Ebonized Oak Tueller Wall Easels

Like most woodworkers, I’m in love with the natural beauty of wood. Accordingly, I tend to favor a simple hand rubbed oil finish to best show off the hues and grain patterns of the easels that I build. However, I also recognize that some artist studios are better equipped with sleeker, more modern furnishings.

So after much experimentation, I’ve settled on a process for finishing some wall easels with a deep, lustrous black finish. Rather than a stain or paint, this appearance is the result of a chemical reaction between iron acetate and tannins naturally present in some species of wood (red oak, in this case). This process is called ebonizing. Whereas opaque stains and paints create a closed surface that obscures the wood, ebonizing leaves an open surface, allowing the wood grain to remain visible.

Closeup image of a Tueller Wall Easel with ebonized oak finish

In theory, the process of ebonizing wood is pretty straightforward — dissolve some rusty nails in vinegar, then apply this solution to the wood. In a matter of minutes, the wood turns dark. In practice, there’s quite a bit more effort involved to achieve a satisfying result.

While some pieces of oak may turn quite black when wiped with iron acetate, others might be limited to a chalky gray. To obtain a more uniform black, I use a couple of tricks. First, I increase the tannins by applying a solution of water and quebracho tree bark powder (a material used primarily for tanning animal hides). Secondly, I apply a water-based aniline dye to further deepen the effect. When wood has been dampened, its soft grain swells and raises, resulting in a rough surface. This means that extra sanding in between applications is in order to maintain a nice smooth surface.

Closeup image of a Tueller Wall Easel with ebonized oak finish

Once the parts have all been ebonized, I assemble the easel and then wipe it down with a few passes of danish oil (polymerized linseed oil with a light varnish). This makes the surface of the wood more durable, easier to clean and provides a nice satin sheen.

Because this process is quite time consuming, I only plan on making a limited numbers of easels with the ebony finish. However, it can be requested for an additional cost.

Interested In An Ebonized Oak Wall Easel?

If none appear in stock, please sign up for product availability notifications or contact me directly to get in line for the next batch of wall easels.

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