How to Create Black Wood Finishes

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The best black wood finish you can have is a natural finish on a project made of ebony. Since ebony is very expensive and quite difficult to machine, the next best solution is a process called "ebonizing," or creating an ebony-type finish for your project. Black walnut, a species of wood that resembles ebony, is your best choice for creating black wood finishes, as it is quite dark and takes a stain very well.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper
  • India ink
  • Soft paintbrush
  • Clear wood finish

Preparation

  • Sand your project with progressively finer grades of sandpaper. Start with 80-grit if necessary, then 100-grit, then 120-grit, until you reach 150-grit. Each grade of paper should remove all of the scratches left by the previous grade. Since the wood is going to be stained rather than painted, be sure there are no cross-grain scratches. Do not polish the wood with a grit finer than 150 or it may not absorb the stain evenly.

  • Wet the entire project with water, then allow it to dry completely. This procedure will raise the grain of the wood. The grain must be raised and sanded again because you will be using a water-based stain for ebonizing.

  • Sand the item once again using the 150-grit sandpaper. When the item becomes wet again with the stain, the grain will not raise.

Ebonizing

  • Stain the wood with India ink. Use a soft paintbrush rather than a rag. Do not rub the stain off as you would with an oil-based stain. Allow the ink to dry overnight.

  • Apply a sealer coat of clear finish. This can be the first coat of the same material that you will use for your final finish, or it can be one that is designed to be a sealer.

  • Rub out the sealer with 220-grit (or finer) finishing sandpaper until the finish is dull and it feels smooth to the touch. Be careful not to sand through the sealer on the edges and corners.

  • Apply your final clear finish as instructed by the product's manufacturer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Purchase India ink in pints or quarts (see resources).
  • If you happen to sand though your sealer to the bare wood on exposed corners, touch up those areas with a black felt-tip marker before applying the final finish.

References

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