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Old 08-05-2011, 02:01 PM   #1
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Ebonizing wood paneled walls?

The Victorian house I just bought has a master bedroom covered in large, unfinished wood panels and wood trim. I don't really like the pale color of the wood panels (I prefer dark walls in bedrooms), but I'd like some grain to show through and I think painting them opaque would just silly somehow. So I'm entertaining the thought of ebonizing them (the old-fashioned way, by putting rusty nails in vinegar solution and brushing a few coats on to react with the tannins in the wood). The problems, though, are 1) will I have to figure out how to remove the trim first so it doesn't soak through the trim? 2) I don't know what kind of wood the panels are, so I don't know how much tannin it has in it, and 3) the ceiling is covered with more intricate trim, and antique ceramic tiles, and I don't want to disturb the tiles, which have lived through many earthquakes as is (will the ebonizing solution soak through the tiles, and if so, would it even affect them, or just wipe clean?). Is there an easier, low-toxin option to stain the walls dark without removing the trim? I have to admit, I love the idea of making my own simple stain using all the rusty nails left in the shed, especially being an antique process, but I'll take other recommendations.

If I have to remove all the trim and reinstall it, this may take a looooooooong time, since I'm not a very handy gal. I've attached a picture of part of the room. Fabric in the foreground is a close approximation of my comforter fabric, and I put in an inset of how the previous owner, an elderly folk artist, decorated the closet door. He never finished this room before he passed away, and I'd like to do something appropriate with it. The walls in here look really bland compared to the rest of the house, which is more...high contrast, and mostly I'd like the trim to stand out from the background, since he went to the trouble to install it.

(I know a lot of people will be horrified by the thought of me not wanting to put up drywall, paint it white, and take down all the tiles, but to each his own).
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Old 08-05-2011, 07:13 PM   #2
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Hey Noob, not familiar with ebonizing, but it sounds interesting. Firstly, you can't be sure that the wood is open enough to accept any stain. It may be sealed, it could be shellac, poly, even wax finish on it. As far as your other concerns, you'll simply have to mask everything to protect it and work carefully. I would try it behind a bureau or something that blocks an area from view permanently. Keep us posted.


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Old 08-05-2011, 07:36 PM   #3
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I have a feeling the rusty nail thing is a fantasy, but if it works let me know.
I also think that what you have now is not raw, so it wouldn't work even if it could.
You could make a stain/ varnish mix and go over the existing finish- - basically grain it, but this is very far from easy.

If you must go real dark- I do think painting is your best/ easiest solution. You could use a thinned out version and make it show through more, but that is very similar to the stain/ varnish thing.
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Old 08-05-2011, 10:16 PM   #4
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very interesting room. what are your plans for the trim? i dont think that you would have to remove the trim but you may want to protect it first with what ever finish you decide to go with and then proceed with the walls. im not an expert on wood but if i had to guess, i would say birch. i understand a little about tanins as far as iron reacting with tanic acid in wood and causing a black stains like on a cypress wood fence. im sure your technique with nails and vinegar can work due to the fact that wood was being stained long before paint stores arrived. you will need iron non-coated nails, so no stainless, glue or galvanized. i dont think that it would be a good ideal to use this room as a place to practice this staining technique. i would first find out the type of wood and buy a sheet to practice on. you will probably need to make and record a few different blends of this stain to acheive the results that you are looking for. when you do decide on a blend, you should make more than you need to avoid trying to duplicate it midway through your project. i agree with the others that this room may have some type of clear sealer or protector on it now which would prohibit it from accepting stain. you could test a few random areas to see if the wood accepts water or repels it. if it can be stained, i would reccomend some sort of sealer to protect it. sealer will change the look of your finished product so you should check the results on your practice board. you may get better advice if you post this in the wood working forum at the bottom of this page. keep us informed on your results.

Last edited by mustangmike3789; 08-05-2011 at 10:22 PM.
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