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That's right . . .  I am fuming some white oak with ammonia. This is a process that apparently was popular with some of the mission style/arts and crafts furniture makers years ago where white oak is exposed to ammonia and it darkens.

I am building a little cabinet out of quarter sawn white oak, and thought I would give this process a try. So, I procured some VERY high strength ammonia, poured some in a cup, and placed the cup and a scrap oak board inside a plastic storage container, and taped it all up. In just 24 hours, the wood got really dark! Darker than I really wanted it, to be honest. I put a stripe of masking tape over a portion of the piece, but the fumes went right through -- you can't even see where the tape was.

 

My question -- does anyone out here have any experience with fuming oak? I would like to get your input before I put my cabinet in a tent and start fuming again.

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Hey William!!  I saw the process and it looks really cool, but I've never done it.  You're using aqua ammonia?  I saw it on YouTube, maybe you could take a look there and see if it helps?

Thanks for the YouTube info, Justin. I did go and look at that. The ammonia I got is ammonium hydroxide, 25%, and it is the nastiest smelling stuff you can imagine.

I did a test piece, and exposed it for almost 24 hours. I was expecting kind of a warm, golden color, maybe a little bit orange. But my test piece turned more of a gray - almost ashen looking. It did make the "fire" in the grain stand out, but the color needs some work.

There is supposed to have been an article in Fine Woodworking #126 about the process, and I have about the first 110 issues, but not that one.

From what I have read elsewhere, though, 24 hours should have been about the right amount of time.

 

I think I will try a few more test pieces with shorter exposure times, see how that goes.

Well, good luck and make sure you let me know how it turns out and I will do a little research too.
Hi William, I went to www.woodworkersjournal.com and searched fuming wood and there was several good articles there about it, good luck

Thanks, Ray, for the info. I read several of the articles, and am a bit encouraged that some say that the gray color will turn more brown once a finish is applied.

 

One thing I have already found: you don't have to use very much ammonia, and it will maintain an even color without setting out multiple containers of ammonia. I believe that if my shop was made of white oak, I could fume the whole place with about cup of this stuff.

 

Woodworker's Journal looks like a great source of info - I will keep that in mind in the future.

 

By the way, several of the articles mentioned the difficulty of finding a source for ammonia. I found a place on line called Art Chemicals (www.artchemicals.com) which wasn't cheap, but they have some potent ammonia!

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