I'm gearing up for my first major project with cherry. An associate of
mine recommended using a lye solution to darken the wood. After some
research, I'd like to try it. However, I've found that Red Devil lye
is no longer sold locally. I've found a few leads through candlemaking
websites, but they require me to purchase 30lb of the stuff. I just
want a little to experiment with. Are there any other brands to look
for? My local searches have yeilded nothing that is pure sodium
hydroxide, and I'm reluctant to use anything that has "other stuff" in
it. Any help would be appreciated.
That's why lye is, John. You can make it at home. This recipe is rather
elaborate, for producing significant quantities. But I'm sure you can
scale it down and simplify it. The basic idea is to pour soft water
over hardwood ashes. N. B.: don't use any metal containers!
Potassium hydroxide came first, as a result of the very natural and
ancient process of rain falling on forest fires. It is the stuff for
which the word "lye" was coined centuries ago.
Sodium hydroxide is a manmade and much more recent compound. The oldest
process for its manufacture seems to date to 1772.
So I maintain that KOH is the original lye, and NaOH has glommed onto
the name simply by becoming the more common and cheaper caustic.
Just like thousands of other words have had their accepted meanings
changed in the last few hundred years. You can maintain what you want
to, but if you went to any hardware store or chemical supplier and
asked for lye, you'd get NaOH.
No lie! (Sorry couldn't resist)
By lye, I mean sodium hydroxide. Potassium hydroxide is a.k.a. Potash
Lye. They are two different things, but with sorta the same name. The
question is, does it produce the same effect as "regular" lye. I ask,
because I think Potassium hydoxide is used as a pH modifier in spa
chemicals, which I can get in reasonable quantities.
> By lye, I mean sodium hydroxide.
Almost every paint stripper uses it as the muscle to soften paint.
Does a great job of eating wood fibers.
BTW, have a couple of customers with 10,000 gallon tanks of 50%
caustic, but that doesn't help much.
It is used to make detergents as well as paint stripper.
Part A of a two step wood bleach, such as Klean-Strip brand, is sodium
hydroxide. Part B is Hydrogen Peroxide.
This stuff works great for bleaching walnut, but does not give a uniform
effect on cherry, IMO. Also, the lye component damages the wood fibers.
Lye is also used for making wood pulp for paper, IIRC.
You say this is your first project in cherry - putting lye on it seems like
a pretty drastic step. Most people really like cherry as-is, and it can be
dyed and/or stained for some really nice effects. Also, there is a simple
trick for darkening cherry that doesnt require any harsh chemicals. Just
put your completed but unfinished piece in the sun for a few days. It will
darken up very quickly.
NaOH and KOH are both known as "lye." It's the hydroxyl group (-OH)
that does the job. It won't matter if the metallic ion is potassium or
sodium. NaOH is a slightly stronger base than KOH.
Here's a page that says Red Devil Lye has been pulled from retail
markets. It describes several other products that are NaOH or KOH, plus
retail and online sources.
I'm with you there...in my experience it adds a tremendous amount of
red to the wood...a very unatural look.
Myself I prefer to fume it in order to speed up the darkening process.
No artificial look to it at all.
However, if I were the OP I would definitely try to get hold of some to
experiment with. That's the way I learned, and I've found there is no
better teacher. And there may be some opportunities where that red
look might just fit the bill.
And hey...what's the harm? If you don't like it, you just pour the
rest down the drain!
Here are some sources for smaller quantities.
I just went to my local Ace this morning. I was told that Ace no
longer carries Red Devil lye because it is used in the manufacture of
methamphetamine. I guess that's why I can't find it anywhere.
Wes Stewart wrote:
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