Substitute for Red Devil lye?

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Hi all:
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.
Thanks, John.
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Anybody used potassium hydroxide?
Thanks again for any help!
Regards, John.
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the_tool_man wrote:

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!
http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Lye
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Dhakala wrote:

"What lye is," I meant.
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But that's *not* what lye is. Lye is sodium hydroxide.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

It can be either. The lye made from ashes is potash lye, potassium hydroxide.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lye
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Not correct. Lye is specifically NaOH.

OK, fine, but "lye" and "potash lye" are not the same thing.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

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.
http://m-w.com/dictionary/lye
Sodium hydroxide is a manmade and much more recent compound. The oldest process for its manufacture seems to date to 1772.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide
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.
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<...other quotes snipped...>

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)
--

Larry Wasserman Baltimore, Maryland
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com says...

Sorry to bust your bubble, but this simply isn't true. Water plus wood ash yields potassium *carbonate*, not potassium hydroxide.

Maintain what you want -- lye is NaOH, as you can discover by reading any *real* encyclopedia.
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Hi Dhakala:
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.
Dhakala wrote:

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the_tool_man wrote:
> By lye, I mean sodium hydroxide.
AKA: "caustic".
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.
Lew
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"the_tool_man" wrote...

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.
-- Timothy Juvenal www.rude-tone.com/work.htm
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the_tool_man wrote:

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.
http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/coldprocesssoapmaking/a/lyesources.htm
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Some drain cleaners are pure lye. You can try lye for darkening; I have never had any luck with it. It sorta works, but looks like wood that has had lye on it.
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Toller wrote:

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!
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the_tool_man wrote:

Here are some sources for smaller quantities.
http://www.chemistrystore.com/Sodium_Hydroxide.htm
http://www.sciencelab.com/search.php?q=sodium+hydroxide
http://www.sciencestuff.com/prod/Chem-Rgnts/C2582
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snipped-for-privacy@heapg.com wrote:

Watch out for hazmat shipping/handling charges... they can kill ya!
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wrote:

I've bought it at Ace Hardware.
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Hi Wes:
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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