Iron nitrate on curly maple


Senior User
I am making a frame for a pretty large photo print (20x36ish) for my son. It is curly maple (most llkely red maple) of medium curl. I decided to try using an old muzzle loading finish and I like the results so far.
The pic on the right shows a nearly finished sample on the top. Planed and then sanded to 220 grit, raised the grain with water and hit again with 220. I then dabbed the iron nitrate solution from Kibler longrifles on and let dry 30 minutes. At this stage the wood has a greenish cast as seen in the lower right.
I then proceeded to brand my forearm while using a heat gun to catalyze a reaction that changed the sample from the greenish tint to a much browner tone as seen in lower left.
To get the upper right/left sample I put on a coat of tried and true varnish oil. This brought out more warmth and brown/red tones. I think a coat or two of shellac might bring back some of the chatoyance. We will see.

So far I like the results. I have heard that the effect can vary between boards, so unless i plan on toning the entire piece, this may be only for smaller projects.


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Senior User
Very interesting...
I have had better luck amping up the chatoyance in wood with oil based finishes like Tried and True - or even WATCO Danish oil. Allow it to cure for a week or so - then you can shellac or lacquer over it. But the oil finishes really do make the grain pop.


I defiantly find there is a tonal difference between boards, especially in maple. If you are able to get boards cut from the same tree it should help if you are after an even tone. I have always used the vinegar and steel wool solution. I have heard that wetting with a strong black tea to raise the grain can add tannins and even out the tone / make darker. My experiments haven't concluded this though. You can get grey, blue grey, and even purple ish tones using this method. I personally love having the tonal variation from board to board. it often helps the curly grain pop out.

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