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  1. #1
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    Question Vinegar and steel wool solution.

    I made up a vinegar/steel wool solution a while ago to try out darkening some Qld Maple but I wasn't happy with the effect as it just turned the timber black.

    I've just tried the same solution on some American White Oak expecting a different result but got a similar black colour, although the grain seems to show through more on the oak.

    I think I was under the impression this solution was good for giving timber a warmer aged look, but apparently not with the solution I made. I then searched for vinegar as a wood stain and found a number of references to preconditioning the wood with tea or coffee or some other things before applying the vinegar solution.

    Is there any experience here to share of mixes that work to age timber to a shade of brown rather than black?

    Thanks,
    Franklin

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  3. #2
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    My understanding is this effect depends somewhat on the amount of tannin in the wood. The Tannin reacts with the soluble iron forming ferrous tannate and that is black. The more tannin the wood continues the blacker it will turn. What you could do is systematically reduce the concentration of some of the iron/liquid liquid component with more and more vinegar and see what that does.

  4. #3
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    In my very limited experience it just goes grey. Not a look that I
    liked, personally! I think you might have more luck with using the tea directly, but I think a stain/tinted finish/coloured shellac will probably be better.

  5. #4
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    Vinegar and steel give you an iron oxide stain and as said the best you will get from that is a strong black to a weakened a grey effect by diluting it.

    If your wanting to give wood some warmth and do it with a reaction stain that reacts with the wood to change it warm which is much better than a thin colour out of a can to do the same then Potassium Dichromate or Bichromate of potash . Same thing . Is a good way. You have to wet sand the wood first . And handle with care because its dangerous stuff.

    Like the Iron Oxide reaction its effect can also be weakened by diluting with water.

    Potassium Dichromate - Aging Wood - YouTube

    Wood Stain Potassium Dichromate / Bichromate of Potash

    Potassium Dichromate

  6. #5
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    As others have said effect depends on the amount of tannins in the wood.

    Using the tea bags increases the amount of tannins in wood. The steel wool and vinegar causes the tannins to go black.

    If you're after a warm finish i'd go with an oil finish like tung or blo. It'll make the wood darker/brown but won't make it go gray/black.

    If you're after something else i'd suggest going with a stain to the color you're after

  7. #6
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    I've generally used a waxed Danish Oil finish on stuff I've made before. It's a finish I like but it lacks the depth of 'instant patina' of the reproduction furniture the likes of Robert make. I saw a bit of his work in his old haunt in Melbourne, beautiful stuff!

    Potassium Dichromate is probably the treatment I've been looking for, but I'm not sure it's something I should be experimenting with in my 16m2 workshop at the end of my garage.
    Franklin

  8. #7
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    Franklin . If your the type that has trouble filling your lawn mower or car with petrol . Like lighting cigarettes or attempting to drink or cover yourself with it while filling then wood staining in general or with Potasium dichromate is not for you .

    Thanks for the compliment on my furniture as well.

    Among the dining tables and restoration I'm doing at the moment is a Qld Maple dressing table. It was made to be stained very dark and we have stripped and sanded it as the guy who owns it wants it light and natural. The Cab legs are a patchwork of darker warm and light Qld Maple and potassium dichromate should bring the colours closer together. If it doesn't then Ill be adding stain colours on top as well. Ill take a picture of the reaction on Qld Maple and put it up.

    Yes there are plenty of good colured stains that will warm up Q Maple well. Sunlight can fade these out with time with some of them. None of them are as good as what Potassium Dichromate can do for you when its needed though once you see it for yourself and compare them. Specially on Red Cedar and Mahogany type woods like Q Maple .

    Things like Caustic soda and the water from Hydrated Lime have a strong affect on these woods as well. similar looking effect at the start but not as warm as PD once it dries out usually.
    Another one is Condy's crystals.

    Rob

  9. #8
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    I made up the iron acetate brew with steel wool and vinegar (5% acetic acid). Took a month for the wad of wool to dissolve.
    Looked reddish brown, got my hopes up.

    Birch (Betula papyrifera) is a fairly pale and featureless local hardwood. Certainly not a high tannin content. Maybe something that could benefit from a tannin/strong tea pretreatment.

    Anyway, I slopped on a coat and let the solution evaporate to dryness. I got a dirty dark grey color. Just looked grubby. Abandoned any further use, the lid corroded out of the jar so into the big while telephone with the rest of it.

    In the 18th and 19th centuries of European colonization of the Americas, I suppose the iron acetate could add some novelty to the existing variety of high-tannin hardwoods such as the red and white (Quercus sp.) oaks.

  10. #9
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    Default Vinegar and Steel wool

    I have used the vinegar and steel wool/rusty nails etc on a few different timbers.

    Blackwood goes jet black.

    Attached are some pics of Blackbutt.
    The client wanted a very dark black.

    When I did the mix I tested it each day until it gave the blackest result.
    Initially it turns the Blackbutt a dull grey.
    After about 4 days it turned it black. As the mix got older it still gave the same amount of darkening.

    I gave the table a few coats to even out the stain.

    Sanding removed some of the stain and gave a lighter grey.

    I used Kunos clear for the finish.

    I don't recall testing it on Qld Maple. It looks too good natural.
    Attached Images Attached Images
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  11. #10
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    There is a powder (Quebracho) that when used dissolved in combination with the vinegar/steel wool mix which really makes the timber really jet black.

    I've not tried it myself yet, but chad stanton did a post on youtube (based on brian boggs article) about it using this with result shown on quite a a number of timbers.

    Homemade Ebonizing Stain Formula - YouTube

    Maybe this would help

    Sent from my SM-S901E using Tapatalk

  12. #11
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    You might be getting mixed up with fuming. That typically leaves a lovely warm brown colour on American oak. That is using ammonia.

    Steel wool+vinegar commonly used to 'ebonise' timbers with high tannins (Blackbutt, jarrah American oak all work well) and as the name suggests it will go near jet black.
    There are ways to improve the effect using pre treatments to increase the tannin levels in the timber so i suppose diluting it back with vinegar or water might work to reduce the effect but it won't be brown it will be more of a grey.

    Attached image shows Vic blackwood that has been ebonised with the iron acetate solution followed by clear coat
    IMG_20210706_145535.jpg

  13. #12
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    Franklin . Forget my suggestion of Potasium Dichromate on Q Maple.
    I tried it on my Qld Maple and it didn't work so well. So I went stronger and it still wasn't too good either. The cab legs are patchy because they were made to be stained a very dark brown hiding the built up patches that were revealed when I stripped the piece. The patches are possibly sapwood in places and that may be part of the problem. A test on the darker warm Q Maple still didn't seem much better . I then tried some on Mahogany and that worked reasonably well.
    I don't think Q Maple reacts to Potasium Dichromate as I thought it would. It so similar to Red Cedar or Mahogany but no apparently not. Unless I need to try with a very strong mix maybe . I didn't have the time today to keep trying and went a different way in the end.

    That's my cold mix in the bottle.
    Left over from a larger job yesterday.
    And one of the patchy legs problems I have to solve. I used that and it didn't do much so made a stronger hot mix. Second picture is some test patches. Red arrow on some mahogany . Green circle on the very pale patch and Yellow circle on the warm normal looking Q Maple . You can see it hardly touched the maple compared to the Mahogany.
    IMG_1338a.jpg IMG_1340a.jpg
    The stronger mix.
    IMG_1319.JPG IMG_1320.JPG
    This is same test after its dry then wet again too see how it would look under polish.
    IMG_1341.jpg

    So I changed to this . Vandyke Crystals mixed with hot water for a brown water stain . Rubbed over similar patches on a back leg . When I dried it off I then went over with a warm spirit colour to give a bit more warmth .
    IMG_1342a.jpg IMG_1343a.jpg IMG_1344a.jpg

    I didn't take more pictures of the spirit stain as I was just rough testing to get a direction as fast as I could .
    Now I know which way Im going Ill be fine tuning it when the next part of this restoration continues .

    Staining with clear spirit or thinner based stains over a dry water stain is a good way of making big changes that hold well over the years . I think spirit stains fade faster than the water stains . Not that really matters . It'd take ten years to notice it unless it lives in direct sunlight full time .

  14. #13
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    Thankyou for all the replies, quite a bit of information to digest. I'm not sure how my current project prompting the query is going to work out. It started on a whim in the first place and has had it's fair share of problems so far. The local men's shed had a stack of American Oak offcuts from a local stair manufacturer. I laminated some of the offcuts into pieces large enough to perhaps use to make a three leg Oak Cricket Table after seeing one in a book of English Garden Furniture projects. I was hoping to use a stain to darken this to hide some of the joins.

    My reference to Qld Maple was from a previous thought of using the stain actually on Maple Silkwood at the request of my sister in law to darken the table I was making for her. She had only seen the table in the raw during the build at that stage but it was apparent very quickly that staining the wood was a very bad idea and abandoned. That piece looks wonderful with just the simple oiled finish.

    The oak is different. Interestingly enough having seen the vinegar solution effect on some scrap the Fuzzette seems to think the cricket table might look best in black.
    Franklin

  15. #14
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    Out of curiosity, has anyone experience with how the ebonisation with vinegar and steel wool solution hold up to UV, with or without using the Quebracho to deepen the black?

    Assuming a top coat (satin) of a suitable clear finish with UV inhibitor. I ask as I want to line the boards inside our large window and wonder how the colour will hold up.

  16. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by aarggh View Post
    Out of curiosity, has anyone experience with how the ebonisation with vinegar and steel wool solution hold up to UV, with or without using the Quebracho to deepen the black?

    Assuming a top coat (satin) of a suitable clear finish with UV inhibitor. I ask as I want to line the boards inside our large window and wonder how the colour will hold up.
    It holds up very well with no UV inhibitor I think. Stains that react with the wood are long lasting compared to thin colour out of a tin .
    When you see 18th century Oak furniture . Tops of tables and cabinets get iron oxide stains because of water and iron objects being left to sit on a top when nobody cared much about them . So you see round black rings from pots and cans . The old cast iron Irons left the Iron shape. Iron keys leave their shape sometimes. All sorts of spots and odd shapes. They stay there for centuries , For ever . Unless you want them out and go about trying to remove them with acid treatments or planing them out .
    A lot of the black marks in this would mostly be iron oxide staining.
    IMG_2197a.jpg

    Direct sunlight every day on wood would be pretty severe on anything though. Getting an even effect with reaction stains isn't always easy and straight forward . If it goes wrong it stays that way unless you Oxalic acid or sand it out.
    Iron oxide weakened can be good if the timber is to red. Black kills red off and sends it more brown sometimes and a weakened stain can be used to send a red wood that direction providing its the type of red wood that reacts to the iron oxide stain.

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