Thursday, January 14, 2016

Have you ever made wood stain?

The next logical step in finishing Alki Point is the exterior. I've been playing around in my mind with colors, textures, and finishes, but nothing yet has cemented the decision. I'm definitely going in two directions, and one of them employs vertical wood siding. 


Have you ever made wood stain using the apple cider vinegar/steel wool method? White vinegar and rusty nails? How about coffee or tea? Well, I never have, but I plan to do some experimenting this weekend!

I read a great blog post from A Piece Of Rainbow. She tested several wood staining methods on several wood species. The great thing about all of them? No smelly chemicals! All of her methods used natural ingredients, and I bet most of us already have them at home! That means, it's almost free! I like that!

HBS/Miniatures.com has a little tutorial on this topic, so that tells me it must be a tried and true method for miniaturists.

For my experiment, I am using the Apple Cider Vinegar and Steel Wool concoction. I want to achieve a very dark brown (to compliment the wood floors in Alki Point) or a very dark and weathered grey (this is a common finish seen in wood siding here in the Northwest). The Apple Cider Vinegar is supposed to achieve a darker stain. How handy is that? It is just what I found in my cupboard!

I started with a non metallic container. Apparently, this is very important. The acid in the vinegar reacts with metal, and will ruin any metal container. I had a Rubbermaid salad dressing bottle, so that's what I used.

I took a piece of steel wool, about the size of an S.O.S. pad and dropped it in the bottle. My steel wool does not have the blue sticky soap stuff like S.O.S. pads. It is the kind that woodworkers use to sand fine finishes. It would be interesting to see how the soap effected the stain... Then I poured in the Apple Cider Vinegar until the steel wool was completely covered.

Everything I read about the process said to leave the lid open. Not because the metal and acid would cause a dangerous reaction of any kind, but because the process that is happening is actually oxidation! The pair needs air to work! Man, science just geeks me out!

Reportedly, the longer you leave them stewing, the darker the stain will be. After 24 hours, I am not seeing much change in the color of the liquid in the bottle. Is that because the color of Apple Cider Vinegar is already so rusty looking? Time will tell. Unfortunately, I don't have any White Vinegar on hand. It would be interesting to watch the color change happen. Oh well. Someday...

I'll probably just let them hang out together until Saturday. Then I'll try the stain on a couple of different scrap pieces. In the blog post, Ananda added concentrated brewed coffee to her vinegar stain and got darker results. The tannins react with the wood.

I may just experiment with that a little, too. The miniatures.com tutorial recommends straining the liquid to eliminate the tiny shards of steel that are left behind. I like it! I'll get out my trusty funnel, put a coffee filter in it, then pour it into another sealable container. Gosh! I hope I made enough!



18 comments:

  1. I always use white vinegar. There usually isn't much change in the color of the solution. If the grey comes out too dark, you can add more vinegar to get a lighter color. My experience has been that the wood starts out grey but then turns brown after a few months.

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    1. Interesting... So the stain continues to evolve over time. Any issue with putting varnish on it?

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  2. I used Pepper's post as a guide when I did my vinegar/steel wool mixture. Check out my 1:24 cottage roof post to see it full strength. I keep a mason jar of it on my work bench to age wood in a flash. It makes your fingers rusty and stinking so I use tweezers to dip into my jar when I can. And a dedicated cruddy old brush too. The metal shards dust off when dry if you're too tired to strain the mixture. And give it a good few hours to dry on the wood because the change seems slow then POOF your wood is dark suddenly!

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    1. Great tips, Kat! Thank you!
      I will go search for her post, then look at yours too!
      Okay - use gloves - check!
      I have two puppies, so I have to be really careful to contain my messes. They like to taste everything!
      I'll take some over time photos so I can see and post the changes.

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  3. I have not tried this yet, but have read much about it. I'm crossing my fingers for you and am anxiously awaiting your results post.

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    1. I get so excited to try new things! I have a couple different Minwax stains, but I hate working with them! So stinky, messy and hard to clean up!

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  4. Hello Jodi,
    I can't wait to see the results of the experiment. I have never tried this myself!
    Big hug
    Giac

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    1. Thanks Giac! Fingers crossed that it is not only a fun experiment, but produces good results, too! What is life without risks, right?

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  5. Have you checked out Casey's minis. I put "vinegar" in her search section and it pulled out quite a few posts about her experience with the vinegar stain. She talks about explosions and crud and mess and stink. All important things to know. Thanks for the other links, this does sound like the way to go. I can not stand the smell of oil based paints or stains. They give me a headache. Another great post!

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Shelley! I am over now reading all of the "vinegar" posts. It seems like the reaction for Casey is happening because she is not leaving the lids open. That seems to be very important, so I will be sure to emphasize that in the follow up post. Mine is close to 48 hours now, lid open, and there is no foam. It still smells like apple cider vinegar, but not nearly as strong.

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  6. I look forward to seeing your results. This is some thing I have always wanted to try.

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    1. Oh this is great, Janice! I hope my results guide you without you having to suffer any bad consequences!

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  7. It is so frustrating to try a new technique, and then it does not turn out. But eventually, the light bulb comes on and a solution is found. I have all the confidence that you will figure out a way to make the roof turn out!

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    1. Thanks Nancy! I got very stubborn yesterday, and I think what I've been doing is going to turn out much better! I'll do a follow up post as soon as I can get it finished up!

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  8. I have been brewing my own aging solutions from vinegar and steel wood for many years now. But being a woodworker I am also interested in the properties of the wood I use. The color the wood turns definitely has some bearing on the strength of the iron/vinegar solution. However that is not the only factor involved. The secondary factor is how much natural tannin a particular wood species contains. Basswood contains very little tannin so you will not ever get a dark brown color developed on it from a vinegar and iron solution, in fact you will only get a mild grey tone ratherthan a brown tone. You will need to use other means of staining it to achieve a dark brown on basswood, maple and any other wood that is low in tannin content. However cedar, oak, black cherry and redwood are naturally very high in tannin and will turn dark with a vinegar and iron solution. In fact they will quickly turn nearly black if the solution is truly strong. But once again while it will make it darker it will be darker from the grey color and the solution will not develop a brown tone.

    So is there a way to make an all natural, water based, DIY dark brown stain? Yes there is, you just have to simmer in water some black walnut husk for a number of hours until you get a dense and rich solution, then strain and store in a sealed container. Unfortunately not all of us have a black walnut tree nearby although there are some in the area where I live they are not native here. You can watch someone making a rich, dark brown stain from black walnut husks it in this youtube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_75gFv-SHIs

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    1. Hi Karen! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences! I have changed my expectations, as I am just using basswood. A weathered grey result is also a welcomed for this project, but I'd love to work with other, nicer woods on a future build!
      I am not sure if we have black walnut here in the Northwest - I'll definitely do a little research, though, as we are often exploring nearby forests. I wonder what would happen if some of the liquid tannin used in the wine industry were added into the vinegar and steel solution. Hmmm... Another fun experiment!

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    2. There are some black walnut trees in the Pacific Northwest neighborhoods, you just have to watch out for them, not too difficult as they do get very large. You can purchase real black walnut materials that are pre-processed into a powder from stores that sell to spinners and weavers.

      I think if you soaked wood in a tannin solution it might work but then again you will probably just warp the wood which is something you don't want to happen.

      You can buy black cherry in the lumber yards, black cherry is what they are selling as hardwood lumber. Stay away from the pale colored stuff from the outer perimeter of the tree and go for the richer colored interior wood. Cherry will get a little darker every year as it ages until it becomes a warm rich brown. The more UV light on it the faster the color change. Of course that color change is true of many wood species. For smaller quantities of cherry wood in thinner pieces head to Woodcraft or Rockler. I buy it in large planks from Crosscut Hardwoods in Seattle. They are in the Boeing Field area. Then I cut it into small sized lumber myself.

      As far as getting specialty woods such as Cherry sized for use in making miniature furniture you can contact S H Goode and Co. They had a sales table at the last Seattle N.A.M.E convention but I don't know if they are going to be there this year as well.
      http://shgoode.com/
      S.H. Goode & Sons Workshop
      Steve & MaryAnna Goode
      PO Box 2575
      Atascadero, CA 93423
      Voice: (805) 460-9663
      Fax: (805) 460-0424

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    3. This is such great information, Karen! Thank you for posting here for everyone to see! I just took a peek at the Rockler web site, and I am so excited to explore the wood section a bit! There is sooooo much to learn beyond the basic basswood and walnut I've worked with!

      I used to work at Associated Grocers (now Unified Grocers) and drive right by Crosscut often. I know right where it is at! My dad, brother and husband are at various levels with woodworking, and they know it well, too! Should have thought of them for resources for info!

      The shgoode web site is also a treasure I'll explore! I do hope to meet Steve and MaryAnna at this years show! We lived in the Atascadero area for the first 10 years that we were married!

      Thanks again for all of the info and helpful tips! I'd love to meet you one day, as well!

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