Ebonizing Wood

Ebonizing wood
Turning wood from brown to black
Deep deep wood grain seep

I was able to get back into the wood shop this last week to ebonize the ash coat rack I started a while ago. It worked! From a few household ingredients, I was able to make a simple piece of ash look like ebony.

Ebony :: a very dense wood...intensely black...expensive...sinks in water

(I followed instructions from an article in Popular Woodworking - "Ebonizing Wood" by Brian Boggs (7/06/09) Please see article for more information!)

What You'll Need
  • One quart of Heinz white vinegar
  • (in a plastic bottle)
  • One clean, large-mouth quart jar
  • One pad of #0000 steel wool
  • One stainless steel spoon for stirring
  • One basket-type coffee filter
  • One sieve
  • Quebracho bark powder
  • One pint jar (for mixing)
  • Two small containers (quart jar lids are big enough) or squirt bottles
  • Paper towels or two brushes
  • Latex gloves

Van Dyke’s Taxidermy
800-843-3320 or
  • 2 lbs. bark tan & dye (quebracho extract) #01347179, $6.39
Price correct at time of publication.

The Process

1) (1 week before) Make the iron solution. Wash steel wool in soap and hot water to remove oil. Place clean steel wool in a plastic bottle containing white vinegar. (I used an old Gatorade bottle.) Poke holes in the lid to let the gas escape. Will stink. Steel wool should start dissolving instantly. Took about 3 days to dissolve completely. Then, filter the iron solution - pour it through a coffee filter placed in a sieve and into a plastic spray bottle.

2) Make tea bark solution. 1 tablespoon tea bark + 1 pint of hot water. (Mix tea bark in small amount of hot water first to dissolve, then add remaining hot water.) You can make this solution right before you need it. Pour into a different plastic spray bottle.

3) Sand wood. Raise grain at least twice. (OK...when I got to this step, I had no idea what it meant. I am new to this woodworking lingo. Nick had to explain it to me and then it made perfect sense to do.) Sand wood using #220 or #320 (don't go any finer). Then, raise the grain - wipe wood lightly with damp cloth. Let dry, sand to remove raised grain. Repeat a couple times. Wood should be super smooth now.

4) Saturated wood with tea bark solution. (The fun part...with pictures!)

Spray wood with tea bark solution. Wipe lightly with a clean cloth to spread solution. Saturate wood. (This raises the tannin content in the wood - similar to the tannins in leather - needed for the ebonizing reaction to take place.)

Repeat many times to ensure saturation.

Be patient.

Yeah! It is ready to ebonize!

Wood should still be damp - there should be no puddles on the wood's surface.

5) Lightly wipe on the iron solution.

Spray a CLEAN cloth (or paper towel) with iron solution. Wipe wood lightly in the direction of the wood grains. Use a new cloth frequently - you want the chemical reaction to happen in the wood grains not on your cloth!

OOPS! I thought it would be a good idea to simple spray the wood. Bad idea. It made uneven black speckles!

Ahh!! Go away spots! Short-cuts never work...
Ok. I got it evened out. Phew! Next time, I'll wipe until it all turns black, then I'll spray. :)
Yes! Let dry for about an hour.

6) Lightly buff with a clean cloth.

This gets the chalky residue off of the surface and polishes it a bit.

7) Tea rinse. Spray wood with more of the tea solution and rinse the wood like you would dishes. This tea rinse helps set the chemical reaction.

8) Let dry. Buff with a clean cloth.

9) Water rinse. Use clean water to rinse wood. This will remove any residue on the surface off the wood.

10) Let dry overnight.

11) To finish and protect the wood - I applied two coats of Lindseed Oil. Then, I rubbed on some Paste Wax and buffed the wood with a clean cloth. Woohoo! Nice and shiny!

The Results


Ebonizing wood
Nicer than using black paint
Dark as night - wood grain in sight!

Hope you all enjoyed my ebonizing endeavors!


  1. The coat rack is simply beautiful! It truly is as nice as the photo shows. Hanna, you made the whole process very understandable. I love your little comments ... makes it seem real and doable. You're on to something here!

  2. Your ebonized coat hanger is delicious. The brushed metal "hookers" create a lovely contrast of texture and overall a very smooth, clean-lined piece.

    I think you might enjoy this site

    It's similiar to this site that I check frequently for inspiration ---> http://notcot.org , but the craft site is more your cup of tea.

  3. I think I'll use your instructions, instead of Brain Boggs'. :)
    - A woodworker.


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