014 09:37 AM

dawsonbob, I really didn’t know what it would do. I have seen a couple of videos on line that mentioned that this home brew finish was used on band saw boxes. They made no mention of the darkening effect it had on wood.

-- Charlie75, Alto

View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3070 days

#11 posted 06-09-2014 10:24 AM

Ammonia will have similar effect on oak.
Very often in France, I used to use ammonia on oak, to aged it.

-- Bert

View bigblockyeti's profile


5134 posts in 1743 days

#12 posted 06-09-2014 12:07 PM

As the white vinegar breaks down the steel wool, it forms iron acetate. It’s important to keep all of the steel wool submersed in the vinegar to keep it from rusting. A couple of pads of 0000 wool pulled apart a little to expose more of the surface area works best, then stuff it in a jar and cover it with white vinegar. The reaction gives off gas so it cannot be in a sealed container, it must be vented. I let mine sit for a couple weeks, then scoop out whatever steel remains and filter the mixture through a coffee filter. It gives a nice dark finish on wood with a high tannic acid content such as red oak, multiple application can be used to achieve your desired effect.

View EPJartisan's profile


1118 posts in 3147 days

#13 posted 06-09-2014 01:38 PM

I really wish this site had been around over a decade ago, when I was trying to ebonize a walnut cabinet… I had no idea, nor ever heard of this process for ebonizing… ” ferrous ion solution” reacting to the tannins!!!! awesome…and it would have saved me a large amount of frustration learning to use dyes instead. I will always enjoy that no matter how much you learn there will always been more to discover. Thank you very much for this post and I can’t wait to try it out.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2820 days

#14 posted 06-09-2014 03:29 PM

The first recipe I used for this years ago called for flaking rust or the rustiest iron you could find. It worked really well. More recently I have used the steel wool idea. They both work equally well.

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

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