Who Would Have Thought?

I restocked my lumber stores a couple of weeks back with some 14-inch-plus wide cherry, mahogany, and poplar boards. The cherry has an exceptional figure and is full of curl. Simply beautiful. The poplar board has some rainbow action going on at one end. The grain of the mahogany is somewhat wild. It has a lot of switchbacks that will require a bit of card scraper work to smooth out. Luckily it is fuzzy only on one side. I also picked up some red oak to have on hand. One day I’ll continue working on my version of the Waldo chair.

Some time back, while surfing the Internet, as I oft do, looking for 17th-century carving patterns, I happened upon a most unusual roundel. The carving was on a 16th-century Norman carved oak chest. I thought perhaps an adaptation would look great on a carved box.

Grabbing one of the newly acquired mahogany boards, I started laying things out.

In just a day or two, I had my version of the 16th-century decoration and a little something off the top of my head for the sides, ready to become a rather sizable box.

Now, still excited at how well the red oak of my triangular table turned out, I thought, what would happen if I put this mahogany in with some ammonia? I mean, fuming cannot be just for oak, can it? I set about resawing some pine to make till parts and assembling the box carcass. Then, I pulled the curtains tight, closed and locked my shop door, and introduced the mahogany to the ammonia. I was clandestine due to being afraid the “woodworking police” would barge in and thwart my efforts. After all, fuming only works on white oak. Right? Well, not really.

Fuming works on all wood to some degree. Tannins in the wood react with ammonia to change the color. The darker in color wood is, the more tannin it contains. The lighter in color wood is, the less tannin it contains. I increased the tannin level of my mahogany by spritzing on a concentrated solution of black tea! I boiled six tea bags in about a quart of water, reducing by approximately 50%. I wet the mahogany with the still-warm tea solution and placed it in a plastic bin with a tight-fitting lid. And waited!

Twenty-six hours later, I had the beginning of a most beautifully colored mahogany box (seen here with an initial coat of boiled linseed oil and turpentine). Wouldn’t you agree?

Pleased with the fuming effect on the mahogany, I thought, why not continue and fume the poplar lid and bottom. WHAT? You can’t ammonia-fume poplar! We’ll see.

Stay tuned!

3 thoughts on “Who Would Have Thought?

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