Ebony is a beautiful dark coloured wood ranging in colour from dark brown to jet black. However, because this wood originates from Africa it is very hard to obtain in size and quantity. This means we have to look at crafting suitable alternatives to Ebony. Fortunately, there are several ways of ebonizing wood and a popular method is by using a white vinegar solution.
The white vinegar solution is also known as iron water. It causes a chemical reaction with the tannins in the wood which leads to oxidisation. This has the effect of turning the wood black. In some cases, the colour may vary from dark grey to dark brown but this depends on the type of wood and the amount of tannin. To make the white vinegar solution, you will need the following materials.
White vinegar – Chinese supermarkets usually stock this in large quantities or you could purchase it online.
Steel wool – This must be 00 grade which can be purchased from any DIY store.
2 containers – These must have an airtight lid.
White vinegar mixing instructions
Pour a suitable amount of white vinegar into the 1st container.
Take 1 steel wool pad, break it into little pieces and add it to the vinegar.
If you have any old, rusty nails lying around you can also add these.
Seal the lid and let the mixture stand for a minimum of 3 days.
Now the white vinegar solution needs to be filtered.
Take the 2nd container and place a clean cloth over the top.
Pour the white vinegar solution from the 1st container into the 2nd one.
The cloth will catch all the bits of leftover steel wool and rusty nails.
What you are left with is the pure iron water solution.
*Please note if you do not filter the solution, you will end up with rust spots on your wood.
Iron water application
For best results, brew some tea (no milk or sugar) and brush this onto the piece of wood you are ebonizing. Leave this to soak in for 1 hour then brush on the iron water solution. You will instantly see the chemical reaction before your eyes. In a matter of seconds, the wood should have turned black.
This method works very well with Oak and Cedar because of the high tannin content in these woods. It may also work with other woods assuming you pre-treat the piece with tea. Black wood stains are thin on the ground but this is a simple, cost-effective method of recreating the look of ebony.