Iron & Vinegar

Salt & Pepper Finish

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Apply India ink with a rag or brush. India ink is great for ebonizing wood.

Wipe on white gel stain to fill the pores. Continue wiping until the stain is completely removed from the surface.

ANY WOOD THAT HAS VISIBLE PORES IS A CANDIDATE for a two-color finish. The basic process is to stain the wood one color and then fill the pores with another color. Using black and white on walnut is one of my favorites. Walnut blackens beautifully and whitening its pores creates delicate, graceful grain patterns. If your project is a lidded box or container, add interest by leaving the inside a natural walnut color.

The technique

Finish-sand the workpiece to 220 grit, making sure that no sanding scratches remain. Then apply coats of India ink (Photo 1). India ink (available at is an excellent material for ebonizing wood—it's easy to apply (wear gloves!), dries in less than half an hour and it won't fade. Up to three coats of ink may be required to achieve a uniform black surface. Let the ink dry completely before recoating.

Color the pores with white gel stain (Photo 2). Apply the gel stain with a clean white rag. Cover the piece evenly, then immediately wipe across the grain to pack the pores and completely remove the excess stain from the surface. Allow the stain to dry completely. If the pores aren't evenly filled, repeat the staining process.

Pale topcoats such as lacquer and blonde shellac help to preserve the white color in the pores. Do not use finishes that add an amber tone.

Iron & Vinegar Finish

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