In this video, I show a historical method for darkening white oak furniture with industrial strength Ammonia, inside a makeshift plastic fuming tent, and I do it on a pair of Shaker style quartersawn white oak end tables. My most recent video & article showed how these end tables fit together (here) and I previously shared a video & article on experimenting with lower-strength home center ammonia to fume an oak Moravian footstool (here).
So what is Ammonia Fuming?
For those who aren’t familiar with what ammonia fuming is, it is a chemical method that furniture makers use to deeply darken and bring out the nice figure in certain woods, typically prior to adding a finish.
The furniture is placed in a confined space, and Ammonia, or Ammonium Hydroxide, is left in a little container for a period of time. The ammonia isn’t applied directly to the wood. The ammonia fumes react with the tannins in the wood and darken the wood. White oak is the wood of choice for ammonia fuming because this wood has a particularly high tannin content. Quartersawn white oak, in particular, works nicely because ammonia fuming brings out the figure and “ray flecks”. Several other kinds of wood also react with ammonia fuming, including cherry, birch, maple, and butternut.
Many woodworkers (including myself) prefer ammonia fuming over staining because stain generally sits on the surface of the wood, and a ding or scratch can expose the unstained wood below. But ammonia gasses penetrate deeper into the wood, which allows a repair without having to darken the wood around the ding or scratch. Stain can also be absorbed unevenly in different parts of the furniture. You can read more about the benefits of Ammonia Fuming over staining here.
Learn more about wood staining
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