The Ammonia Fuming Test:
I wanted to see what results I could get fuming white oak without Industrial ammonia (25%-30% concentration), because it’s harder to find, but with ammonia purchased from local hardware stores.
Because I’m fuming test boards and a small stool, I decided to use two air-tight coolers. For bigger pieces of furniture you can build a simple wooden frame “tent” out of scrap wood and wrap it in clear plastic (clear so you can monitor the progress without having to open your tent. I’ve even heard of people renting a small enclosed U-haul trailer for a couple days. I’m not sure how air-tight trailers are, but this is a cleaning chemical, so it shouldn’t cause any problems with the trailer…maybe it’ll sanitize it! But don’t take my word for it…do some more research before trying that.
I purchased an inexpensive bottle of “janitorial strength” ammonia from Ace Hardware, which says that it has 10% ammonia. I put this ammonia in a little plastic container in the blue cooler.
I also purchased a bottle of Ammonia from the cleaning aisle at Lowes. Strangely, the label didn’t specify the ammonia concentration. I suspected they didn’t list the concentration because they were using such a low amount of ammonia. This was later confirmed by my experiment. I put this Lowes brand in the red cooler.
I used two pieces of quartersawn white oak that came from the same board as the Moravian foot stool that I planned to fume. I put painter’s tape around each piece of oak so I could see the difference before and after the fuming. The painter’s tape didn’t fully block the fuming, as I would later learn. I also kept out a bare, unfinished piece of wood as my “control” sample, in case the tape didn’t prevent the ammonia penetration.
Out of curiosity I also experimented with adding my traditional wipe on wax finish (bee’s wax, boiled linseed oil, & turpentine) to the back side of each board and let it penetrate the wood for a couple days, next to a sunny south-facing window, prior to ammonia fuming. If I get enough comments below this blog post requesting a tutorial on making my finish, then I’ll do a video in the near future.
I moved the coolers outside because the fumes are too strong in an enclosed space, especially when opening to check the progress.
I placed a plastic bowl in the bottom of each cooler, and quickly poured maybe 1/2 to 1 cup of Ammonia into each bowl.
I stood the sample boards on end so the ammonia could evenly fume each side, and then I closed the lid tightly. I was careful not to bump the coolers so the sample wouldn’t tip over.
It’s a good idea to place the cooler under a covered area in case of rain. But if you can’t, I’m sure rain can’t get into the cooler. You can also store the coolers in your workshop, as long as you don’t open them indoors…not even for a couple seconds. If you don’t believe me, give it a try and you’ll be running outdoors for a breath of fresh air.