How to Easily Ebonize Wood

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Introduction: How to Easily Ebonize Wood

About: Follow along as I tackle awesome projects including woodworking, metal working, tool restorations, and more! Sometimes I teach and sometimes we learn together. I hope you learn a new skill, build a new proje…

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

Funnel

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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110 Comments

0
chefspenser
chefspenser

7 months ago

Excellent-I had no idea how to do this-thank you for sharing!!

0
YiraB
YiraB

Question 1 year ago on Step 3

Hi, thanks for sharing, I would like to know if any kind of vinegar work, I live in a small town in Portugal and cannot get the vinegar you are using we have wine, cider, balsamic vinegars and others but not that one so you think that any of them would work well?
Thank you.

0
ZaRue
ZaRue

Answer 1 year ago

The acidity of the vinegar is important part. Cider vinegar should work if it is strong enough. The color of the vinegar could impart a tone to the iron acetate, so the less color, the purer the solution.

If you had a strong (high acidity) wine or balsamic vinegar with a deep burgundy tone, I bet it would make a cool tint to the iron acetate. Might even make a darker solution. I think it would be worth the experiment.

0
shloime
shloime

Reply 1 year ago

food stores call it “vinegar”, pharmacies or hardware stores might call it “acetic acid”...

0
trobins20200
trobins20200

Reply 7 months ago

Another possible "vinegar" could use a photographic chemical called "stop bath" which is readily available in photo shops. It's pure acetic acid. It can be easily mixed to whatever strength is needed. Available in either liquid or powder form.

Pharmacists tend to worry about customers asking for unusual (to them) chemicals. I had difficulty once when I asked for potassium permanganate to use as a stain for a black powder rifle stock. It produces a beautiful reddish brown with purplish highlights when used on maple.

0
YiraB
YiraB

Reply 1 year ago

Thanks for your reply. I checked all the vinegars i have and they are 5% and 6% in acidity but pretty sure i can get an 8% in the shop.
I will try and see.
Thank you

0
crowhollowwoodworks
crowhollowwoodworks

Answer 1 year ago

I believe ZaRue answered perfectly. Hope it helps!

0
YiraB
YiraB

Reply 1 year ago

Thanks

0
toekneepea
toekneepea

8 months ago

How much Steel Wool should I use? One 'pad' per quart? One package (12 pads)?

0
cliffbarnard6
cliffbarnard6

11 months ago

I have made along bow from Popular wood. I made the black tea and iron acetate per your instructions. However, I put the iron acetate on first, then the black tea. I now have a dark brown bow, even with 2 coats each now. My brown is getting darker but, I now have lighter spots even from sanding. What happened?? Cliff

0
mona.blake1
mona.blake1

1 year ago on Step 11

I have done this in the past. My favorite way is let black walnuts drain into a coffee can. I then place a lid on the can and have plenty of black oil based stain that seals the wood! You always get the darkest wood that way!

0
uncle frogy
uncle frogy

Reply 1 year ago

black walnuts are very rare out here in L. A. but I have seen them and can atest that the 'skin or husk" of the nuts will stain everything makes the concrete dark did not know it was used to stain (dye) things kool!
I do know that ammonia will stain oak black was very popular in the arts and craft era (fumed oak). I have used carbon black to match repairs it looks kind like the first sample.
I will try this out on a project idea I have for sure. Will this process (iron acetate) work on any wood or is it specific like fumed oak?

0
M.J2
M.J2

Reply 1 year ago

Do the walnuts just ooze oil?
I'm intrigued are these whole, crushed, shell/no shell... do tell!

0
mona.blake1
mona.blake1

Reply 1 year ago

Collect walnuts that have dropped in August. Place in a cloth bag when green or turning black.Hang over a coffee can. Let drain. The outside will turn black and ooze. Leave until bag is dry. Collect the stain in jars. Indians used it every year to color and waterproof their TPs and canoes. The stain will Permanent stain everything it touches including your hands. (It eventually wears off.

0
M.J2
M.J2

Reply 1 year ago

Cool!
Thanks for the reply!

0
crowhollowwoodworks
crowhollowwoodworks

Reply 1 year ago

I've used that method also, works really well.

0
KellyCraig
KellyCraig

1 year ago

NICE ible.


I wonder if this might be better classed as a dye than a stain.

In woodworking, we, generally, think of stains as surface coats, even though the stain does make its way into the pores of the wood and some of the oils (if using an oil based stain) will penetrate, slightly, into the wood.

Dyes, on the other hand, penetrate the surface of the wood. They are less prone to hiding the wood grain because they do penetrate, rather than rest on the surface.


0
crowhollowwoodworks
crowhollowwoodworks

Reply 1 year ago

That's a good question, I'm not sure which is more appropriate.

0
FPC2012
FPC2012

1 year ago

Great instructable! I tried doing this a few years ago and failed. After seeing your description of the process, I realized that I had not washed the steel wool nor agitated the mixture daily, which I suspect is why it didn't work. Additionally, I didn't know that adding black tea lends itself to making it darker. Thanks for posting!