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DIY salt water based wood stain?  RSS feed

 
siu-yu man
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Location: zone 6a, north america
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ok, realize that this might be sound completely stupid, but here goes:

we've been pickling black walnuts wherein the first step is to soak in a sea salt water bath for a couple weeks. usually that salt water is then thrown away, however, it has a beautiful walnut color and we would like to find an alternative use for it.

i understand that salt water is generally thought of as corrosive to wood, however, i keep thinking of how Venice is built upon timbers submerged in brackish water. most of the DIY walnut stains are water-based recipes (save for one that uses methyl alcohol, which we are not going to try), but was wondering if salt water might also be used as an acceptable stain for wood? the crazy line of thinking derives from the fact that salt has been the go-to preservative for all kinds of organic materials for centuries, may this not apply to wood as well (in small amounts of course)?

we would also most likely add borax to the solution as well, following an 100 year old recipe i found in an old homesteading book.

since i haven't found any evidence for this online (all discussion on salt preservatives on wood are focused on either borates or the dreaded CCA), wanted to throw this past the permies crew and see if this idea had potential merit or was completely offbase.

we are also considering soaking walnut husks in olive oil to create an oil-based stain, but didn't want to dispose of the walnut salt water, as it seems there could be a use for it somewhere.

thanks for any comments, even if they confirm that we are raging lunatics for even considering.

p.s. here's a discussion thread on making walnut stain by constructing a press and by using ammonia as a solvent:
http://forums.finewoodworking.com/fine-woodworking-knots/finishing/stain-black-walnut-husks
would prefer to stay away from the ammonia.
 
Chadwick Holmes
Posts: 618
Location: Volant, PA
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Ammonia alone will darken woods with tannins so that might skew your results anyway....

I like this idea! Water on wood once or a few times that dries is not the problem, water that gets on wood and the wood stays submerged is also not a problem. The problem comes in repeated wetting and drying of wood, so I think you won't have an issue other than grain lift, that is small fibers raising up on the wood after it is wet. Go about it scientifically so you can get repeatable results from a recipe.

I will ask that you stay away from the borax and consider vinegar or some other natural as a preservation measure.

For my humor, I am picturing you grinding walnut husks on a citrus juicer. Just for me!

Craftsman style furniture used to be stained by tenting the item and using the fumes of ammonia to darken the wood, turns out strong ammonia and fumes are not great for you! But the reaction in the white oak tannins are great!

 
siu-yu man
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you're not too far off with your citrus juicer image, Chadwick -- but we're using potato rocks.

i was thinking borax as it is considered a "low-toxicity" preservative and it is effective against wood rot organisms and wood destroying insects (we want to use this primarily on reclaimed wood that may have active infestations of either/or/both). but, i'm going to attempt to honor your request and search for other ingredients. vinegar sounds like a definite option. going to stay away from ammonia for sure.

found this interesting set of traditional recipes:
http://www.kramers.org/formulae.htm

note the use of turpentine. wonder if there's a way to safely make it without blowing yourself up?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hello Siu-yu,

i understand that salt water is generally thought of as corrosive to wood, however, i keep thinking of how Venice is built upon timbers submerged in brackish water.


That is excellent that you know that Venice is built first on wood then stone...!!..

Salt water is not corrosive to wood...However, the ocean has had millions of years to evolve many species of "sea worms" and other organisms that take full advantage of the "drift wood" that falls into the ocean. These are the bane of wood sailing vessels, both in tidal and pelagic seas.

When you get the wood into fresh water of into the deep sediment of mineral sea bottom (like under Venice..) The anaerobic state and minerals will preserve the wood (for the most part) for millenia. Some wood found in such environments (peat bogs for example) will yield some of the finest wood in the world to work. It is extremely stable and be as much as ten thousand years old or older...

most of the DIY walnut stains are water-based recipes (save for one that uses methyl alcohol, which we are not going to try), but was wondering if salt water might also be used as an acceptable stain for wood?


Yes...is the short answer, yet it most likely will produce mineral salt precipitates. These types of "finishes" are natural alternatives to "wood preservatives." So you can use them, but probably not for an overtly aesthetic application. I would encourage experimentation! You may be surprised and like it...

...we would also most likely add borax to the solution as well, following an 100 year old recipe i found in an old homesteading book.


Borax is an excellent choice (and Permie acceptable as a naturally occurring mineral element.) As a nitrate family mineral (aka salt) it has a broad spectrum of ecologically neutral (or less harming) preservative, cleaning agent, and even food preservative in some applications.

I would again encourage some testing and experimentation with the vintage formulas you have found.

we are also considering soaking walnut husks in olive oil to create an oil-based stain..


Olive and related plant based lipids of this type do not "polymerize" when exposed to air as they are "non drying oils." They would only form a gooey and sticky mass in most applications. However a nice "food grade" walnut, tung or flax oil would work awesomely in such a mix...

Regards,

j
 
siu-yu man
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thanks for the response j.

i might not mind the mineral residues so i'm going to try a couple different recipes.
will post some photos once we do some testing.

going to ditch the olive idea and try camelina oil instead of olive and as a replacement for linseed/flax.
your post reminded me that linseed was actually flax and camelina is called "false flax" and also appears to have the same qualities:
http://www.siberiantigernaturals.com/camelinafaq-p.htm

we grew a trial plot of camelina this spring and got a crazy amount of yield.
super easy to grow (just drop seed in early spring), extremely drought resistant and fights the weeds like a champ!
got a larger test plot going right now, but not sure it will mature before winter.

thanks to you both for confirming that i was not completely bonkers.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Siu-yu

...going to ditch the olive idea and try camelina oil instead of olive...


Camelina is not much different as a lipid than olive...it won't dry!!! This is why the Japanese use it to protect tools. Walnut, Tung, and true Flax (aka linseed) oils are all I would recommend but if you would like to experiment, we would all benefit from what you learn....

Regards,

j
 
Chadwick Holmes
Posts: 618
Location: Volant, PA
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forest garden fungi goat trees wofati woodworking
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Yes, it is true borax is ok in most books, not mine! It is elemental, can't be destroyed, once in watershed always in watershed, forever is never a good thing to me.......just a thought. I don't like to put anything in my watershed that will be there when my great great great grandson is using.

In a class I took we were told ( drafting/engineering beginners high school class).....do nothing in a design that cannot be reversed......it's a wise statement here too, in my book. As a permie the mistakes we make need to be reversible for our safety and others.
 
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