Fuming a Finish – Cool but Dangerous!
I’ve enjoyed building Arts & Crafts furniture for a number of years. The look of the quarter-sawn oak after finishing has always been a strong selling point – a common approach is a historical finishing process called fuming.
In a nutshell, the idea is to expose the finished piece of furniture to the fumes of ammonia. The tannins in the wood react to the fumes and darken. Pretty cool. But as you’ll notice in the photo above, the ammonia jug has a skull and crossbones on it! Yes, the ammonium hydroxide in the solution level required to get tannins to react will blind, you, burn your lungs and more. Not cool.
Dale Barnard also loves building Arts & Crafts furniture and he’s done his homework on the benefits and deficits of fuming. In the video below he talks about both and offers some advice and alternatives. I know I agree with his results and I think you will too.