I have been scouring the internet looking for the best and cheapest way to ebonize wood. If you are not familiar with this term it's basically staining wood a deep dark opaque black. You are trying to simulate the real ebony wood only at a fraction of the cost. There are a variety of ways to do this but I have narrowed it down to three that I want to try. Using a commercial product that seems to have pretty decent results. Using an old trick with vinegar and steel wool. And lastly using regular latex paint as a "rub." These processes are described freely on the internet I just have not seen any comparison of the results.
For each of these processes I want to evaluate their end result, cost, and plain ol' hassle factor.
Step 1: Preparing the rust liquid.
Vinegar and Steel Wool
- Steel Wool
- Regular White Vinegar
When searching for a way to ebonize wood this process came up very frequently. It seemed pretty neat to me. The potential cost also seems very low. However I was worried about the time and hassle involved with this one. Without getting too sciency all wood (and alot of other organic material) contains Tannin. When the rust liquid reacts with Tannin it produces a dark black color.
The process is fairly simple. It just takes some preparation. First you get some regular vinegar. Then you just submerge some steel wool in it and leave it sit for a week or more. The longer the better as far as I can tell. Gas builds up inside the bottle so leave the cap off or at least open it up every day so it doesn't explode.
If you are using new steel wool you should wash it off first. There are oils in on the steel wool from the factory so that it doesn't rust. After about a week you have basically liquid rust. From some of the other guides on the internet I expected my rust solution to be cloudy and dark. However it was still pretty much clear**. There were some floaties in there but I wouldn't call it cloudy. This had me a little worried but it still worked fine. After a week I used a coffee filter and strained the rust liquid into another bottle. This isn't absolutely unnecessary but I felt more comfortable getting some of the chunks out.
Just a word of caution. Even tho this stuff is clear it stuff stains just about anything. Including the brush you use. I split some in my kitchen sink and it stained some dishes and the stink itself. It came off with some scrubbing but be as careful with it as you would any other stain.
A good tip I read is to use a SOS pad that is all used up. Or you could soak it and get all the soap off. I believe these rust faster/easier than regular steel wool. I read that some people use pre-rusted items like nails and nuts. I am not sure how that compares to steel wool however.
**After about two weeks it did turn brown.