I have several species of hard, close-grained wood I would like to try to
ebonize. How is this done? Is it simply a dye, or are there other
processes/methods? Does it depend upon the species of wood? (the two I'm
looking at right now are some pieces of particularly hard and tight grained
walnut, and some African pear).
Pigment stain - fine dirt in a carrier solution.
Dye stain - dissolved colour in solution.
Chemical stain - something that changes the colour of the existing
Usually the third is hard to control the colour of, but gives the best
results. If what you want is "black, just black" rather than "a
slightly teal-flavoured tincture of taupe" then it's a good choice.
Otherwise go with a commercial dye stain.
Pigment stains make an obscuring surface layer. Tends to wear badly and
hides the grain too.
If the timber has tannins in it, the chemical stain has a good, easy
and long-established solution. Works fine on walnut, I'm not familiar
with african pear. Web search for "vinegar + wire wool + tannin"
India ink doesn't fade (it's lamp black!) - however much of it these
days isn't real India ink and they'd obviously used a fugitive modern
dye instead of the genuine pigment.
India ink also contains shellac, which tends to limit penetration. You
can get a much more hard wearing surface if you use something that
soaks in further.
PS - iron and vinegar does outgass. It's not toxic, but it will burst a
glass jar. Knock a few nail holes in the lid first.
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