Introduction: How to Easily Ebonize Wood

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Learn how to easily ebonize wood for your next project! The chemical reaction that occurs when you apply the iron acetate to wood creates a beautiful and durable black finish, a similar look to ebony (hence the name).

Step 1: Supplies

Wood (Duh)

0000 Steel Wool

White Vinegar

Quart Jar

Coffee filter


Small jar

Sponge Brush

Black Tea

Step 2: Wash Steel Wool

Wash the steel wool with soap and water to remove any residual grease that may be present from the manufacturing process.

Step 3: Add Vinegar

Place the steel wool in the jar and slowly pour in the white vinegar, leaving a little headspace.

Step 4: Add Lid and Shake

Add a small hole in lid to allow any gases to escape. Screw lid onto jar, put your finger over the hole, and shake the jar and solution to make sure it's well mixed.

Step 5: Wait One Week

Shake the jar up each day for about a week, depending on ambient temperature. Once it looks like most of the steel wool has dissolved and the solution is a dark black color, it should be ready. The chemical reaction between the vinegar and steel wool creates iron acetate.

Step 6: Filter the Solution

Set up a simple filtering stand, I used a kitchen funnel and a couple of quick clamps. Put a coffee filter in the funnel and filter the iron acetate through it. This will catch any large particles that may not have dissolved.

Step 7: Prep Wood by Sanding

Sand that wood that you plan to stain up through 220 grit. Any higher and you risk burnishing the wood, which could prevent the stain form penetrating.

Step 8: Apply Stain

Use a sponge brush to apply the stain to the wood, making sure to evenly coat the entire area.

Step 9: Sand and Recoat

If applying more than one coat (depending on your color preference), sand with 220 grit sandpaper between each coat. This will smooth out the finish and help fill any pores, ultimately helping the darkening process.

Step 10: Get a Darker Finish

If the iron acetate alone isn't a dark enough finish, you can add extra tannins to the wood by applying black tea before the iron acetate finish. The iron acetate will react with the extra tannins to create a darker finish. Apply the black tea prior to the first coat of iron acetate, and then in between each additional coat (also making sure to include the sanding step between each coat).

So sand, apply black tea, allow to dry, apply the iron acetate, allow to dry. Repeat until desired color is achieved.

The piece in the last photo is the result of three coats of iron acetate, with a coat of black tea in between.

Step 11: Comparison of Stain Treatments

This is a comparison of different amount of stain coats and with/without black tea.

The first little block of wood is untreated red oak.

The second one from the left is one coat of iron acetate.

The third block from the left is two coats of iron acetate.

The fourth block from the left is three coats of iron acetate.

The block at the bottom, and the big board at the top, are both treated with three coats of iron acetate with a black tea treatment in between each coat.

I personally like the examples that were treated with black tea, the black is darker and richer in appearance.

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