Question: I like the look of fumed white oak, and the process is foolproof. Are there other woods that can be fumed?
-- Andy Teague , Norwalk , CT


White Oak Fumes Well because of its high tannin content. Tannins are organic compounds that react to ammonia hydroxide fumes, darkening the surface. Mahogany, walnut, cherry, chestnut, redwood, and hemlock all have sufficient tannin content to fume. Keep in mind that there are no tannins in sapwood, so fuming won’t darken it. Also, tannin content varies from tree to tree, so select boards carefully—a tabletop made from several boards could have inconsistent color.

fuming white oak

click to enlarge

Always Darker The three sample boards were fumed with ammonia. The surface of each sample board darkened. A coat of shellac was applied to reveal the true color.

Photos: Kelly J. Dunton

From Fine Woodworking #218 February 10, 2011