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How to get black oak/ash finish?

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
Hey everyone,

I'm planning on building my own sub and was hoping to get some tips on how to get that black oak/ash finish that you typically see on a lot of speakers.

Doing a lot of searching it seems like most people dye veneer/wood to get that finish.

Is the general process: stain some veneer, build an mdf enclosure and apply the stained veneer?

Anyone tried dying veneer and what process did you use?

Can you buy black dyed veneer? If so, anyone have any recommendations. I haven't had much luck finding anything. I could also be looking for the wrong thing...

The case I'm building will probably have 1 dimension bigger than 24 inches, any issues getting a smaller veneer roll and running multiple sheets side by side?

FYI, the sub I'm planning on building will be part of a Klipsch RF-83 system, so I'm hoping to build something that matches.
post #2 of 32
Use black dye with a clear finish. Dye the veneer after it's installed.
post #3 of 32
If you want full-on black then use Minwax ebony, if you want a really neat looking almost black, use rustoleum "Kona" and just stain the plywood directly. I will try and take a pic tonight and show you what the Kona looks like after a couple coats, Really dark and cool look.
post #4 of 32
There is a seller on ebay that sells pre-stained/dyed veneer...

What I'm after is something like this:

Where do I order that or create something just like it!
post #5 of 32
I just went to woodcraft for my first time today... It was about 1 hour and 45min drive for me each way. It looks like they'll have everything that you need there. It's a very unique store. They have a bunch of samples of different mixtures of General Finishes stains that can be done. I bought a dye and a stain to mix each together to form a unique color. They had a few different blacks that was shown of which could be achieve by mixing or layering two different colors. Take a look at woodcrafts site to see if there's a store near you.
post #6 of 32
My local woodcraft store went tango uniform. Total bummer. I really liked that store and recommend them highly.

Still have woodworker's supply here - better selection, better coffee, not as easy to do business with.
post #7 of 32
Something like this will probably get you close to what you want:

How close to black you can get with a dye (or a stain) will depend on what kind of veneer you're working with. The lighter the wood, the harder it is to get close to black using a dye (or a stain). With really light woods, you have to use a different product -- like ink -- or you have to build the color in multiple steps.

If you want a really opaque black, paint would get you there a lot faster and easier.
post #8 of 32
Thread Starter 
I was actually thinking of trying india ink.

I don't want to paint it because that covers the wood grain unless you put on super super light coats.

I think either way I'm going to need to layer a stain/dye a few times.

I'm trying to get them black, but still have a 3d wood grain
post #9 of 32
Im tellin you, the minwax ebony stain is killer for that smile.gif
post #10 of 32
Thread Starter 
Does stain raise the grain more than dye?

I thought it was the the other way around?
post #11 of 32
I had a rough start trying to achieve black oak. Beastaudio Is right, I used Minwax ebony, which worked great. but.. I needed to poly over that & said what the hell & did a polyshade instead, Minwax classic black polyshade. All for nothing, as no one sees the finish.
post #12 of 32
Thread Starter 
Beast, what finish do you recommend?

I'm trying to match my RF-83's which have a black 3d wood texture that's a subtle semigloss

Edit: and by finish, I mean post stain, or just don't tough up the stain?
Edited by hotsho111 - 1/18/13 at 4:35pm
post #13 of 32
I would suggest a semi-gloss on the ebony to get that. Weird thing on the RF's is that the grain doesn't really show through, it is almost like a flat black that still shows the intricacies of the wood, without seeing any of the natural color in the grain, which is cool, but i would still personally prefer the actual grain to show through a little. Lemme get a pic of a single coat of the the ebony for you. gimme a sec. Once second or third coat goes on it will be much darker, and once poly is applied, it will bring it out even more. I will try and apply some additional to my sample piece once my mains get done drying so you can see it but the sample I have is propping up my mains while they dry at the moment.
post #14 of 32
The ebony is a single coat, on baltic birch which is pretty light wood to begin with, but you can still see the grain very well. The middle sample is rustoleum's "Kona" finish and the bottom is one and two coats of minwax's english chestnut which I just went with for my mains. After another coat or two of the ebony, you could accomplish a very nice black finish, with poly if you chose to do it. I would suggest getting the ebony and staining a sample with a few coats and see what you think before applying poly. Stain is big guessing game depending on what medium you are using, so you just have to do a bunch of test coats on spare wood to see what you come up with.

post #15 of 32
Forgot I had a close-up. This is with my iPhone, so take it FWIW. The stain actually looks a LOT darker in regular light. Truly black.

post #16 of 32
Thread Starter 
Best, thanks for the pics.

If you've seen the RF speakers, do you know how they get that finish?

Also, is it safe to just stain the wood or should it be finished as well?

I tried to pick up some minwax ebony to mess around with today but my local hardware store only had it in the tiny can.

Edit: I'm not looking for a smooth finish that allows you to see the wood grain, I'm hoping to get a black finish where you can actually feel the wood grain
post #17 of 32
Maybe you should use vinyl instead of veneer (this coming from someone who hates fake wood grain). Sanding, staining, and sealing oak or ash veneer will fill the natural pores in the wood that you feel. Actually the pores are often not very pronounced on veneer anyway when it's applied to a substrate.

You do need finish in addition to stain. Stain alone will not seal or protect the wood at all.
post #18 of 32
Thread Starter 
Thanks B&W, I'm hoping I can avoid it.

I got some minwax ebony and other staining supplies and have a test going on right now.

I'll let you know how it turns out.
post #19 of 32
Thread Starter 
First coat seems similar to your results beast.

I'm hoping after a few coats it's totally black.

I think I'm gonna pick up some aniline dye to try out too.

I'll keep updating on how this goes to try and help others.

Edit: Anyone have any recommendation on types of dies? I've seen aniline dye, trans-tint dye and india ink. Not sure which to go with, or if there is much of a difference
Edited by hotsho111 - 1/20/13 at 2:31pm
post #20 of 32
Looks like I'm a little late to the party. I'm just going to copy and paste what I've reposted several times here. The system I recommend is bullet proof, but I've yet to see anyone on here use it. I feel like the Men's Wearhouse guy. "You'll like the way they look I guarantee it"
Dye the wood with acetone/dye mix. Use a black dye of course. You can purchase dye from Woodcraft, Sherwin Williams, ML Campbell, Gemini, or Rockler. My preference would be ML Campbell, Sherwin Williams, Woodcraft/Rockler in that order, however, you will find smaller quantities and lower pricing by going with Woodcraft/Rockler. After dyeing the wood use a quart of Sherwin Williams BAC Wiping Stain Ebony base, have it tinted with black BAC colorant. Wipe stain on with a rag. Let sit 5-15 minutes. Wipe off. Apply 2nd coat if required, let sit, and wipe. Don't apply more than 2 coats as this can effect topcoat adhesion. Ideally you would spray on your topcoat of choice. If you are an experienced sprayer I personally would spray 3 coats of catalyzed lacquer that has also been very lightly shaded with black dye or colorant. If not I would spray Polycrylic and add a small amount of dye to it also (although you could skip the dye/top coat step if you choose). Upload pictures and pound your chest as a proud father of a new rich black stained sub. The end.

But whatever you do please don't go out and buy Minwax ebony stain and think it will turn out the way you want it to. Remember sales figures don't always make a product competent, ie Bose....Minwax stains are no exception to this rule!

I'm sorry beast I couldn't be less impressed with Minwax stains. I make a living using, selling, trouble shooting, distributing the Minwax line (amongst others), but I couldn't recommend it to a client and hope to retain my business. To me it's the Bose of the business. Accounts for over 80% of quarts sold in the US, but rarely performs. Sounds like you were one of the lucky ones to be satisfied.
Whatever above mentioned manufacturer's system you choose I would stick to the principles of dying, staining, sealing. You can prestain condition if it helps with peace of mind. I'm only luke warm on it's effectiveness. The one thing I would recommend against though is using a gel stain. I work in the commercial cabinet, novelty wood finishing market, and I can say without hesitation that no production cabinet shop I know deals in gel stains. Spray stains and wiping stains are by far the most common. Hence why I recommend the BAC Wiping Stain from SW. Are there better options. Sure. Are there better options you can easily get your hands on. None that I'm aware of.

If you get through the dye, stain, seal process and decide there is still too much visible graining then add a few drops of dye your sealer. This will give a slightly more opaque look as opposed to the transparency of a clear sealer. And speaking of sealers your waterborne options will be the most "clear' of your options. Poly will have a slight gold tint to it. While I'm partial to lacquer systems a good compromise may be a waterborne lacquer. Shortened dry time, durable, all while remaining clear. The only caveat is it must be spray applied.
post #21 of 32
Thread Starter 
After a second coat it doesn't look bad, but it's not nearly as dark as I want it, so I'm probably gonna give dying the wood a shot.

tgse3, would using spray shellac to seal it work?

Edit: Also, tgse3, do you have any pics of something finished using your method?
Edited by hotsho111 - 1/20/13 at 10:58pm
post #22 of 32
Originally Posted by hotsho111 View Post

After a second coat it doesn't look bad, but it's not nearly as dark as I want it, so I'm probably gonna give dying the wood a shot.

tgse3, would using spray shellac to seal it work?

Edit: Also, tgse3, do you have any pics of something finished using your method?

Shellac would work. I don't spray shellac personally for various reasons, but it shouldn't have any issues. The nice thing about using shellac is it shouldn't cause any solvent rewetting if you choose the stain system I recommended. If you stick with the MInwax stain then any topcoat will be fine.
I don't have any close ups of the black/dark dye stains jobs I've done. I recently did some floors and maple cabinets that turned out great using it I could get pics of other cabinet shops that use that system, but not my specific work.
post #23 of 32
Minwax is a terrible product. I got Sherwin Williams to take their black stain and then add some extra lamp black to it and it turned out pretty good. I should have dyed the wood first, then I would have achieved the deep black that I was originally wanting.
post #24 of 32
Thread Starter 
I'm gonna give tgse3's method a shot this weekend.

I'll let you guys know how it goes and take some pictures of it.
Edited by hotsho111 - 1/23/13 at 6:17pm
post #25 of 32
Please do!! Keep that sample of ebony around so I guess I can really see what I am missing.
post #26 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quick question though, what is the benefit of staining over a dye versus repeatedly dying?
post #27 of 32
Originally Posted by hotsho111 View Post

Quick question though, what is the benefit of staining over a dye versus repeatedly dying?

Dye is more transparent and penetrates better typically. I would say it shades the wood a step or two in the direction you want your final product to be. I'm over simplifying this, but think of dye as really thin stain. In addition the more coats of dye or stain you add the greater the chance you have at causing adhesion issues. Stains are meant to penetrate and so adding 4 coats plus can cause surface drying and intercoat adhesion issues between stain and topcoat.
post #28 of 32
Originally Posted by beastaudio View Post

Please do!! Keep that sample of ebony around so I guess I can really see what I am missing.

It's time for the showdown! I've done this side by side several times so don't let me down hotsho111.

Make sure you get a quart of BAC Wiping stain ebony base! Add 3oz of black BAC colorant. Don't let them give you their other line of stain or any variation of that. biggrin.gif
post #29 of 32
Thread Starter 
tgse3, is there a particular dye you recommend for the initial dye layer?

Gotta make sure I do it right biggrin.gif
post #30 of 32
Originally Posted by hotsho111 View Post

tgse3, is there a particular dye you recommend for the initial dye layer?

Gotta make sure I do it right biggrin.gif

Ideally the same Sherwood BAC dye concentrate, but it comes in a big bottle with a big price tag. So it may not make sense to go that route. That's your call. Otherwise I'd get a different brand from Rockler/Woodcraft that is reducible with solvent.
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