How to Darken Wood with Different Materials

There are several ways to darken wood: oil, varnish, stain, ammonia, wax, and more. Enough techniques darken wood; some are more effective or darker than others. It just depends on what you choose or what you like. 

Please note that when you start with oil or wax, you can no longer use water-based products. Grease, such as oil and wax, repels all water-based products. So begin with water-based products when you’re trying out what you like.

How to darken wood furniture? I will start with using oil.

Darken Wood with Oil

There is linseed oil on the market that you can use to darken wood. The grains come into their own when you brush on linseed oil. You can do this by applying one or more layers. Always make a test piece so you are not faced with surprises or dislike the color.

Once you have applied oil, regardless of the type, you cannot try any water-based products later. So you can’t use a water-based stain because the oil repels the water. But that aside. We are going to start with darkening wood.

How do you proceed:

  • Always read the instructions; each brand has its manual regarding, for example, drying time or amount of layers.
  • Make sure that the wood you want to darken with oil is clean and that any paint or residue has been sanded away. Then make the wood dust-free again.
  • Close any holes or edges with malleable wood and sand it straight again after drying time.
  • Apply the oil, dilute or not (see packaging) and paint with the wood grain. Let the oil dry for as long as it says on the package.
  • You can apply a second layer so that outside furniture can withstand all weather influences. A third coat provides more shine.

Darken Wood With Ammonia

You can darken wood with ammonia. Indeed, woods contain a lot of tannins, a substance that reacts with ammonia. This is very much with Oak wood, so this type of wood reacts very darkly.

Other woods contain tannin, such as maple wood and cherry wood, although these woods don’t get as dark as oak. Always make a test piece to avoid disappointment.

How can you make wood darker with ammonia?

  • Put ammonia in a plastic container and pour ammonia into it. Place the wood in the ammonia.
  • Seal the container with plastic and wait a day. You can check halfway through the day if you think the wood is dark enough, but the longer it is in, the darker it gets. Of course, the darkness will stop at some point.
  • Be careful with ammonia gases. Make sure the container is in a ventilated area. These gases are also released when you pull the plastic off the container. Watch out for that!

We cannot guarantee the color oak will give when you have dipped it in ammonia. Always try out a piece and see what you think and if you want to continue with your plan.

How to darken Oak wood

As mentioned above, you can darken oak wood with ammonia. Of course, oak wood can also be browned, blackened, or darkened in other ways.

  • brown or black stain
  • paint brown or black

Darken wood with shoe polish

With anything you do for the first time, try it out on a piece of wood you don’t use or where you don’t see the trial area. It is better to try it out first than to get started immediately and regret it later.

You can darken wood with shoe polish. However, applying shoe polish does get dark (brown, black, or whatever color you like). You can slightly dilute the polish by adding water when you have applied this to wood, but I cannot say whether a large piece of furniture or plank becomes or becomes as you wish. That’s really trying. Very nice to try out when you have wood left.

If you really want the color of shoe polish, rub it into the wood and let it dry. Polish it well, and you have a ‘wood’ of beautiful dark shoe polish in the color of your choice.

Darkening Spruce Wood

Spruce wood can be darkened by staining, painting, oiling, or wax. How exactly do you do that?

Oil on spruce wood

When you apply oil to spruce wood, you protect the wood. It absorbs into the wood and thus also protects from the inside. However, oil is a thin agent and should be applied twice a year, especially when the spruce is used outdoors.

These are transparent oils, colored or not, which are therefore not opaque. You can still see the wood grains.

Stain on spruce wood

You can also stain spruce wood. These are available in different colors and have a better protective effect than oil.

An opaque stain indeed provides even better protection than a transparent stain. The opaque stain is thicker. Both penetrate the wood and protect the inside of the spruce.

Paint on spruce wood 

Varnishing or painting on spruce wood gives good protection to the wood. The best protection. The spruce wood must first be primed so the paint can adhere well. You can buy paint in many colors.

When you choose to paint, you can no longer see the grain of the wood.

Wax on spruce wood

Many types of wax on the market can protect untreated spruce wood but also darken it. An example is an antique wax. Antique wax or wax is available in beautiful different shades of brown. In the store, you can see what effect this wax has on different types of wood.

There are also light types of wax that make (spruce) wood slightly darker. The color will deepen a bit but not change.

Always read the instructions for use on the packaging carefully and follow the instructions carefully for the best results.

Summary of how to Darken wood

Degrease the wood and brush water stain over the wood; the more layers, the darker the wood will be. Or make wood darker with (color) wax, and rub it out well. You can also apply different types of oil to all kinds of wood, so it becomes dark. The special option ‘to darken wood with ammonia’ is done by placing wood in ammonia.

Read also: How to age wood faster

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