Selective ebonizing?

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Forum topic by CFrye posted 11-16-2014 04:38 AM 1203 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View CFrye's profile


8548 posts in 1256 days

11-16-2014 04:38 AM

Topic tags/keywords: ebonizing

Have any of you done or heard of ebonizing a design on a piece of wood? So far I’ve only tried it on cherry. Masked off an X and a triangle with painters tape and ‘painted’ on vinegar/steel wool mixture. Let dry and peeled the tape.

As you can see, it bled, horribly, under the tape edges.
Sanded that off and applied sanding sealer hoping that would help control the bleeding. I sparingly applied more solution to a new tape job (making sure I pressed the edges down really well) and let dry.

It bled too. Not as badly. Unsure if the better results have to do with the sealer or more careful tape and solution application.
Any ideas or suggestions? Thanks, in advance!

-- God bless, Candy

27 replies so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

21508 posts in 1754 days

#1 posted 11-16-2014 04:47 AM

Maybe tape it off and fume it with ammonia.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Loren's profile


8155 posts in 3064 days

#2 posted 11-16-2014 04:51 AM

You might try some narrow auto pin striping
tape. It comes in different widths. Tape the
part to be ebonized, then carefully shellac
up to the tape so as to minimize the shellac
getting under. I would use a bit of t-shirt
material folded up and gripped in a hemostat.
If you don’t have a hemostat I’m sure you
can figure something out or just use your
fingers to hold the cloth. You’ll get shellac
on your hand but it’s not toxic, just weird
looking and it takes several hand washings
to scrub it off. I don’t use shellac thinner on
my hands to clean them because it dries out
the skin.

Then take the tape off, remove unwanted
shellac with a razor blade and carefully apply
black dye using a brush.

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2750 days

#3 posted 11-16-2014 12:24 PM

There is a way to do this Candy, but you might not like it. When you use tape on the surface that doesn’t help because you get a wicking effect where the surrounding wood just sucks the dye underneath the tape. One way to avoid that is prevent the wicking by cutting a shallow knife cut around the area to be dyed. An Exacto type craft knife might be best for that. You can easily do a test piece to see if that will work. You should still mask off to prevent your brush from straying over the lines.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View CFrye's profile


8548 posts in 1256 days

#4 posted 11-16-2014 12:36 PM

I do want to try fuming with ammonia at some point, Monte. Need to read up on that process.
Yes, Loren I have hemostats, and gloves. :-) Mudflap4869 suggested a similar course using wax where you said shellac.
Mike, I was trying to avoid cutting. I tend to follow the grain with a knife or burning tool. I get impatient with light cuts, and hurry, and … I know, I know, practice, practice, practice! hahaha
Thank you all for your input.

-- God bless, Candy

View boxcarmarty's profile


13336 posts in 1776 days

#5 posted 11-16-2014 01:35 PM

Candy, Frog tape works to prevent a water base from soaking under, but as Mike said, the wood will form as a wick to pull it into the surrounding wood unless it is cut. You might want to try your hand at inlay…..

-- My mind is like lighting, one brilliant flash, then its gone.....

View terryR's profile


6227 posts in 1725 days

#6 posted 11-16-2014 03:01 PM

Candy, I’ve also tried this…doesn’t work IMO. I’ve even tried wax to cover the edges of the car painter’s tape. Vinegar solution STILL wicked through the wood fibers. I’m not certain a shallow knife groove will stop the capillary effect.

Other options: inlay, wood burning, black dye combined with burning the edges of the design, paint.

I’ve used wood burning the edges, and then filling in the design with black dye, on cherry. Looks awesome!

Good luck,

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

1080 posts in 3223 days

#7 posted 11-16-2014 03:26 PM

Hello CFrye, Using an Exacto Blade to cut shallow furrows that outline your intended stain areas should work, as mentioned by Stefang. Short of that you might try your hand at inlay. You might be surprised at how fast you become an expert at the techniques. And, the results are superior to staining. Keep charging!

-- Max the "night janitor" at

View patron's profile


13524 posts in 2757 days

#8 posted 11-16-2014 03:27 PM

just a thought canby

spray the whole top first with some kind of sealer or finnish
tape the area
cut thru the tape (as suggested)
deep enough to go down some from the surface
respray sealer to seal that cut line
to keep wicking down

try on scraps first
you might find a way that works for you
even if with dye as mentioned

good luck

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View terryR's profile


6227 posts in 1725 days

#9 posted 11-16-2014 04:31 PM

...another thought…
I think the main problem is the very high viscosity of the ebonizing fluid…with a good seal around the tape’s edge black stain or something thick may work?

I like patron’s idea of a spray sealer over the tape. Then color over that. My best friend pulls off pin striping like that, but the paint is sorta thick.

I would avoid knife lines altogether…unless you wanna start trying inlay! And why not? :)

Also, laminating a thin piece of artwork on top of your work piece can still look great!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

16763 posts in 2522 days

#10 posted 11-16-2014 05:36 PM

It acts like when I get things lasered and don’t finish the wood before I paint it. You might try putting down an X in tape, spray finish all around it and then put the tape next to the original tape and then remove the original stuff. The finish might stop the bleeding.

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View jeffswildwood's profile


1284 posts in 1394 days

#11 posted 11-16-2014 06:45 PM

I had the same problem using stain. Found if using a brush, bristle or foam, it wicked. I solved the problem by using a rag. just put enough to add color. apply several LIGHT coats. Give it a try.

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way thats says "I meant to do that".

View Don W's profile

Don W

17868 posts in 1984 days

#12 posted 11-16-2014 07:04 PM

Use a v cutter carving chisel and cut a border. I haven’t tried just a knife, so I’d be curious if that would work as well.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View NoThanks's profile


798 posts in 945 days

#13 posted 11-16-2014 07:09 PM

Might have to use a different material. Maybe just paint the groove.
Here is some fake inlay I did with paint.
I lacquered over the paint afterwards to get rid of the edges (not shown)

-- Because I'm gone, that's why!

View bondogaposis's profile


3969 posts in 1767 days

#14 posted 11-16-2014 07:24 PM

I don’t really have an answer to your very interesting question. I do have a thought, however. I think that the answer lies with being able to thicken the Fe/vinegar solution so it doesn’t wick into the wood cells via capillary action. Perhaps the addition of cornstarch would thicken it to the point of only dying the wood it actually comes in contact with. Might be worth an experiment.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1275 posts in 1351 days

#15 posted 11-16-2014 07:33 PM

I think I might be with boxcar Marty as far as trying your hand at inlay. I have done some simple inlay lines, similar to the “X” you are proposing and it has worked great. A small router bit and a fence will get you a clean straight line and the thin strips are easy enough to cut and glue in. A block plane flush trims everything nicely.

I am always in favor of keeping it simple, and in my mind, straightforward inlay is easier than trying to get dyes and/or stains to stay in a straight line.

Either way, good luck

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

showing 1 through 15 of 27 replies

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