Blog: Ebonising / Ebonizing

Ebonising / Ebonizing (Posted 06/08/2021)

(We are based in Kent, in England so we will use the English spelling).

What is ebonising?

This is not to be confused with finishing ebony wood.  Ebony wood does not need ebonising as it is already black.  Usually all that is required to finish ebony wood is to apply French Polish straight onto the wood, as we have done in the past. As you see in this picture, although these door handles are small (as ebony wood is very expensive) all that we applied was French Polish.  No colour was added.

spraying-bromley.jpg

Whereas with ebonising itself, black colour has to be added as the wood it is applied to, maybe oak or mahogany, is not black.  The process of ebonising is to make wood that is not black look black!

Paint it black?

So why not just paint the wood black?  Undercoat with dark grey and use a black gloss?

The reason for not doing this is two-fold. 

  • First black gloss is meant to be a fully opaque finish. Whereas a lacquer (cellulose base) or a French Polish (shellac base) is translucent.  Thus, the finish that is achieved by applying many coats, bodies or films is not only a much deeper finish, but often the wood grain can still be seen through the finish.

  • Second, a gloss finish is either a water, or an oil base.  This cannot be flattened and rubbed down the way that lacquer and French Polish can, thus the finish is not the same high standard.

  • And so ebonising is the staining of a wood that is not ebony, then finishing with either a black, clear, or combination of both of lacquer or French Polish to produce a deep black colour, whereby maybe the grain shows from a mat up to a mirror like finish.

What items would one have ebonised?

It could be a table, a staircase and rail, a chest of drawers, a door and frame, virtually anything that is made of hard wood.

Does an item have to be stripped before it can be ebonised?

Sometimes, yes.  Particularly if it is a table top.  However, if an item is already ebonised, but in need of some attention, then no. 

The next video will show a mahogany rail which Artwood French Polishers ebonised from bare wood in Royal Tunbridge Wells. 

 

  • You will then see an example of a small table that was damaged, previously ebonised, but needed re-finishing for a client in Robertsbridge, Kent.

  • Then you will see panels and doors in a Gatwick VIP airport lounge.  These had already been ebonised but had much ware and tare.  Also, carpenters had been in to replace locks and shave of parts back to bare wood. Now you may think, as goes the song, black is black, so what kind of colour matching is required? Apparently there are 50 shades of grey, well, when it comes to ebonising, there are 105 shades of black, not to mention sheen levels.  Generally, matching black colour and sheen from bare wood into existing black can be very difficult. French Polishers will tell you ebony colour and sheen matching is one of the hardest tasks.  Honestly, if it is not done correctly, the repair can stick out like a sore thumb!

  • Finally, a bar top surface which was ebonised from bare wood and then a lacquer applied in a swanky London Bar.

Please watch the video below.