Fuming Wood, and the Faster Way

The old craftsman style furniture had a very beautiful look, and I love the tones created by the coloring process (called fuming). I decided to do this with some white oak stools I bought at at an auction of a furniture factory that went out of business. Honestly, it didn’t turn out how I wanted, but happily enough, I didn’t destroy anything.

Fuming is done by using ammonia fumes to treat the wood, turning it darker, or green if you try it with red oak. I put the stools in a small room off my garage, and put some ammonia in a pie tin so it could spread throughout the air. Here is a picture of the stools before I started fuming them.

Stools, Pre-Fuming

Stools, Pre-Fuming

To try to drive as much ammonia into the air as I could, I used a piece of steel to allow me to put a candle under the pie tin. You can buy high concentrations of ammonia at print shops, or so I hear. There was none within over a hundred miles for me. I called. I used the lower concentrations that you get at the store for cleaning. I needed to get as much of it in the air as possible, and so here is what I used.

Driving Ammonia into the Air

Driving Ammonia into the Air

I would fill up the tin, light the candle, and shut the door, leaving it for about 12 hours, and then repeat the process. I did this for 4 days. Here is a picture at the end of 4 days.

Chairs after 5 days of Fuming

Chairs after 5 days of Fuming

I couldn’t detect a big difference either. If you saw them in person, they did darken a bit, and it did make the grain pop out a lot. All the same, I was looking for a bit darker. Something like this.

Finished Stool

Finished Stool

To get the change, I applied Red Mahogany stain, from your basic Minwax can. The finish is a lacquer finish that I applied with a new toy, a Porter Cable gravity feed spray gun. It was very easy and quick to use, and very easy to clean up. This is the spray gun I used to apply the laquer. I put on a few coats and was very happy with the look and the speed. There was also very little overspray. I have also used the gun to help my brother with a vanity. It makes me wonder why I ever brushed on polyurethane.

Good luck, and please give questions or comments if you have any.

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6 Responses to “Fuming Wood, and the Faster Way”


  1. 1 Brenda Durtschi Padron October 15, 2008 at 3:05 am

    That’s amazing. Do you wanna come to Idaho Falls and do my table and chairs?

  2. 2 durch October 15, 2008 at 3:19 am

    I would be happy to help you if you want to bring them up to the cultural center of the universe (Alta Wyoming). I am serious (about half of that).

    Have a good one.

  3. 3 Michel October 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I think your problem is the type of oak and concentration of Ammonia you used. Works better with european oak because higher tannine content. We use american as well as european oak. American has a more subtle grey color after fuming.

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