I made it BLACK, at last.

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Bob Wemm

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About 18 months to 2 years ago I tried to make some Black wood. I asked you guys and did a lot of reading about "Ebonising" but that seemed to revolve around ebonising after the shape was achieved, or just before the finish was applied.
I needed the wood to be totally black all the way through, so it could be worked and still remain black.
One of the things I was advised about was that Walnut wood was the best to ebonise because of the natural tannin in the wood.
In my first experiments, I used Queensland Walnut and soon realised that this wood is not Walnut at all, just a local name. So I purchased some Proper USA Walnut and cut it into strips of 3/16 and 1/4inch, I also decided to try some lovely creamy white Tasmanian Oak (Eucalyptus Regnans) just to see what would happen. The strips were put into a length of PVC pipe about 30inches long, Vinegar and dissolved steel wool was added and the pipes sealed for about a month/6 weeks.
By then I just couldn't wait any longer, every time I walked into my shed those pipes leapt out at me, so finally I opened them up and took out the black strips of wood.
I layed them out to dry and the following day cut a couple of them and found they were still the natural colour on the inside but very black on the outside. My heart sank with disappointment and the strips were set aside on the heap of scraps, until just before Christmas this year.
I decided to make another Segmented piece and needed some black wood. My first thought was to try and buy some, but then remembered the failed strips laying in the scrap heap. I dug one out and cut about 1inch off the end, then I cut the worst wobbly one in half.
YAHOO they were both completely black, as were all the others.:biggrin::biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:.
YES YES YES.
I knew that time flies, but it also does other things as well, really special things like turning my white wood black.

Have a very successful new year.

Cheers,
Bob:)
 
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jttheclockman

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Bob I followed you to a point and then lost you. When you first did it and left for 6 weeks and then cut it you found the inside to not be black. But is a couple more weeks it was black??? What made it turn black inside over that short period of time that did not occur before that??? Hope you follow that question. Also we need photos sir. You know the rules here.:)
 

1080Wayne

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Bob , don`t know if you have a stabilizing set-up or not , but I think maybe if you were to pull a good vacuum on the wood totally immersed in your solution for 4 hours or so until the bubbles stop , then release it and allow atmospheric pressure to force the liquid into the pores for a day , you might ? shorten the time frame from 2 years to a few months .
 

Bob Wemm

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Bob I followed you to a point and then lost you. When you first did it and left for 6 weeks and then cut it you found the inside to not be black. But is a couple more weeks it was black??? What made it turn black inside over that short period of time that did not occur before that??? Hope you follow that question. Also we need photos sir. You know the rules here.:)
John,
It went black sometime from the end of 6 weeks until just before Christmas this year. I have no idea when.
It was natural colour after 6 weeks and now it is all black.
Cannot explain why?????
Photos are coming.

Bob.
 

Bob Wemm

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Bob , don`t know if you have a stabilizing set-up or not , but I think maybe if you were to pull a good vacuum on the wood totally immersed in your solution for 4 hours or so until the bubbles stop , then release it and allow atmospheric pressure to force the liquid into the pores for a day , you might ? shorten the time frame from 2 years to a few months .

Mate, I wish I had a vacuum system.
Maybe next Christmas.

Bob
 

Skie_M

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It has to do with the natural tannins (tannic acid) in the wood reacting with both the vinegar/iron oxide solution and oxygen. Putting them into a SEALED container was the mistake, I think...


Allowing them to be exposed to oxygen out in the shop allowed the residual reaction inside the wood to complete, ebonizing the wood all the way through.


If you could use a vacuum stabilization setup, that would allow you to expose all of the wood with a fairly short exposure time ... and then you'ld want to either bubble air through the solution or just air dry it (preferably someplace the smell won't bother you or your neighbors).


Get the same PVC pipe setup you used + an inexpensive vacuum pump (like a hand pump ... the pump'n'seal or one of it's clones out on the market). Put a small pinhole on one end of the pipe and pump out as much air as you can .... come back to it every 20 minutes or so and pump some more ... after 2 hours of that, release the vacuum and allow the liquid to flood the wood pores. Let it sit for 24 hours or more. (faster even still to use an electric vacuum pump and some kind of air fitting in the end of your pipe)

Once it's set for 24 hours, pull them out and let them dry for at least 2 weeks before you have a look at them. Hopefully, that should be enough time.
 

Bob Wemm

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Bob I followed you to a point and then lost you. When you first did it and left for 6 weeks and then cut it you found the inside to not be black. But is a couple more weeks it was black??? What made it turn black inside over that short period of time that did not occur before that??? Hope you follow that question. Also we need photos sir. You know the rules here.:)

John.
Here are a couple of photos.

Bob
 

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Skie_M

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Started a trial last night ...

Took a small container full of ebonizing solution and I put in several odd shaped pieces of American Walnut as well as 2 small thin pieces of Eastern Redwood Cedar. I pulled a vacuum on the container with my Pump'n'Seal (I use this item regularly for vacuum marinating jerky... ) and forgot about it .... went to bed and just pulled the pieces out this morning.

Everything looks black on the outsides, waiting for them to dry before I start slicing anything open ... I'll cut 1 piece of each to see what they look like inside once they are dry today, and wait 2 weeks before I have another peek.
 

oldtoolsniper

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I use that solution to make vegetable tanned leather turn black, it penetrates all the way through just by soaking it. It has to be neutralized with a baking soda soak afterwards.

I wonder if that's a requirement for wood?

I have some in the vacuum pot as well to experiment.

I cut a lot of oak trees for firewood and find "bog oak" all the time from nails, bolts, fenceposts, etc that the tree grew around. The tannic acid in the tree reacts and turns the wood black. I'm not a fan of oak except as firewood.


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oldtoolsniper

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I believe you guys are on the right path.


Two hours. About forty minutes vacuum time and then soaked for a little over an hour. These were dried first in a food dehydrator. They are now in the oven at 200 to force dry them as if I were stabilizing them. I'll cut one in a few hours to see what the center is like.

The towel is some sort of pale green color. They are about pen blank sized pieces I roughed out with a drawknife on my shave horse.

These are Walnut from my firewood pile.




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robutacion

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I recall when you Bob were fighting with the thought and experimentations, and I never heard anymore of it until now so I'm pleased that you reach some results that you seem to be happy with.

I would think that if I had absolutely necessity of having black wood dyed straight through the woood, I would be achieving that by stabilising with the back dye however, I know for a fact that a great portion of my woods wouldn't soak all the wood cells black as those woods have very dense veins within that won't accept colours (filtered out) but, I would put some hope of some of the new woods I recently added to my list.

Dying wood only (water based, etc) would not resolve the issue that most soft woods that soak liquids well, are a little too soft for some type works but stabilising it, the problem would be resolved.

I should in fact try some of the new woods and see how well the accept dying.

I have Walnut, whatever the species that grow in this are (or in my case, trees that were planted at a local Walnut farm, long ago, I have never dyed it so I may try that also...!

Cheers
George
 

Skie_M

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Heh ... try dying the walnut a bright color to contrast with it's natural grain? :) (Or is that called bleaching?)

Here's the results from my lil experiment from yesterday and today ...



2nd from right is a whole piece of the cedar ... it's looking a lot more like bocote in this form.

There's another piece of it to the left a bit that's been cut on half, both cut sides facing the camera. It looks to have soaked better into the softer portions of the wood and made it very dark. It may have something to do with me soaking the cedar AND the walnut at the same time.

As for the walnut, everything else there is what that is. The thinner sections seem to have soaked the black color in much better, and the penetration is spotty in the thicker sections.

Top left you can see what looks like 2 large blocks, but those are just thick sections standing up on edge. The cut edge is on top, and you can see that part of it looks black, while part still looks brown.

Between the two pieces of cedar is a fairly leveled piece of walnut ... it's got a gorgeous black color to it. This is the one piece that I planed with my planer before sticking it in the pot. The far right and top pieces are walnut ... generally just thick pieces.


I'll see how well they've progressed next week, and then have another look the week after that.
 

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Bob Wemm

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Heh ... try dying the walnut a bright color to contrast with it's natural grain? :) (Or is that called bleaching?)

Here's the results from my lil experiment from yesterday and today ...



2nd from right is a whole piece of the cedar ... it's looking a lot more like bocote in this form.

There's another piece of it to the left a bit that's been cut on half, both cut sides facing the camera. It looks to have soaked better into the softer portions of the wood and made it very dark. It may have something to do with me soaking the cedar AND the walnut at the same time.

As for the walnut, everything else there is what that is. The thinner sections seem to have soaked the black color in much better, and the penetration is spotty in the thicker sections.

Top left you can see what looks like 2 large blocks, but those are just thick sections standing up on edge. The cut edge is on top, and you can see that part of it looks black, while part still looks brown.

Between the two pieces of cedar is a fairly leveled piece of walnut ... it's got a gorgeous black color to it. This is the one piece that I planed with my planer before sticking it in the pot. The far right and top pieces are walnut ... generally just thick pieces.


I'll see how well they've progressed next week, and then have another look the week after that.

Obviously there is a much better chance of achieving total black when a vacuum is pulled.
Like George said, most of our wood is tight grained and therefore not as welcoming to chemical/dye as an open grained wood.
I can see that I will have to go the "Vacuum system" soon.
Thanks for the feedback.

Bob.:)
 

oldtoolsniper

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Here's what happened with my couple hour experiment.

This is really dense walnut from a very large old tree. It appears as though even under vacuum I got very little penetration. This wood is also rived or split with the grain rather than saw cut for maximum strength. I use it for chair parts, nice dense wood.

I'm going to give it another try only longer.




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Bob Wemm

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Here's what happened with my couple hour experiment.

This is really dense walnut from a very large old tree. It appears as though even under vacuum I got very little penetration. This wood is also rived or split with the grain rather than saw cut for maximum strength. I use it for chair parts, nice dense wood.

I'm going to give it another try only longer.




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Yeah, that's about what I got first up, and that was after 4 - 6 weeks. I was so disheartened I left the pieces maybe 18 months, and they were black right through. I only soaked my strips, no pressure or vacuum.

Bob
 

oldtoolsniper

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I'm pretty sure that I failed to pull enough vacuum. My new pump arrives today. I was thinking through how to solve the issue and it dawned on me that my blanks floated up in the jar. Pretty sure this means they were not fully saturated of they would not have floated.

I'm pretty sure for my bentwood boxes this will work they are only 1/16" thick and are steam bent so they do get saturated.

Eliminating all the ways that don't work should get one to the way that does.


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Bob Wemm

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I'm pretty sure that I failed to pull enough vacuum. My new pump arrives today. I was thinking through how to solve the issue and it dawned on me that my blanks floated up in the jar. Pretty sure this means they were not fully saturated of they would not have floated.

I'm pretty sure for my bentwood boxes this will work they are only 1/16" thick and are steam bent so they do get saturated.

Eliminating all the ways that don't work should get one to the way that does.


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I'm sure you are right, I held my pieces below the fluid level, and if the wood is only 1/16 thick there should be no problem with penetration. The problem occurs when the thickness is more than 3/16.

Happy New Year.

Bob.
 

robutacion

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I'm pretty sure that I failed to pull enough vacuum. My new pump arrives today. I was thinking through how to solve the issue and it dawned on me that my blanks floated up in the jar. Pretty sure this means they were not fully saturated of they would not have floated.

I'm pretty sure for my bentwood boxes this will work they are only 1/16" thick and are steam bent so they do get saturated.

Eliminating all the ways that don't work should get one to the way that does.


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Floating wood after stabilisation is never a good sign however, there is a good chance that the wood floats after you take the lid out of the vacuum chamber and after the weight used are removed, this is where most of the "failures" happen, most of the soaking hapen only after the pump is turned off, leaving the blanks submerged as they were for at least a couple of hours can make all the difference, exceptions do apply but I make it a policy to keep the wood/blanks untouched for a few hours before they are removed and put to drain.

Another fundamental step is to make sure the wood goes in the oven for a few hours, the wood has to read 0%MC (moisture content) before is put in the vacuum chamber.

Trying with different woods is the way to go, one will do the job...!

Cheers
George
 

oldtoolsniper

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I'm pretty sure that I failed to pull enough vacuum. My new pump arrives today. I was thinking through how to solve the issue and it dawned on me that my blanks floated up in the jar. Pretty sure this means they were not fully saturated of they would not have floated.



I'm pretty sure for my bentwood boxes this will work they are only 1/16" thick and are steam bent so they do get saturated.



Eliminating all the ways that don't work should get one to the way that does.





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Floating wood after stabilisation is never a good sign however, there is a good chance that the wood floats after you take the lid out of the vacuum chamber and after the weight used are removed, this is where most of the "failures" happen, most of the soaking hapen only after the pump is turned off, leaving the blanks submerged as they were for at least a couple of hours can make all the difference, exceptions do apply but I make it a policy to keep the wood/blanks untouched for a few hours before they are removed and put to drain.



Another fundamental step is to make sure the wood goes in the oven for a few hours, the wood has to read 0%MC (moisture content) before is put in the vacuum chamber.



Trying with different woods is the way to go, one will do the job...!



Cheers

George


I'm positive the wood was dry, I use a food dehydrator and weigh my blocks until they lose no more weight. After that they still stay in for another 24 hours minimum.

I believe you are correct.

#1 I did not pull vacuum long enough

# 2 I should have just let them soak way longer after I released vacuum.

I really was shooting for a fast method to get solid black wood and I did not even come close. Perhaps a dual chamber would make it a fast process. Draw vacuum until the bubbles stop and release then immediately pressurize the chamber to force the wood to absorb the liquid.






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jttheclockman

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Just shooting some ideas out there because with the amount of wood being dyed in a chamber is not much so why not just buy black wood. I know Gabon ebony is very expensive but compare that to what you are all doing. African blackwood is also very black wood and less expensive.

Other alternatives. Now I have not seen it but have seen floors with it. That is black solid wood flooring. Now this stuff is usually an oak which has been chemically stained and when done in a factory it may have been forced deep into the wood. I am not sure but it maybe worth an investigation because you can get degrees of black in it.

One other suggestion is the use of Wenge. When that wood is finished it is pretty close to being black. Or at least if trying to stain maybe start with something like this so your color is getting there faster. It is a more open grain wood than walnut and closer to black in a raw stage than walnut.

Just some thoughts to go along with the steel wool experiment. Good luck. For my black wood I am buying Gabon ebony. Can not get any blacker wood than that. :)
 

Skie_M

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Hey, I still like the Massaccar Ebony ... :)


Has those golden/tan streaks running through the wood .... Just beautiful when the sun hits it!

And if I need something to look solid black on the outside, I'll grab some black paint and hit it with a coat or two between my CA layers....


What he and I were both aiming for was a look of a grained wood that is black all the way through. You can't really get that with ebony ... it's so densely grained that you really can't see much of a pattern, and if you finish it with CA you get nothing at all! Just a highly polished surface that looks EXACTLY like black plastic.

We want an alternative without having to spend the big bucks that looks black all the way through without requiring a ton of work, and still shows the grain patterning on examination... at least that's what I'm aiming for.


I already have a nice little supply of Gabon Ebony. I picked it up last year from here through another member ... a lot of it is in pen blank sizes and veneer strip sizes, but some of it is in bottle stopper and game call blank sizes.

It's gorgeous, rock hard, floats like lead, and solid black.
 

oldtoolsniper

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Good luck trying.:)


I went at this from another direction. I mixed some red dye in denatured alcohol. Drew it down under vacuum then let it soak all night. My thought here is that I can see the red dye against the wood and determine what sort of penetration I'm getting. I don't know but I think the alcohol will have the least effect on the wood expansion and contraction and should dry rather rapidly.


I realize each piece of wood is different as is each species. I'm trying to determine if it's even possible with good structurally sound wood.





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jttheclockman

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Good luck trying.:)


I went at this from another direction. I mixed some red dye in denatured alcohol. Drew it down under vacuum then let it soak all night. My thought here is that I can see the red dye against the wood and determine what sort of penetration I'm getting. I don't know but I think the alcohol will have the least effect on the wood expansion and contraction and should dry rather rapidly.


I realize each piece of wood is different as is each species. I'm trying to determine if it's even possible with good structurally sound wood.





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Trans tint dyes are some of the most powerful dyes for wood.

I do understand what you guys are trying to do. You want to be able to work the wood after it is dyed. It is always easier to work the wood and then dye if possible then you do not have to worry so much about penetration. I played around with dying wood for some birdhouse ornaments some time ago. I used rit dyes with alcohol and it work fine but again I turned the piece first and then dyed it. Have use trans tint dyes as well to shade woods and they too work well and are deep penetraing but not all the way through.

I also started a couple years ago trying to get into dying toothpicks and this turned out to be much harder than expected. But I had gotten some good advice back then but never got back into trying it. that is also on my to do list.

I wish you guys all the luck. I gave you guys all the suggestions I had. I will watch this thread as it unfolds.
 
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oldtoolsniper

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Jttheclocman,

I really don't even need wood that's black all the way through. I just found the concept to be interesting and thought I'd give it a go. Really the vacuum pump, chamber and time are doing the work in the background.

I guess I'm going to have to consult the wood guru if I can remember what stack the book is in. I doubt the direct answer is in there but it may give some clues.




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Skie_M

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I know this is an older thread, but today I just came across this video from 2013 .... The end consensus with it is, use India Ink for best penetration and solid black color.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0E7E6uSPJY

Several different methods were discussed and explored, including the standard ebonizing formula (iron acetate), adding concentrated tea for the tannic acid content to make it darker, use of leather dye, and finally use of the india ink made with alcohol and shellac. The india ink is the only one where the coloration effect should NOT affect any finish applied over it, while the other two may interact with the finish.
 

sbwertz

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Bob , don`t know if you have a stabilizing set-up or not , but I think maybe if you were to pull a good vacuum on the wood totally immersed in your solution for 4 hours or so until the bubbles stop , then release it and allow atmospheric pressure to force the liquid into the pores for a day , you might ? shorten the time frame from 2 years to a few months .

Mate, I wish I had a vacuum system.
Maybe next Christmas.

Bob
It won't pull a strong vacuum like a real vacuum system, but a foodsaver does a good job. I've used it with minwax stabilizer with considerable success. I have one that is only for the shop and another for the kitchen LOL. I use the canning jar attachment and submerge the pieces in the liquid then use the foodsaver to evacuate the jar. It seals with a regular canning jar lid.
 
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