Locating Jet Black Pigment

A search for a pigment source turns into a deeper discussion of how various black pigment varieties are made. September 10, 2007

My local suppliers only carry 844 pigments (lacquer compatible). I'm trying to make the switch to WB products and need 896 jet black (not lamp black). Any leads for a supplier who sells in quart quantities?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
Did you know that you can buy a quart of waterbase black tinter from just about any paint store?

From contributor D:
Regarding paint stores, they carry lamp black and not any other black. If I wanted to match a black Steinway piano, I would be very much out of luck. Finding ivory black is not so easy. "Jet black" - is that an actual color designation? There's lamp black, which you don't want, but there's also ivory black, which might be the same as carbon black.

From contributor P:
Check out Degussa (formerly HULS) 896 Aqua Chem.

From the original questioner:

It appears that jet black (Degussa designation) is carbon black 896-9940.

From contributor J:
Most blacks are carbon blacks, which are combustion products of the burning of gas. The exceptions are called "vegetable" blacks, which are basically crushed up burnt celluosic matter such as vines, trees, etc. These are also known as vine blacks. Ivory black might also be a vegetable black, but I'm not sure. The vegetable blacks have a slight yellowy undertone.

Carbon blacks are distinguished by their "jetness" which is a term loosely used to describe their nuances in terms of undertone. Particle size, the type of gas used to produce them (i.e. acetylene versus natural gas), will produce the various types.

From contributor J:
The 896 Jet Black is only distributed by Degussa is 5 gallon pails. Unless you can find someone who stocks that color and is willing to re-bottle it, I'm afraid you're going to have a tough go getting it.

The only people who would typically use a special pigment would be industrial manufacturers of specialty items (say, ink), but you could try calling the waterborne manufacturers like Target, Fuhr, General, etc and see if they use it.

From contributor R:
Ivory Black: Bone Black. (PBk 9) is made of carbon, calcium phosphate, and calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, or other impurities. It is made by charring animal bones or (originally) ivory scraps which make it finer, more intense, and of a higher carbon content than bone. It is the only member of the impure carbon group that is recommended as a permanent artist color.

Lamp Black: Vegetable Black, Carbon Black, Oil Black. (PBk 6) The oldest pigment known to man, it is almost pure carbon made from soot collected when fatty oils are burnt.

Mars Black: Black Iron Oxide. (PBk 11) is created by oxidation of ferrous hydroxide followed by calcination.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the excellent info!

From contributor U:
If all else fails, you can easily get dry pigments from Synopia.

From contributor K:
I've been looking for that "jet black" pigment too. There are quite a few choices at both Sinopia and Conservator's Emporium. I do not know which specific pigment best matches that "piano black" look. Many of them are too much of a gray-black. For my piano work, I've been using a pigmented base coat and topcoating with black dye (orasol RLI) added to clear lacquer for a real nice match to many of the piano blacks. If anyone has sorted through the different options of black pigments and can tell us which one best matches jet black, I would appreciate it.

From contributor G:
I did some research when this topic first came up. Here is the gist of it. With the exception of iron black (which isn't much used in lacquers) and black dye (which is usually very deep purple), black pigments are made of carbon.

Bone black and ivory black used to be made of burned bones and ivory and contained carbon, residual calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate. They were warmer than the blue-blacks.

Burned wood (the aforementioned vegetable black) is charcoal, also a warm black due to the size of the carbon particles.

As it turns out, today's blacks are all products of incomplete combustion of aromatics. The amount of aromatic and the amount of oxygen determine the size of the carbon particles, which in turn, determines the jetness, or blue-blackness, like Superman's hair.

The Monarch 1400 that is in the Degussa Jet Black is a finer particle than the Raven 500 in the Lamp Black, but LB is still a blue-black. If you really need Jet Black, ask Degussa who buys the 5ers so you can buy a quart from them.

From the original questioner:
Contributor K, I'm using this for pianos as well. However, it seems as if you're probably using solvent based lacquers, for which 844 colors rather than the 896 in the thread's title addresses. 844 are usually easily available from most professional suppliers. I'm trying to go waterbase.

I did locate a quart of 896 9940-jet black... An understanding distributor listened to my vain attempts to locate the product through the normal channels, and finally just sent me a sample quart.

It probably would make sense for a bunch of piano guys to make a special order of 6 quarts of the appropriate black pigment from any local finish supplier dealing with Degussa, and distribute it out amongst ourselves.