100 year old Process for the Ebonising of Wood

By H. C. Standage

Boil 1 pound of logwood chips 1 hour in 2 quarts of water. Brush the hot liquor over the work and lay it aside to dry. When dry, give another coat, still using hot. When the second coat is dry, brush the following liquor over the work: 1 oz. of green copperas to 1 quart of water, to be used when the copperas is all dissolved. For staining, the work must not be dried before the fire, but in the sunshine. If in a warm room then away from the fire.

Polishing the Work

To polish this work, first give a coating of very fine glue size, and when dry smooth off very lightly with No. 180 paper, only just enough to render smooth, but not to remove the black stain. Then make a rubber of wadding about the size of a walnut, moisten the rubber with French polish, cover the whole tightly with a linen rag, put one drop of oil on the surface and rub the work with a circular motion. When the work has received one coat, set it aside to dry for about an hour. After the first coat is laid on and thoroughly dry, it should be partly papered off with No. 180 paper. This brings the surface even and at the same time fills up the grain. Now give a second coat as before. Allow 24 hours to elapse, again smooth off and give a final coat as before. Now comes spiriting off; great care must be used here, or the work will be dull instead of bright. A clean rubber must be made as previously described, but instead of being moistened with polish, must be wetted with 90 per cent alcohol, placed in a linen rag screwed into a tight even-surface ball, just touched on the face with a drop of oil, and then rubbed lightly and quickly in circular sweeps all over the work, from top to bottom. For the fine ebony black stain, apple, pear and hazel woods are the best wood: to use. When stained black they are the most complete imitations of the natural ebony. For the stain take gall-apple 14 oz., rasped logwood 3 1/2 oz., vitriol 3 1/4 oz. For the second coating a mixture of iron filings 3 oz. dissolved in strong wine vinegar 1 1/2 pints is warmed, and when cool, the wood already blackened, is coated with it 2 or 3 times, allowing it to dry after each coating. A strong lye is now put into a suitable pot to which is added coarsely bruised gall-apples and blue Brazil shavings, and exposed for the same as the former to the gentle heat of an oven which will yield a good liquid.

Staining the Woods

The woods are now laid in the first named stain, boiled for a few hours, and left in it for 3 days. They are then placed in the second stain and treated as in the first. If the articles are not thoroughly saturated, they must be once more placed in the first bath and then in the second. The polish used for wood: that is stained black should be white (colourless), to which a little finely ground Prussian blue should be added.

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