|Exotic hardwoods like ebony are expensive,
but you can create your own stain with some
steel wool, old nails, and vinegar.
These common items combine to make an
acid stain. Vinegar is acetic acid, and when it
combines with iron, it produces a stain that
ranges from a silvery gray to dark black. This
shop-made stain is a lot less expensive than
buying the exotic woods.
One piece of oak
colored using four
of the ebony stain.
Please note: Whenever you are going to
work with any chemicals, be sure that you
always wear personal protective gear before
you start doing any mixing.
Mixing the Stain
Step 1: Start with a clean, 1-quart glass or
Step 2: Add unfolded steel wool pads, rusty
nails, and old metal screws. The more iron
content, the faster the color will develop.
Step 3: Fill the container 3/4 full with household
vinegar (common 5% vinegar).
Step 4: Cover the container with a piece of
cardboard, and allow it to ferment. Do not
use a tight-fitting lid because the fermentation
process creates a non-toxic gas that
needs to escape. Take out the iron items
after you achieve your color. Over time the
acid stain may start to turn a greenish color
as the iron continues to oxidize. Also, as the
acid stain ages, it will lose it potency and the
stain will become a lighter color.
Step 5: Allow the chemicals to react for a
Step 6: Test the color
on a piece of scrap from the wood you plan on ebonizing. Mix the solution thoroughly
before applying it.
Different Woods Yield Different Results
Baltic birch, oak, and
walnut are all treated with
the stain. The top section
shows the natural wood,
and the bottom section
shows what the color will
be like after you apply the stain and a clear finish.
Certain woods will take the stain better
than others. Oak and walnut, which are
higher in natural tannin, work the best.
Allow the test stain to dry and then apply
several clear coats to see the fi nal color.
The color of the stain depends on the
length of time you allow the stain to ferment
and the iron contents of your materials.
Once you have achieved your target color,
stop the aging process by filtering the liquid
through a paint strainer, coffee filter, or
cheesecloth into a clean jar. If the color
becomes too strong, you can add water or
clean vinegar to dilute the color strength.
Documenting Your Process
For consistent results, keep notes and test
your stain on the same wood you want to
color. Testing on the same wood will alert
you to any compatibility problems. Note the
length of time you allowed the stain to react
next to the test area, so you can achieve the
same color in the future. Be sure to stain
your pieces right away and only make enough
stain for each job. Over time the acid stain
will start to turn a greenish color as the iron
continues to oxidize.
The Staining Process
Step 1: Sand the wood. Make sure the wood
is clean and dust free. The stain may raise the
grain on some wood. If this happens, sponge
clean water onto the wood, allow it to dry,
and sand off the raised fibers.
Step 2: Wipe or brush the stain onto the
wood. Use a clean rag, foam brush, or
synthetic bristle brush.
Step 3: Apply a clear finish. Make sure the
stain is completely dry before applying your
clear coat of choice.
This article is courtesy of Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts. Click here for more information on this magazine!