Earlier this year I did a blog post on ebonizing Red Oak for a picture frame. It brought a lot of responses and comments and while I was doing the process I also tried the solution on a piece of basswood. Much to my surprise, the Basswood turned shades of grey with a slight greenish/brownish hue! Keep in mind that the ebonizing process isn’t totally predictable. I’ve had some Oak turn out black and others a deep shade of brown. Here’s the results, the painting is by Diane Eugster and it has been accepted into the Oil Painters of America National Show which will be held in Fredericksburg, TX.
The colors Diane used for this painting is why I chose to attempt this technique for the frame. I feel the frame fulfills its intended function; compliment the art and put it into its own world. There was one black streak in the frame which I put in the lower left corner, I felt that here it’s minimized by the dark of the painting. Had it been on the upper corner it would have stuck out like that proverbial sore thumb!
Once the frame was built it was time to do the ebonizing. To give you a visual I made this video ….. I’ll say in advance that it’s the best I could do! You can actually see in real time how this process works in this short video. This is the first coat, I ended up doing three coats several hours apart. Interesting that when doing a new coat the solution beaded up at first and then began to soak in.
After the final coat the finish was quite flat and dull. After experimenting on my test pieces I discovered that spraying a couple of coats of Platinum Shellac gives the nicest finish. This is done with an airbrush then rubbed out with wax and a white scrubby. This picture shows the frame after 3 coats or so of the vinegar/steel wool solution had been applied. The dark piece in the middle is Sapele I wanted to try!
This painting was on a panel so the first thing needed was to glue 1/4″ plywood to the back of the frame so it could be attached to the frame with screws. On a smaller piece a simple rub joint would be sufficient but this is 20″ x 24″ so decided to play it safe and clamp them in place. There are oversized holes in the frame so the painting can be centered, I use #6 screws for this process. I’m a big fan of gimlets to pre-drill the hole in the back of the painting — very little chance of going through to the artwork!
So that’s it, although the process is a time extensive process it’s not a frame you’ll find on every painting in a gallery or someones home. That’s the thrill, creating a one of a kind frame to showcase someones art.