1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. ATTENTION FORUM MEMBERS!

    Guest, if you have not yet updated your forum bookmark to a secure log in connection, please delete your unsecure book and add the following secure bookmark: https://www.aawforum.org/community/index.php

    You can dismiss this notice by clicking the X in the upper right of the notice box.

    Dismiss Notice

Bleaching wood

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by Tom Hansen, Sep 6, 2020.

  1. Tom Hansen

    Tom Hansen

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2020
    Messages:
    59
    Location (City & State):
    Portland, OR
    bleached cherry small.jpg Today I had my first go of trying to bleach wood. I followed a paper Joe Fleming had on his website called "Making your own wood bleach" https://www.airbrushingwood.com/education.html (right side of page, halfway down)

    I ordered 28% hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide
    https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0875LR274/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B07XQW2D54/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    I used a kitchen scale to measure out 182 grams of sod. hyd. into a gallon a distilled water and let it set over night. Today I took a turned cherry vessel and tried it dumping the hydroxide solution followed by the peroxide, and nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. No foaming or fizzing or anything. The drips coming off I let run over an chunk of fencepost and it fizzed there but not the cherry vessel.

    According to the paper it's supposed to start fizzing immediately and you have to use vinegar or a hose to wash off the solution. After letting it sit for 30 minutes after hosing it off it appears to have darkened up. At least it's brought out some pretty drastic pink tones that werent there before. It's strange to say the least. Still have a tenon on it which didn't get any solution and it's much lighter and less colorful than the body that was "bleached".

    Any ideas? Are my materials and measurements correct?
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
  2. Richard Coers

    Richard Coers

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2009
    Messages:
    1,025
    Location (City & State):
    Peoria, Illinois
    Didn't you forget a step with the hydrogen peroxide?
     
  3. Tom Hansen

    Tom Hansen

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2020
    Messages:
    59
    Location (City & State):
    Portland, OR
    no, i guess I didn't make that exactly clear. I put the hydroxide solution on followed by the peroxide exactly as the instructions said.
     
  4. Bob Brown

    Bob Brown

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2006
    Messages:
    12
    There was an article in Aaw years ago. Mix equal parts together, then apply to wood.
    Use caution fumes and potential burns. Gloves etc.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
  5. Chris Lawrence

    Chris Lawrence

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2020
    Messages:
    25
    Location (City & State):
    Jackson, NJ
    Could cherry be one of the woods that does not bleach well?
     
  6. john lucas

    john lucas AAW Forum Expert

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2004
    Messages:
    7,332
    Location (City & State):
    Cookeville TN USA
    Cherry bleaches fine but then I've only used the commercial wood bleach. I have not tried making my own yet because I still have a half a quart of the A and B Bleach I've been using for years. Often it will take 3 or 4 coats to really get a bleaching affect.
     
    Dwight R Rutherford likes this.
  7. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2004
    Messages:
    6,492
    Location (City & State):
    Lakeland, Florida
    Home Page:
    When I do bleaching i mix equal parts of A and B and brush this solution on the wood.

    I have often bleached cherry Sapwood to make it white if I let a blank get beyond its use by date.

    I suggest you mix the two parts together and brush on.
    Also setting the bleach wet piece in the sun can speed up the bleach in.

    Maybe you only got the effect from one part.
    I remember a guy telling me he used on of the bleach parts to bring out color. Don’t remember which part.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
  8. Mark Jundanian

    Mark Jundanian

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2018
    Messages:
    598
    Location (City & State):
    La Grange, IL
    It's the sodium hydroxide that's bringing out that color. You can treat cherry with lye to darken it.
     
    hockenbery likes this.
  9. Tom Hansen

    Tom Hansen

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2020
    Messages:
    59
    Location (City & State):
    Portland, OR
    Maybe I got some super strength hydroxide. I put a second coat on and it got darker. Was just a practice piece anyway to test a few techniques so no biggie, just wish I knew what I was doing wrong.
     
  10. JeffSmith

    JeffSmith

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    327
    Location (City & State):
    Lummi Island, WA
    I recently looked up that article and bleached some pear, madrone and holly pieces to try it out - worked beautifully. Used the baquacil peroxide and lye as written. The article was written by Gary Guenther and Dick Veitch and was in 2016, I think. A search of the AAW journal archives will turn it up. Good information. Wear gloves...by the way, I had purchased the two ingredients about four years ago when the article first came out but it sat until now before I got a round to trying it. Doesn’t appear to be a shelf life for either of the two components.
    It did take about three applications to get to where I wanted...
     
  11. Paul Gilbert

    Paul Gilbert

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    Messages:
    68
    Location (City & State):
    Allen, TX
    The Amazon link you provided states that the peroxide is only 5%. That is not very strong stuff. Go to a pool supply house and buy the 27% stuff. I think that the hair dresser market uses peroxide at about 28%. With a little more looking looking you might find the commercial grade which is 50%, but it probably is only available in 55 gal. drums.
     
  12. Paul Gilbert

    Paul Gilbert

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    Messages:
    68
    Location (City & State):
    Allen, TX
    Sodium Hydroxide is completely stable is tightly sealed. A solution will pick up CO2 from the atmosphere with the resultant product being sodium carbonate (washing soda). You will see it as a white scum on top of the solution. Hydrogen peroxide will release oxygen over time, so don't screw the cap down real tight. I had a 5 gal pail of 50% material blow up in my shed in the hot Texas sun.
     
  13. JeffSmith

    JeffSmith

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    327
    Location (City & State):
    Lummi Island, WA
    Pool supply places typically sell Baquacil - its 27% and works well.
     
  14. Glenn Lefley

    Glenn Lefley

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2017
    Messages:
    488
    Location (City & State):
    Invermere, British Columbia
    also

    98782539-AC84-45F9-BBE4-7D3056ADF967.jpeg D48D6FE9-09AD-436C-AEAA-74FAC281401B.jpeg
     
  15. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2004
    Messages:
    6,492
    Location (City & State):
    Lakeland, Florida
    Home Page:
    I think you know from the comments on the 5% peroxide that you effectively only used hydroxide.
     
  16. Paul Gilbert

    Paul Gilbert

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    Messages:
    68
    Location (City & State):
    Allen, TX
    What's left of the EPA still requires that anything that makes a sanitizing claim must be registered as a pesticide. It also requires that all active ingredients be listed and the percentage in the product stated on the label. You can buy hydrogen peroxide as a hair bleach agent, but take the very same product and claim it kills algae in a swimming pool and you have to kill mice etc. to get a label.
     
  17. Tom Hansen

    Tom Hansen

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2020
    Messages:
    59
    Location (City & State):
    Portland, OR
    by god we have a winner. I specifically searched out 28% peroxide and somehow ended up purchasing 5% accidentally... sigh.

    anyway, if anyone wants to know how to darken the natural color of wood, ask me as I recently learnt a few things about it.

    thank you paul gilbert for reading the fine print (as I should have done in the first place)
     
  18. Dean Center

    Dean Center

    Joined:
    May 4, 2010
    Messages:
    1,029
    Location (City & State):
    Bozeman, MT
    If we're adding safety comments, high grade eye protection is critical in using any strong base, which is the sodium hydroxide part. Our eyes can deal with acid far better than base and losing sight is a very real possibility if you get it in your eye. (Also, never, ever, ever add water to a dry base, in case you have to mix. Always slowly add the base to the full volume of water.)
     
    Bill Boehme likes this.
  19. Tom Hansen

    Tom Hansen

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2020
    Messages:
    59
    Location (City & State):
    Portland, OR
    the exothermic reaction from just the 180 grams into the gallon of water was fairly dramatic. more so than I would have thought even adding it a small amount at a time.
     
    Bill Boehme likes this.
  20. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Messages:
    11,277
    Location (City & State):
    Dalworthington Gardens, TX
    Home Page:
    I see that Joe Fleming copied my tutorial on homemade wood bleach. I posted it on the WoW site and originally here in the Tutorials section of the AAW forum. At least he gave me credit.

    As has already been pointed out, the hydrogen peroxide that you bought is only 5%and far too weak to be useful. As far as I am aware, Aqua Silk and Baquacil are the only two swimming pool hydrogen peroxide shock oxidizers. All of the others are chlorine based and useless for bleaching wood.

    I can't imagine why your lye (sodium hydroxide) didn't work. Had the piece of cherry been waxed or possibly sealed with shellac or lacquer? For about half the price you could have bought the drain cleaner version of 100% sodium hydroxide. I got mine at the local Ace Hardware for less than five dollars, but I think that the price has increased since then. Just make sure that you don't get a drain cleaner with other ingredients added such as magnesium. If you correctly measured 182 grams that would be a little over one third of the one pound container.

    What kind of container are you using for the sodium hydroxide? Hopefully not plastic or metal.

    You can actually bleach wood using just the sodium hydroxide, but the hydrogen peroxide speeds up the bleaching process and makes it a bit more effective. I don't know if it makes much difference if you apply the chemicals separately or mix together before applying. I prefer applying separately for no particular reason. I might have been a bit overboard on the safety precautions, but you definitely don't want to get these chemicals on your skin or clothing.
     
    hockenbery likes this.
  21. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Messages:
    11,277
    Location (City & State):
    Dalworthington Gardens, TX
    Home Page:
    Oxalic acid will bleach the gray out of weathered wood and also remove some mineral stains, but it does not bleach the pigments out of wood. So it won't work for our purpose of removing the color in preparation for dyeing.
     
  22. Tom Hansen

    Tom Hansen

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2020
    Messages:
    59
    Location (City & State):
    Portland, OR
    Hey thanks for the update Bill. Joe emailed me back and said to try and get ahold of you with my questions but it seems you found me. Joe did a remote demo for one of my clubs recently and while talking about bleaching he mentioned that he had reposted your essay on his site as he found it explained the process excellently. For what it's worth, he made it very clear it wasn't his work in both the demo and my email contact with him. Oregon has a lot of cannabis grow stores that carry 28% H202 labeled as fungicide/pesticide or some such which i'm fixing to run and take a look at.

    The cherry i used had a coat of parrafin used as a sealer when I processed it into blanks. When I turned it, I took off a good inch though. There was no sealer or shellac applied.
    The sodium hydroxide is in a glass gallon jar sitting inside a 5 gal. bucket as recommended and I do have about 2/3rds of the 1 lb container remaining. I am absolutely using what is probably overkill on protective gear (eyes/hands/body) and doing it outside. The 2 parts are not mixed together.

    One thing I noticed, when I set it to dry some liquid would drip off and when it dried, it left a reddish stain. This tells me that it is working. I guess it's just bringing up the color and concentrating it on the surface. It looks interesting as the growth rings are now lighter colored than the rest. Sort of a reverse red zebra stripe thing going on.

    Just a stupid oversight on my part. I have experience with using high concentrated h202 and specifically targeted the 28% vs. lower strength, but somehow ended up purchasing the wrong one.
     
  23. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Messages:
    11,277
    Location (City & State):
    Dalworthington Gardens, TX
    Home Page:
    I remember now that somebody selling airbrushes did get my permission to post my bleaching tutorial on their website ... and it was probably Joe Fleming. My memory is fine ... it just takes a couple days to recall something. :D

    Not all wood ca be bleached ... most tropical hardwoods are oily and very resistant to bleaching. Some domestic wood species have growth rings with soft earlywood and very hard latewood. The first piece of wood that I experimented on ... Douglas Fir (which is a softwood) has soft early wood and hard latewood. The bleach was very effective on the earlywood, but hardly touched the latewood.You might be able to take advantage of this characteristic on the right project.

    Cherry doesn't grow on trees around here so I have no experience bleaching it. I was given a nice cherry bowl blank once. The stuff turns wonderfully.. I wish it wasn't so expensive ... I might be tempted to buy a piece now and then. Cherry might require multiple applications for satisfactory bleaching or maybe it could be one of those species that can't be bleached.

    Not as bad as when I used a gallon plastic Gatorade jug for the sodium hydroxide solution. :eek:
     
  24. Mike Peace

    Mike Peace

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2008
    Messages:
    239
    Location (City & State):
    Suwanee, GA
    Home Page:
    I did a video on bleaching a while back using Gary Guenther's AAW article. It worked well on most woods. But be careful with it as the video shows.

    View: https://youtu.be/hQaJ82qGOEM
     
  25. Tom Hansen

    Tom Hansen

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2020
    Messages:
    59
    Location (City & State):
    Portland, OR
    Success! I found some 34% H202 today and after 1 application it's back to where it started. It didn't fizz or anything and I had assumed it didn't work but I applied and sprayed off with a hose and left to dry and an hour later it's lighter.

    Thanks for all the input, direction and help from everyone. Thanks Bill for the excellent guide.
     
  26. Gerald Lawrence

    Gerald Lawrence

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2010
    Messages:
    1,770
    Location (City & State):
    Brandon, MS
    Bill if you come to Mississippi I can get you some. By the way it bleaches nicely also walnut does well but may need multiple applications
     

Share This Page