Ebonising Wood

Collated from newsgroup postings.

I would like to make black spacers to fit between the handles and the shanks of walking-sticks. Ideally I suppose Ebony would fit the bill....but I'm fresh out of it! I have some really well seasoned Laburnum (Golden Chain [rain]), which turns almost black when left for a while. But when it's machined in any way, it shows a lovely warm pale green shade, which I will of course use where appropriate. How is the best , most natural way of turning it black? Or any other reasonable hard wood for that matter.

I'm no expert when it comes to such things, but I just coloured an ash hollow form with India ink and the piece is BLACK. I just used a small artist's brush to paint it on. I did two coats to catch any disparity in colour. It worked great. You may need to test a sample of the selected wood to make sure the colour takes.

An easy and cheap way to blacken a small piece of wood is to use a black spirit felt pen - the waterproof variety.

Take some 00 steel wool...into a jar half full of vinegar....let sit for a few days. The steel wool dissolves and the mixture gets darker and darker. Every time you put on a new application, its darker. You don't have to wait long between coats. You should shake it every few day's. Works great.

Get some leather dye from your local shoe repair shop. Works very well.

The process is called "ebonising" and it works very well with oak. Reacts to tannic acid. Just put a handful of nails in a jar and cover them with white vinegar. Let stand for a few weeks. Magic, just brush on desired area or soak piece in solution. When dark enough, coat with ammonia to neutralise reaction.

A couple of people have mentioned using dye to colour the wood. This will work well. Except that the dye will not penetrate deeply into the wood, so you may want to turn the wood to desired shape and sand first, and then dye it black. I would suggest a leather dye or any dye that is alcohol based ( So as to not raise the grain). The suggestion about getting dyed Pear is a good one as a substitute It is usually veneer that you can get. I recently purchased some Bog oak. This wood is very black but has the grain patterns of Oak.

funny thing is that laburnum is the nearest thing I know to ebony if you use the old wire wool and vinegar trick. Fill a jar with vinegar (I read white type is best but I use Malt!) cram as much wool into the jar and fill, cap, and leave for a week. try it, it won't fade as does any ink or dye!! A chemical change in the wood has taken place, and is a dead ringer for ebony black.

Inks will work too and they do not fade like dyes. Thinned acrylic paints work, too. Get opaque, not transparent. Black gesso gives a great result. Cover it with Artist Fixative. It seems that you are thinking of colouring before assembly which is a good idea.

Get some leather dye from your local shoe repair shop. Works very well. They sell black coloured wax for polishing too.

How wide are the spacers? If they are relatively narrow then you can blacken then with friction while on the lathe. I piece of natural fibre rope, or a smooth round stick has done the trick for me in the past. Just hold it against the area you want dark and the friction heat while spinning will get it to whatever shade of black you desire and only in the area there's contact with the string or stick.

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