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March 25, 2009

How to...Ebonize Furniture

Thank you reader for pointing out that the link no longer works! Here are the full instructions for how to ebonize furniture.

Applying an ebony stain is a relatively simple way to revive a piece of drab wood furniture. The general idea is to first sand the item down to bare wood to expose the grain, coat it with an ebony stain and then apply a protective topcoat to seal and protect the stained wood.

Tools You'll Need

  • Sandpaper (and power sander)
  • Drop cloth
  • Screwdriver (to remove hardware)
  • High-quality paintbrush (natural bristles for oil-based stain and synthetic for water-based)
  • Foam brush (good for applying stain in hard-to-reach areas)
  • Ebony stain (Minwax offers an ebony stain)
  • Polyurethane or comparable finish
  • Brush for applying finish

Before you undertake any type of furniture refinishing, make sure you're not dealing with a valuable antique or heirloom. On the other hand, since staining highlights the wood's grain, you'll want to be sure that the wood is of decent quality. Keep in mind that dense woods can be hard to "ebonize" as they don't absorb stain well. Check this chart if you are unsure.

When you're ready to begin, move the furniture to a well-ventilated workroom. Place a drop cloth or newspaper under the piece. Remove drawer pulls and other bits of hardware.


Begin sanding with paper that has the roughest grit—a 60 or 80 grit should work (the grit is a number written on the back of the paper). Go over the piece once or twice to remove old paint, sanding in the direction of the grain. Remember to periodically check the sandpaper you're using and replace it if worn. After one complete sanding, wipe residual dust off the piece with a damp cloth, but try not to get the wood too wet. Then use a finer-grain sandpaper (e.g., move from a 60 to a 150, eventually to a 220) and go over the piece again. Keep sanding until you get down to the bare wood—wood stain can react to chemicals in the old finish if not removed during this step.


If you use a water-based stain, apply a prestain wood conditioner before proceeding, regardless of wood type. Applying stain is just like brushing on paint. Brush stain directly and evenly onto the bare wood—use enough that it soaks into the wood. Let the piece dry after the first coat. In most cases, one coat should be enough. But if you want a darker finish, apply a second coat.


The finish will provide protection and sheen to the ebony-stained piece. We recommend brushing on a fast-drying polyurethane finish. Be sure to follow directions and pay attention to drying times. You may want to apply two coats for added protection. Once the piece is dry, reattach any hardware and you're done.

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Anonymous said...

could you post the full instructions? the domino link is now just a redirect to architectural digest.