Is Fuming Oak a Good Idea?

      Fuming White Oak with ammonia gives inconsistent results, and the intent can be achieved using conventional techniques instead. October 19, 2013

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
We will be installing a quartered white oak room soon and the idea of fuming it has been brought up. The room is 16'x16' with 9' ceilings. Other than the already understood dangers and concerns about fuming with ammonia, should I have any concerns about exposed sheet rock? Are there any absorption or discoloration issues? What about off-gassing afterwards?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From Contributor F

Click to View Member Profile Member Photo Member Contact Info Project Gallery

Why would you want to fume the oak? What are you trying to achieve? Anything that ammonia can give you in regards to color can be achieved in numerous ways with dyes, stains, shellac, and even dark wax. However, if you took all the wood for the room and put it in a sealed truck trailer with the ammonia I suppose then itís about as safe as can be, but you still have to finish it.



From Contributor K:
I fumed an oak table and achieved an effect that I couldn't have achieved with a stain or a dye. Because the ammonia reacts with the tannins in the wood, and the tannin content varies considerably from board to board and even within a board, we were able to darken the wood considerably while maintaining variation in color. I think you would have to work the wood first, finish sand it in place and then seal and fume the entire room. I don't know if the ammonia smell will linger, as I've only tried fuming in a shop environment. The fumes are incredibly noxious.


From Contributor R:
Who brought up the idea for fuming? It seems everyone does it at least once, but without question a competent finisher will be able to give you the same color and look with far greater control.

I have to agree with Contributor F on this one. I've put a number of oak pieces under the scrutiny of experts and had them pick the one that was fumed. They found it very easy to pick out because of the unique look. Of course you know where I'm going with this right? None of them were fumed.

Keep it simple. A basic regime with a dye followed by a stain will work wonders. White oak is one of the few woods I'll stain as opposed to glaze. Its density is perfect for this. By varying the dye you can achieve all sorts of effects while using the same stain color. A basic recipe would be: a golden yellow dye followed by a deep warm stain (something with a burnt umber base). Change the dye to a cool greenish yellow with the same stain and the shift is to a more neutral brown. Do yourself a favor and keep it simple.



From the original questioner:
That pretty much summed up where my thought process was going. I had mentioned the idea to the architect but followed it with "we probably won't go that way" and it got to the homeowner. Oh well.

As much as would like to experiment, the site is an active construction job site so the logistics of the process would be more difficult than itís worth. We have done smaller controlled pieces in the past and I think it does add a value that dyes and stains don't. The effort to result ratio at this scale doesn't pan out.



Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?


Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base

  • KnowledgeBase: Finishing

  • KnowledgeBase: Finishing: General Wood Finishing


    Would you like to add information to this article? ... Click Here

    If you have a question regarding a Knowledge Base article, your best chance at uncovering an answer is to search the entire Knowledge Base for related articles or to post your question at the appropriate WOODWEB Forum. Before posting your message, be sure to
    review our Forum Guidelines.

    Questions entered in the Knowledge Base Article comment form will not generate responses! A list of WOODWEB Forums can be found at WOODWEB's Site Map.

    When you post your question at the Forum, be sure to include references to the Knowledge Base article that inspired your question. The more information you provide with your question, the better your chances are of receiving responses.

    Return to beginning of article.



    Refer a Friend || Read This Important Information || Site Map || Privacy Policy || Site User Agreement

    Letters, questions or comments? E-Mail us and let us know what you think. Be sure to review our Frequently Asked Questions page.

    Contact us to discuss advertising or to report problems with this site.

    To report a problem, send an e-mail to our Webmaster

    Copyright © 1996-2016 - WOODWEB ® Inc.
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the Editor.
    Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.

    The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices. What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk.

    WOODWEB, Inc.
    335 Bedell Road
    Montrose, PA 18801

    Contact WOODWEB











  • WOODWEB - the leading resource for professional woodworkers


      Home » Knowledge Base » Knowledge Base Article