Iron nitrate on curly maple


Corporate Member
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.


New User
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.
I use this method on figured maple for axe handles and tomahawk handles, working on a gunstock as well. It is a very old technique and does vary between different boards, but most stuff I do with it is single lumber use anyways. I like the old look it gives.


Corporate Member

I sounds like you are familiar with ferris nitrate coloring and adjusting. Before you put oil on the solution you must neutralize the color coat or it will turn the color of the head in this picture.

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