Finishes – Part 3


Knave he was – cheat at cards, blackleg on the turf – but forgery! that crime was new to him.
— Edward Bulwer-Lytton, What Will He Do With It? (1858)

Having dabbled in deceit by using red dye on the alder and cherry, it was now time to go all-in by fraudulently making ash look like ebony.  Why?  Because 1) I didn’t like the color tones of ash next to the cherry and alder; 2) two of the legs are heartwood and two sapwood, so even the color of the four legs didn’t match; 3) it helps the top “float” visually; 4) I like it.

There are various ways to go about this — including the ever-popular home chemistry experiment with vinegar and steel wool — but my choice is india ink; specifically Speedball Super Black, which is carbon pigment in a shellac solution.  Since the legs will be a fairly large surface area to cover, I bought a lifetime supply for about $12.

Brush it on; instant black.  There are some downsides, however.  The water raises the grain, so you need to sand afterwards, but it’s such a thin coating you have to be careful not to sand through.  Water?  What water?  Well it turns out that the shellac is “aqueous borated shellac”, which uses water rather than alcohol as the carrier.  Other than that, you should wear gloves and protect any surfaces that you don’t want to turn black.

Now, ash has coarse grain which obviously shows through, while the grain of ebony is often so tight it looks more like plastic.  So this forgery isn’t going to fool anyone who knows what real ebony looks like.

After the india ink was dry and sanded, I wiped on a coat of boiled linseed oil.