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Since I have made only a handful of sticks, I don't even know what I don't know yet. This project is an experiment, to experiment with staining oak, and to see if it is possible to leave bark on and have it stay on.

This stick was cut green in, I believe, December 2012. It was soaked in Pentacryl for a week soon after cutting it, and then soaked again for just a couple of days on the end that I left bark on. The idea was to minimize shrinkage and checking overall, but also to replace much of the water in the bark in an effort to stabilize it and with the goal of possibly keeping the bark on. It provides a comfortable, non-slip grip.

I haven't done serious woodworking since about 1962 in high school shop class. Several websites mention that oak is difficult to stain dark. I had some old Minwax red oak stain. I bought a small can of Minwax ebony stain and mixed a small amount with some of the red oak stain (perhaps 15% ?). I probably should have experimented with several small pieces of oak, but I just jumped right in and did it. I coated both the sapwood and the bark yesterday evening, and didn't wipe the stain off for about 15 minutes.

Here is how it looked just before sunset. I plan to apply satin polyurethane in a day or two. I hope it doesn't make the bark look awful.

Wood Tints and shades Road surface Grass Art

If this works out well, then I have a similar piece of oak that my son would like made into a walking stick. He liked it because the bark remains on the grip, and so this experiment will tell me whether it is reasonable to expect bark to remain on a stick if pre-treated properly.
 

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Wow -- looks like it took the stain well! Very dark! And I see ya found a good use for that Oklahoma University T-shirt. :)
 

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Rad, I NEVER through away T-shirts. BUT, sometimes my wife removes them from the laundry pile, when they are full of holes and stained, and refuses to wash them any longer. Only then are they relegated to the rag bag. She just tossed my favorite St. Louis Cardinals T. ;(
 

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Rad, I NEVER through away T-shirts. BUT, sometimes my wife removes them from the laundry pile, when they are full of holes and stained, and refuses to wash them any longer. Only then are they relegated to the rag bag. She just tossed my favorite St. Louis Cardinals T. ;(
Sorry for your loss!
 

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Cool. Good luck. I've never tried to stain bark. That's a new one.

When finishing oak, if you're using a water-based stain, make sure and lightly sand your piece after it dries as the water will raise the grain. Normally, you'd wash the piece with water, dry and sand twice before finishing. Washing with water swells parts of the wood and makes them swell. Sanding takes it down, and doing this twice makes sure you won't have to sand after staining because that can sand off some of the stain. You can still do this after the first coat but then wet it again and sand before applying more stain.

On a related note, if you're looking to ebonize wood, turn it truly black, there's a description from one of the top chair makers in the world that is a bit laborious, but supposedly does an amazing job of turning even cheap poplar into ebony.

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/techniques/ebonizing_wood
 

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So far, I've had mixed results w. bark remnants. All stained, and varnished. Some remains intact, but I've had beach crack and separate from the wood, and the varnish on the sycamore all bubbled after several months. I suppose that is because sycamore bark is rather spongy, and there was air trapped in the bark.

I've ebonized a piece of oak and some maple. Although oak is rather high in tannin, I didn't get good darkening from just the iron acetate solution. I tried a was of strong black tea. That helped. I hit on the idea of using carbernet sauvignon wine, which is quite high in tannin. 4 washes of that (making a nice purple stick) followed by 3 washes of the iron acetate, and the oak was quite close to black. The maple looked more like a dark walnut color.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
So far, I've had mixed results w. bark remnants. All stained, and varnished. Some remains intact, but I've had beach crack and separate from the wood, and the varnish on the sycamore all bubbled after several months. I suppose that is because sycamore bark is rather spongy, and there was air trapped in the bark.

I've ebonized a piece of oak and some maple. Although oak is rather high in tannin, I didn't get good darkening from just the iron acetate solution. I tried a was of strong black tea. That helped. I hit on the idea of using carbernet sauvignon wine, which is quite high in tannin. 4 washes of that (making a nice purple stick) followed by 3 washes of the iron acetate, and the oak was quite close to black. The maple looked more like a dark walnut color.
I'm going to have to file this one for future use! I just used the Minwax (oil based) stain on this one, as described above. I'm hoping that the Pentacryl soaking has replaced enough water in the bark that future shrinkage won't cause separation - time will tell. The sapwood is very dry, but the bark must have adsorbed a lot of Pentacryl because it still feels ever so slightly moist.

I will let the stain & sealer dry for at least a week before attempting a finish. According to the literature, such things as Danish oil and Tung oil will not penetrate following the use of a sealer - that is logical. So I'm stuck with a varnish or polyurethane application I suppose. Maybe varnish would actually be more easily maintained on the wood, but I don't have a clue whether either would look okay on the bark. That's the purpose of the experiment. If I get this one right, then I can make my son a good one with a similar, but straight and longer piece.
 

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On my father's cane, which is made of maple with the bark still on, I only used a beeswax finish I made. It's equal parts boiled linseed oil, beeswax and turpentine. Gently heat the beeswax and very(!!) carefully add the warm (not hot!) beeswax to the linseed oil, turpentine mixture. Put in a glass or ceramic container you can seal, and let cool. I use it on a lot of stuff. Wipe it on, let dry for a while, wipe off excess (careful with those rags!) and then buff when fully dry. Won't work on really craggy bark, but for the smooth stuff, works quite well and gives a nice gentle sheen. Not really a waterproof sealer, but does give some protection, and is very easily re-applied. I use it on bare wood as well.

Some will add a little carnuba or harder wax than beeswax to the mixture to give a bit more protection than just beeswax alone. Up to you.

Just be careful about adding warm beeswax to a volatile liquid like turpentine or mineral spirits (the other option). You can also use tung oil instead of linseed oil. Your call.
 
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