How do you get an old time Ebony finish ?

Hi all,
I've seen (as you have) many old pieces of furniture that was finished in such a way as to appear to be ebony wood. I think they would have used shellac over something but I'm not sure how it was done.
Any ideas ?
Thanks much,
Perk (:>)
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Sun, Feb 13, 2005, 8:11pm (EST-3) snipped-for-privacy@waverunner.net (Perk) asks: <snip> Any ideas ? Yep. Google. Ebonizing wood gets 5,620 hits, ebonizing gets 13,600
JOAT Intellectual brilliance is no guarantee against being dead wrong. - David Fasold
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The process is called ebonizing. There are a number of ways of doing it both chemically and using dyes and stains. Use google to look ebonizing. If you don't find anything there I will tell you a technique I use. I am reluctant to write a treatise on ebonizing because it is time consuming and I believe the info is already out there if you will only look for it.
Good luck
Joe
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You read an old-time book on finishing, and use those recipes. Plenty of books out there, plenty of recipes to choose from. Some look better than others, but may be more time-consuming / appropriate for small or fine work. Some recipes work better on some timbers than others.
There's also the question of what "ebony" looks like. Pianos are a high-gloss surface finish and often over uncoloured wood (although dying the timber makes leg chips less obvious). Fine work is often a chemical colouring of the timber itself, not even a dye or stain. This might even be left unfinished afterwards.
Collecting old finishing books is a particular interest of mine. Some are original, a lot are reprinted by modern publishers like Dover or Tiranti.
What sort of piece are you thinking of ?
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Andy Dingley wrote:

had stripped. Never got to doing the rest of it though so it's just sitting, waiting for a finish and caning.
Thanks all,
Perk (:>)
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So how glossy do you want the finish ? Simplest would be a quick wipe of a commercial black dye, then black shellac over that. Always use _new_ black shellac, because it doesn't store well (worse than other shellacs). If it's a less shiny finish you're after, then do a better job of the staining and oil finish it.
I wouldn't use a traditional ebonising solution on stripped timber. Some of them rely on the chemistry of the original "fresh" timber and that's probably no longer predictable. One of my usual ebonising solutions is iron & vinegar (full recipe posted many times previously) but this depends on a tannin-rich timber. Doesn't work on things that have been put through a stripping tank.
One tip on chair caning is to judge beforehand whether it was caned with individual canes (old chairs) or with a pre-woven sheet of woven cane (most modern stuff). Although the pre-woven stuff is much quicker and somewhat easier to use, it looks awful if used on a chair that wasn't originally drilled for it. Some better quality or more rounded chairs had caning holes drilled that weren't a simple equal grid layout and they look better if you allow the caning layout to taper to follow these holes.
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I'm just finishing an experiment using viniger and steel nails -- put the nails in the viniger, let it sit a few days, and then soak your wood. It seems to work quite well on oak, but has almost no effect on ash. It gives the oak a very distinct look.
John
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Mix black Transtint dye with Denatured alcohal apply to wood until you get the desired color, then top coat with your choice of finish. It's that easy.
Ken

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Gotta chuckle when I read all these replies. I'm sure they'll work, but the easiest cheapest way is to use India ink. If you use maple, hit it with India ink, let it dry, scuff the raised grain and hit it again...you'll have ebony. and black fingers.
Good luck Rob
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