Aging Wood with Baking Soda


Marc: The Wood Whisperer is sponsored by Powermatic and Clear Vue Cyclones. Did you know you could use baking soda to change the color of wood? Well, you can. (scrubbing sound) (blowing sound) Pretty. (jazzy music) In woodworking, we use
stain to enhance the natural beauty of wood, and
sometimes to make wood look like something that it’s not. The stuff we typically
use are coloring agents that deposit color on
top of the wood fibers, or allow it to absorb
into the wood fibers. There’s another class of
stains that you might not be familiar with, and
those are chemical stains, whereby putting this
material onto the wood, you actually get a chemical reaction that creates the color. That’s exactly what baking soda does. Let me show you how it works,
and we’ll do some test boards. I’ve got a cup of warm water
here, and you could use distilled water if you want
to be really picky about it. I’m going to add some baking
soda, about a tablespoon. The quantities are
probably highly variable. You can experiment a little bit and see what works best for you. I’ve got some maple, some
cherry and some mahogany. Let’s see how it affects the wood. I’m just going to essentially
paint it onto the surface with a foam brush. After about 10 minutes, you can see, we don’t have much color
change on the maple, decent color change on the cherry, and quite a color change on the mahogany. Let’s apply some oil based
finish, and that will actually give us a better
perspective on where this will go, after finish is applied. Of course, I’m applying finish
on the area that has not had the baking soda treatment too, just so we can see what
that would look like. You can see, there’s quite
a variation in how much color change took place. The maple doesn’t have very much at all, maybe a little darker, but not much to it. The cherry, a medium
amount of change here. We’ve got a nice aged cherry look, kind of fast forwards what
nature would do on its own. The mahogany definitely got darker, right? A little bit of a deeper red, I even see a little bit of a purple
hue in there, which I don’t know if that’s a good thing,
but it is what it is. Why are these different? Because the reaction taking place here, is between the baking soda and molecules in the wood known as tannins. Some woods have more tannins than others. Maple is very light on tannins. Cherry is known to have a decent
amount and mahogany as well. Depending on the wood, you may
get a different color reaction. That leads into the reason
why, you might be wondering, why doesn’t everybody use this if you
get such great color effects from it? Well, you don’t have as
much control over the color. It really depends on your
concentration of the solution, as well as the tannin
content in the wood itself. Here’s a good example. Both
of these boards are cherry, and they were both hit on
this side with the same concentration of baking soda. Look how much darker this one is. That is a really
beautiful, handsome color. If I were expecting this
result, all across a project, that maybe used wood from
both of these boards, I might be incredibly
disappointed to find out that things don’t match
up as well as they should. You can see just with a clear coat, the woods, in their raw state,
are actually pretty close. Control and consistency is always going to be an issue with chemical stains. If you buy all of your
material at the same time, and from the same lot,
you do stack the cards in your favor, that you should
have at least somewhat consistent results from one board
to the next, hopefully. With all that natural
variability, why would anybody want to use a chemical
stain in the first place? For me, there are two reasons
that make it worth it. Number one, is that the color
is pretty much permanent. A lot of dyes and pigments, over time, will start to fade and
they just won’t look good a couple of years from now. The more light exposure that they get, the more fading you’ll start to see. This kind of just looks the same, forever. The other thing, has to
do with the natural aging process of certain woods. So like this cherry piece
here, just has a natural finish on it, a little bit of Danish oil, but check out how beautiful that color is. I’d have trouble replicating
that with dyes and stains. It just looks gorgeous,
and all this takes is time. A chemical stain, most
times, will be sort of like hitting the fast forward button
and going right from raw wood. to something that looks
somewhat in the family, using a natural reaction in the wood. Just a quick safety note. While baking soda is pretty harmless, if you get into the
world of chemical stains, you’ll no doubt here about things like potassium dichromate,
sodium hydroxide, ammonia. These are things that are
a little more dangerous, and you need to do your
research and understand what precautions you need to take to take those chemicals safe to use. As an example, potassium
dichromate happens to be a carcinogen. I’ve got
enough of those in my life. I think I’d rather use dye
before I use something like that. Educate yourself and
make sure you know how to use these chemicals safely. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put this baking soda back into the kitchen, where I never took the baking soda from. (whistling music)

Dereck Turner

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