Last month we featured an article by extraordinary woodworker, Charles Neil, showing how to create antique finishes. Below is the second part of the article. Before reading the article, take a look at Charles’s latest project, a gorgeous coffee table made from “junk wood.” It looks so far from being “junk” and is really a stunning piece of sculpture. We love the “bird’s nest” below the table.
Charles loves to experiment with finishes, and use his knowledge to play with techniques, wood and coatings. We can all learn from his ideas. Here are some great tips from a great finisher:
This is a piece of 8/4 cherry just to show the technique. I like to take a power carver or carving chisel and "bark" the edges of slabs and so forth. Then give it a light coat of finish and glaze it dark, it gives it that "hewn, barky look," and it’s really nice if you're into slabs and so forth as you can sort of free form it the way you want and get a nice complimentary edge treatment.
Here is a piece of tiger maple I jigsawed to a "natural form" and then used the same technique.
This is a piece of tiger maple that I oxidized. The brown was done with a mixture of vinegar and steel wool let soak for a day or so. The more steel wool and the longer you let it soak the more intense the color will be.
The bluish/steel look is done with Ferrous Sulfate, which is an iron supplement you can get at any drug store, just dissolve 5 or 6 tablets in a pint of water and you're good to go. In both cases it’s a reaction with the tannins in the wood.
However, not all woods have sufficient tannins to react, but we can cure that. Boil some green tea bags, (the real stuff) and make it really strong. I usually use about 3 or 4 bags to the pint, and apply and let dry before applying the vinegar or Ferrous sulfate. The tea adds tannins to the wood; I have also heard that strong black tea will do the same thing.
This is a piece of yellow pine that has been wire brushed with the grain then given the green tea and the vinegar solution).
This is the same yellow pine with the tea and Ferrous Sulfate. You will note in both cases how the strength of the tea, as well as the solutions, affect the color. The nice thing about the techniques here is that they are safe, nonflammable and can be enjoyed and used in either the home shop or at work.