WHAT IS EBONISING?

Ebonising wood is a process dating back, oooo... ages, to when olde worlde furniture-makers would blacken ordinary wood to make it resemble exotic and expensive African ebony, as used by fancy-pants posh folk with money to burn.

Small pile of ebony blocks

In a nutshell, it involves taking a piece of cheaper, easier-to-find wood and soaking it with a special solution which seeks out naturally-occurring tannins in the wood. A chemical reaction then begins between the two within the cells themselves, actually changing the colour of the material down to its component atoms and other tiny bits, rather than just coating the fibres with colour like stain or dye would do.

 

The result isn't stained or coloured wood, it's ebonised wood.

Now Staffordshire Black has taken recipes used by the moustachioed gentlemen of yesteryear and monkeyed around with them, adding an extra ingredient or two to provide extra oomph. We've called this, not surprisingly, Ebonising Juice.

BUT WAIT!

 


That's all well and good but the problem is that not all wood contains anywhere near enough natural tannin to make that chemical reaction effective, so that's why we have also come up with a second solution - Tannin Juice.

Slapping some of our lovely strong Tannin Juice on to your wood first and allowing it to soak in will give the Ebonising Juice something to get its teeth into, supercharging all of that sciency stuff and ebonising your wood before your very eyes.

Composite shot of turned beech, showing three different stages of colour change during ebonising.

The benefit is that the more alternate coats of each solution you apply, the more your wood will ebonise, helping you control the outcome.

So there you have it - that's ebonising. You can read more about the actual process of doing it here.

THERE'S SOMETHING ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW

Now, importantly, the issue with using the word 'black' in association with ebonising is that it can be something of a misnomer.

Yes, your wood might turn as black as coal after the process, and that is certainly the go-to description used by many when discussing it, but there are boat-loads of variations possible around that.

It all depends on the colour and species of wood you're using, how many rounds of juice applications you give it, the amount of tannin already present, the density of the fibres in that particular piece, the grain, moisture content, the light and angle at which it's being viewed and other variables including, but not limited to, your favourite movie from the 80s and what you had for lunch last Thursday.

Oak bowl ebonised with Staffordshire Black
beech and oak pedestal bowl ebonised with Staffordshire Black

All of that is to say black-black is not - and never has been - a guaranteed outcome of ebonising.

Yes, your finished (eg. oiled) work will be blackened but it's possible that beneath that will be a subtle colour or two. Deep, dark blues and purples are not unheard of, especially before applying the final finish, and tones of red are not unusual either.

It's these variations that give ebonised wood fascinating depth and beauty, whereas a flat 'black' might look two-dimensional and a bit... underwhelming... in certain circumstances.

FINALLY

As is often the way with wood finishes and treatments, the key word is 'experiment', so don your lab coat, spark up that Bunsen burner and try different things out!

You can tell us all about it on Facebook and Instagram by tagging @StaffordshireBlack and we pinky-promise not to steal your ideas as our own (unless they're really good and we decide we should have thought of them first).