The technique of ebonizing came about during the 1800’s in the reign of Queen Victoria and had much to do with the regular influx of furniture being imported to the West from Eastern Asia. It has waxed and waned as a popular technique but could have increased relevance as we experiment with and seek out options to endangered tree species.

The truest technique for ebonizing uses iron and bark tea solutions, which produce a deep, durable stain.


The wood ebonizing process depends on the chemical interaction between the tannic acid in the wood and iron oxide but when woods are not naturally rich in tannic acid there are ways around the problem using added tannic acid or bark teas. In this way it may be possible to use woods that are really well suited to the physical demands of, for example pegs, whilst not naturally having a satisfactory appearance. Anyone could thus spare the rare tropical timbers and make use of what is not endangered but is locally available.

Using iron oxide creates an integral stain with the wood of choice, not at all superficial, and so is very light-fast and even remains black during the fitting process when wood is shaved off.