Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dutch Black Frame Finish

The latest frame escapade has been pursuing how to create a frame finish that replicates the Dutch Black.  It's a rich, luster that mimics the originally used Ebony.  Ebony is an extremely expensive wood so not an option for creating this finish.  I've done other frames by ebonizing them with a vinegar/dissolved metal solution, this reacts with the natural tannins found in the wood and turns the wood black.  Although this works well, the color can vary and you need a wood that has a high content of tannin like Oak.  For this job, the heavy grain pattern found in Oak wasn't desirable.  Of course, another option would be to paint, I've used Krylon and had success with it but just not exactly what I was after.
As I did my research I remembered talking with Peter Werkhoven at the West Coast Framing show last year.  Like me, he's a Dutchman so who better to ask for advice!  He has his shop in San Francisco, click on this link to go to his website.  In any case, he suggested India Ink to blacken the wood followed by French polishing final coats of shellac.  Sounded great to me so here's what my sample mold looks like:
Here's what I did to create this molding.  First off, it's made of 4/4 Steamed European Beech and about 3" wide.  The sight edge is a separate piece that is about an inch tall and currently it's going to be used for panels, not canvas.  I used a router bits to cut the grooves and shaped the outer edge and sight edge with a half round profile.  Notice that the flat portions have a definite sheen, that's because that surface is hand planed before assembling the frame.  The insides of the grooves have a more textural appearance due to the cutting action of the router bit.  It's a slight, but obvious, change in texture that adds interest to this molding.
To get the ebony color I used aniline dye (JE Moser) which is something I've always wanted to experiment with.  For this mix I used 1 oz. dye, 2 oz. denatured alcohol, and then 6 oz. distilled water.  Two applications of the dye with a foam brush a couple of hours apart, wiped dry, and then allowed to dry overnight. I used shellac, a Jathwa button mix, to bring out the color and add a warm amber cast to the piece.  This was padded on but next time I think I'll use an airbrush to seal the dye first, followed by the French polishing technique.  I had some color transfer on the pad which was more pronounced on the first couple of coats. This may or may not be a problem.  In any case, I padded on at least 7 coats and I like the way the planed surfaces have more sheen than the routed grooves.  It's finished off with Liberon wax, love the smell and sheen it provides.
Was it successful? well according to my best client/wife it must be because she requested 3, 12" square ones just like the sample for her current Square Foot of Art Series!

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