View Full Version : The Great Iced Tea - Ammonia Experiment

Feb-13-2004, 1:51am
Well, maybe not iced tea, but it was Lipton's.

I had read about the tea/ammonia method for enhancing contrast in maple, so I tried it. I took a piece of bookmatched maple and brushed one side with a brew of strong tea (one teabag of Lipton's with a half teacup of boiling water, steeped for an hour) and brushed the other with water. I had sanded the wood to 220 grit, not a perfect job sanding but close enough. The tea applied to the left side made that side slightly more brown than the right. I then took an open container of ammonia and put in the bottom of a trash bag, and put the wood on a metal cake cooling stand right above it, sanded side down of course, and closed the bag. Left it overnight. The next morning, I could see a definite contrast inccrease on the tea side, not on the other. I also saw that there was a "hot spot" of contrast increase, and general darkening, right above the ammonia container, so I started moving the wood around every few hours. Note to self: use a 9x13 pan or something larger next time (I used a 4 inch circular container, and it seemed to concentrate the vapors over too small an area). Finished product was lightly sanded to remove raised grain, and wetted to simulate finish... the camera does not show the effect as well as you can see it with the eye; it is more apparent looking at it in person. I plan to repeat the "experiment" with my mando #1 and have before/after pics within a few days... I think this was a success!

Feb-13-2004, 11:29pm
You know they etch glass (at least one way to do it) by masking it with wax, then scraping off the part they want etched. The glass is then placed above a container of acid (Flouric if memory serves) and they can get very intricate designs.

I wonder if you could use a similar masking technique combined with this tea/ammonia to create more subtle designs and accents in the mando?

Feb-15-2004, 12:47am
Hey Flowerpot: I am thinking on doing that too.
Question: Was it decaf or regular? Just kidding! Anyway do you think it just darkens the darker grain, or the whole piece of wood? Will the wood lighten back up a bit after sanding, and leave the grain darker? That is what I would be hoping for.
I got my body, together now and the 1 piece back is looking very nice after a few sandings. I am only at 150 grit now and the flame is coming out of it better. I think the back will look nice and I don't want to mess anything up with the "Tea Ammonia Experiment" Now that you did it do you think it is OK to do? and would you do the neck and sides too? How about the spruce?? No? Thanks JD

Feb-15-2004, 3:55pm
I did light sand that piece of maple in the picture after the process. You can tell that on the left side, the darkened areas are fairly dark and the light areas are just a little bit darker than the light areas on the untreated side. So the whole effect will be to darken the piece some on the whole, and I expect to have to adjust the stain to compensate.

I'm treating a mando back right now, and will have some before/after pics soon in the same lighting. It might tell you what you want to know. I'm also treating the sides, but the side wood I'm using has almost no flame, so I don't expect much there. I may do the neck later on as well.

Whether or not you would mess something up with this method -- don't take my word on anything, I'm just building my first and there are many things about it that will not be "presentation grade." So I can't say what it will look like after staining, or how it will age, or anything else -- I'm just enjoying the fact that the method actually seemed to work, and I'm going to follow through with it.

Feb-15-2004, 4:48pm
What species of maple is that, Flowerpot?

I'm guessing maybe Sugar Maple?

Feb-17-2004, 12:18pm
Don't know what species it is. I got it from John Arnold, and I think it was local to the Appalachian Mts. Wish I knew how to ID it.