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Toning

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    Ammonia Toning of Wood FAQ


Has anybody used their heat gun oven and ammonia carbonate to tone bamboo?   What steps did you take?  Maurer writes about preheating the oven first with the ammonia carbonate in the oven, then placing the cane into the oven.  Can't see how that would work with the heat gun oven.  Any ideas?  (Mark Babiy)

    I spent a very long time experimenting with ammonium carbonate cubes in the oven. Looked for a bakery supply, but couldn't find one.  Had to buy 4 1/2 oz. jars from the pharmacy and it was expensive.  Very little effect except when I made a strong tea solution and soaked  the bound strips for several hours.  It was too long and every where the string was it left a mark.  When I took the string off it looked like a skinned diamondback rattlesnake.

    Finally made what I call an ammonia generator. Plywood box 5 X 5 X 8 in. Cut a hole in the top for a 48" clear plastic fluorescent tube protector and joined that with 1 1/4" PVC elbows and tube that returned the fumes to the bottom of the box. Inside the top of the box I installed a 12v computer muffin fan to give the fumes circulation.  Used a small glass jar and put in 1" of ammonia hydroxide (25.5% ammonia from the local blue print shop).  Dipped the completed sanded strips in the tea solution for 20 minutes.  Dried them in a light bulb drying tube.  First shot of ammonia- fumes were all dissipated in about six hours. Threw out the water and put in more ammonia for another six hours.  A fellow had given me the butt and mid of a Deluxe Granger so I had built new tips and it was important to match the rod.  After 12 hours I wiped a tiny bit of varnish, with my finger tip and it looked to be a perfect match.  Good part was, it happened slowly and you could see what you were doing, Just used a little 4/0 steel wool and dipped in the tank.  I gave up on using the ammonia in the oven, especially with the enamel on the strips.  (Jerry Young)


I placed the blanks from a recently glued up rod in an ammonia steam bath for about 5 days.  I poured about 2 cups of blue print ammonia in the bottom of a capped off 6 foot section of black drain pipe.  I suspended the blanks in the tube, sealed it off, and let it sit outside.  When I pulled the blanks out today some glue lines showed up that weren't there before.  Will the seams return to their prior "gapless state"?

Also, the blanks now smell like horse piss.  I understand one of Payne's trade marks is that his rods smelled of oranges, but a trade mark urine odor would be original but less than optimal.  Will this post ammonia steaming odor dissipate, or is this just a pisser you have to deal with when ammonia toning?

I like the color of the rod, but any insights you can share regarding odor removal or if the glue lines will go away would be appreciated.   [:)]   (Kyle Druey)

    The smell will dissipate, just leave the blank somewhere it can breath for a few days. The glue lines you are most likely stuck with, once they appear, they don't seem to go away. Consider yourself lucky, I don't seem to be able to see them until I'm sanding the first coat of varnish.  (John Channer)

    I made a blank for a friend and he did the same thing you did to darken it.  When the blank was picked up he commented on how nice it was and that there were no glue lines. When I saw the finished rod, (he did a nice job), I noticed several brown glue lines. He said they appeared after he did the Ammonia treatment on it. He has been using the rod for over two years with no ill effect on the rod.

    It really bothered me though.  (Tony Spezio)


I picked up some blueprinting ammonia last week to try fuming bamboo without heat.  Would it be best to place strips in to a chamber before or after final planing, when bound before heat treating, or after rod is glued? I understand this stuff is pretty dangerous to mess with and I need a little risk in my life.  (David Rinker)

    I do it after the strips are glued up, filed and sanded ready for finish. I place a PVC tube over the mouth of the jug (of course after I take a whiff of the stuff to clear my head) and tape it with duct tape. I do it in a green house I have attached to the house. The sun heats it up to 95 degrees F. even on the coldest winter day. In summer I do it outside.  I suspend the sections down the tube and check them every day till I get the color I want. I only do it for remaking tips on existing rods such as Heddon , Granger and Edwards.  (Marty DeSapio)


I made a "browntoning" setup over the weekend and tried it out. Seemed to work fairly well without "gassing" me. Strips I did came out a light chocolate milk color. I will experiment further. *G*

I took a furniture dolly from Harbor Freight (the small wheeled one for $19.95) and bought some large hose clamps.  I then took some 1 1/2" PVC, cut two 4 1/2 ft lengths. I then cut two 6" lengths of PVC,  glued caps on one end and a coupling on the other.  I mounted the longer sections of PVC to the arms of the furniture dolly with hose clamps (leaving enough space at the bottom to add on the 6" sections with cap and coupling) I then cut two small notches at the top of the long section and made two shallow grooves down each side of the pipe. I take a piece of coat hanger and put it across these to hang the rod sections or strips from. The grooves allow me to put the cap (rubber with a hose clamp) over without having to allow for the hanger pieces. I then took some industrial ammonia(from a guy I know that does professional cleaning) put it in the 6" sections, took a small piece of foil and put it in the coupling and punched a few holes in it, and seated the 6" section with the ammonia on the bottom of the larger sections and wheeled the whole deal out into the sun. Had no idea how long to leave it, so left it Saturday and most of Sunday and ended up with some cool looking brown strips.  (Dewey Hildebrand)

    I got a good brown color by just soaking a blank overnight in regular household ammonia. Since I soak my strips in water, I didn't see how soaking them in ammonia could hurt. Once the ammonia dries out I can't tell any difference in the blank other than it's brown.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      I would have some concern about soaking a glued up blank. If it dries out too quickly, the blank could split. If the outside shrinks while the inside remains wet and swollen, the resultant tension can create check splits, just like what happens if you try to season a whole tree trunk. I would feel safer soaking the finished strips, drying them, and then gluing up.  (Tom Smithwick)

        That could happen I guess. The bamboo seems porous enough so that it didn't happen. I'm also the one who planes the enamel side of his strips, so maybe that helps dry out the inside of the blank.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      Now that is one that I have not heard before.  You're just full of surprises.  (Carl DiNardo)

        Actually at first I set up a fairly elaborate pipe and tubing arrangement and I heated the ammonia in a closed system to get ammonia vapors in contact with the blank. After all that, when I took the blank out, it was wet with condensed ammonia. So I figured if the blank was wet anyway, just dunk it in the stuff. Seemed to work just as well as the elaborate setup.  (Darryl Hayashida)

          What if you soaked the strips before final planing?  Wouldn't that take care of Tom's objection of the blank splitting?  As you said, soaking in water and soaking in ammonia "should" be comparable.   (Todd Talsma)

            You'd need to be careful that all the ammonia residue has been cleaned (or planed) off the gluing surfaces; ammonia will inhibit certain types of adhesives and finishes from sticking.

            Otherwise, I'd think it would work.  (Chris Obuchowski)

            I don't see why that wouldn't work, sounds better than soaking the blank.  I'll try it next time I want a browntone rod.  Let me reiterate - HOUSEHOLD AMMONIA! The stuff you buy at grocery stores.  (Darryl Hayashida)

              A long time ago, I finished an oak tabletop for a friend, and had to match an antique base. Somewhere I got instructions on how to stain with ammonia. It seems to me I used a 50/50 solution of ammonia and hot water, and the temperature was important. I think oak has a special affinity for being colored by ammonia, but maybe increased temperature would speed the process and eliminate the soak? Just a thought.   (Tom Smithwick)

                The reason I emphasized household ammonia is because it is possible to get concentrated ammonia, and that stuff is dangerous. The stuff in grocery stores is only a few percent ammonia (maybe as high as 10 percent - I don't recall right now) and the rest is water.  (Darryl Hayashida)


Can anyone tell me  how to use  chromium picolinate in toning a rod?  (David Ray)

    Haven't heard of anyone using chromium picolinate for toning a rod.  All I remember is hearing of people using Ammonium Carbonate or Ammonia for toning rods. Basically exposing the rods  to the fumes form either for a period of time. I believe that the Ammonium Carbonate, in powder or chunk form, is placed in the oven with the rod and heated to release the fumes (This is done outside). Similar with Ammonia. The rod is placed in a tube attached to the bottle of Ammonia and the contraption is placed in the sun.

    Be very careful with either of these as Ammonia is very noxious. Early in my career I worked in a drafting room where we used an ammonia print developing machine. not fun to be around when changing out bottles.  (Dick Fuhrman)

    I've used chromic acid (chromium trioxide in H2O) to stain maple muzzle loader stocks, but never heard of chromium picolinate being used for such a purpose.  Will try to remember to look in some reference books at the office.  Did  quick web search and it seems tat chromium picolinate is a food/vitamin supplement.   The concentrations in those tablets would be several orders of magnitude below that required to oxidize bamboo if that's the source.   If you want to try the chromic acid, I have about a pint that has been sitting for years just waiting for someone with a need.  It is nasty stuff to handle and is toxic, but its yours if you want it.  Would have to ship UPS and can find some suitable packaging at work.  (Carey Mitchell)


Any of you fellows had any success matching the tone reddish brown tone on Folsom and some Heddon rods?

I've tried everything I could find on the list but still can't seem to get a match to a rod that I'm considering replacing it's two short tips.  The closest I've come is with ammonia but did not try heat treating and ammonia toning at the same time.  I'm not sure the action of time did not alter the color from the original and that all I have to do is ammonia tone the rod and wait 50 years for it to match.  Anyone know how Heddon did it?  (Frank Caruso)

    I've had good results using Potassium Permanganate. I'm able to match Heddon's browntone along with just about any others by altering the time I leave the stuff on and how many applications I apply. Any good science supply store will carry the powder. Just mix 1:10 ratio of the powder with your solvent of choice (I've heard distilled water works fine and is safer than acetone). The liquid will be a very dark purple but when wiped off, it leaves an even browntone color on the cane that will not wipe off.  (Jeff Fultz)

    Take a peek at the article I wrote for Power Fibers a couple of issues ago.  I used TransTint dyes, as recommended by Mike Brooks on a replacement tip I did for an FE Thomas rod, and it came out extremely close in color to the original.  You may have to mix and match the dyes, but the good thing is, it doesn't take much dye to make the color.  You thin the dye with denatured alcohol, rub it onto the rod section with a clean rag, wait about a minute, and rub another coat of the dye in.  Keep doing that until you get the color you want.  The dye soaks into the cane really well.  You can TransTint at from Woodcraft. (Mark Wendt)

    I have messed around a bit with using fabric dyes and wiping on color. It works well and the color can be adjusted by using different combinations as well as using successive layers. I got the instructions from Mike Brooks. Use Jacquard fabric dyes and wipe on with a 50/50 mix with turps. I use Mike's suggested 1/4 tsp. Russet, 1/2 tsp. Chestnut, and a pinch of Sun Yellow with a few (I think 4) ounces of alcohol. I bet these three colors could replicate most anything. If you take the same batch above and mix with a quart of alcohol, you could submerge the blank and get an even more uniform color.

    Maulucci_Bob_smalltwo

    Here is an example of some cutoffs I did with two different intensities using the same batch (above). The background is an 18% gray card, so adjust color balance on your computer to that. Not sure how it matches a Heddon, but it might be a good basis for experimenting.  (Bob Maulucci)


I just had an enlightening experience about color adjustment for blonde rods.  I had soaked some strips before straightening and rough planing, and I wanted to dry them out before heat treating.  I bound the strips and hung them off the end of a protruding beam on the south side of my garage, to take advantage of an uncharacteristic warm, sunny spell of weather we've had here in the Puget Sound area, and just left them hanging out there for a week.

Yesterday I put a second set of wraps over the first prior to heat treating them.  I wanted to make sure they were bound tightly with nylon prior to heat treating to keep the kinks from returning.  I just unwrapped one section and was surprised to see light colored imprints of the thread on the cane.  Then I realized that it was only a single set of wraps that showed.  Hanging the cane out in the sun for a week had darkened it about a dozen shades except where the shadow of the binding thread had blocked the sunlight. 

Violin makers have used this phenomenon for centuries.  They usually hang a white violin in the sunlight for about a month to darken the wood before they begin varnishing.

It occurred to me that this is a simple way to slowly and carefully adjust the color in blonde rods to match a replacement section to an older rod.  Just hang the blank out in the sun until it darkens to the color you want before you wrap and varnish.  (Robert Kope)

    Sounds interesting Robert, but I always thought that the sun's rays bleached.  Have I missed something?  (Ralph Moon)

      I never thought of it until Robert brought it up but I use to have a home with wide plank pine flooring.  When I first built the home the floors were finished naturally but over time the floor got darker where my wife didn't have rugs down.  This all came to mind about the floor when Robert said this about the bamboo.  It all makes sense and I am going to give this a try and see what happens.  May have to do with the ultraviolet effects on wood, after all if you think about it and you have a deck on your home the wood on the deck does get darker over time.  (Bret Reiter)


Potassium permanganate is mixed with distilled water and then applied to raw or stripped blanks as a chemical stain. It produces a very even shade of color ranging from light honey to dark mahogany depending on how long you let each application soak and how many successive applications you apply. A very dark mahogany color can be acquired with about six coats allowed to set about minute each. I mainly use this method for matching new tip sections to old rods. I have been able to successfully match any shade of rod that I have tried (Phillipsons, Paynes, Heddons, Divines, etc). I recommend trying it on some scrap pieces first to get the hang of it, otherwise it's as easy as wiping on and wiping off. Once set and dried, the color will not bleed. I have used it with various different spar and urethane finishes without experiencing any problems. I will include detailed instructions of this method with every bottle.   (Jeff Fultz)

    I was wondering how this chemical might effect the power fibers. Have you used this on a scrap of bamboo and then cut it to see how deeply this soaks in.

    Where did you buy the stuff?

    The method sounds interesting.  (Mark Dyba)

      My experiments have shown a penetration of about 0.001". You can not wipe away the color with any solvent that I know of, but you can lightly sand it off (depending on how many applications you used and how long you applied each coat). I originally learned this method from an old rodmaking book (don't remember which one), so I know it has been used for quit a while.

      I purchase my lab grade stuff at a local chemistry supply house. You can also get it at companies that sell industrial water treatment chemicals (by the barrel at least). There are some purchasing restrictions due to other uses of this stuff (the US Forest Service uses it to make fire bombs to start backfires and such.  (Jeff Fultz)

    I assume this is the safer alternative to doing it in your heat treating oven with ammonia carbonate.  Do you require any special precautions with the potassium permanganate?  Also, how deep does it penetrate the blank?  (Robert Cristant)

      You are correct, it is much safer than "smoking" with ammonia chloride. I about killed myself when I tried that method! The only safety requirement for PP is to wear gloves and glasses. This stuff will stain your hands a dark brown and will not come off until the skin does. I imagine it can't be that healthy to have soaked in either but the MSDS doesn't list any stricter requirements.   (Jeff Fultz)


I am doing some informal tests on bleaching and ammonia treating cutoff sections. 

Does anyone know the effects of Clorox on glue bond?

Is the consensus that soaking a blank in household ammonia is effective in browntoning?  (Joe West)

    I think that nearly everyone on the list has messed with browntoning with ammonia, and I have heard far more "it didn't work" stories than successes. There are a number of posts in the archives that suggest that you need something more powerful than household ammonia- either ammonium carbonate or industrial blueprint ammonia in a fume chamber. And then you have trouble getting the correct color. I can not recall more than one or two posts stating :it worked beautifully and here is exactly how I did it".

    There are more recent threads deal with trans tint dyes. They are less obnoxious to work with, and mixing directions for specific tones have appeared on the list, in Clark's forum, and in Power Fibers. I have achieved actual success using dyes to match new tip sections for older rods, my ammonia experiments were disasters. Given that you can achieve specific color tones with the dyes, I would not mess with the stuff, unless you were doing a museum quality restoration job.

    Naturally, just my opinion.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

      Doesn't Milward's book claim ammonia weakens the cane?  (Dave Norling)

        ON a related subject... Why was there an aversion to traditional woodworker's staining methods other than burning and ammonia in the Golden Age???  I'm thinking that ammonia gassing was a matter of volume efficiency, but???  (Joe West)

          Bamboo does not take stain very well.  I have never had any success with oil stains, and even spirit stains don't seem to do more than lie on the surface.  Some other have had some success with stains, but I personally feel that a flaming approach or blonde rods are the way to go.  Heat treating cane deteriorates it, and I feel that harsh chemicals can really do little for cane.  (Ralph Moon)

    I will often soak my strips in ammonia for browning.  I have never done a glued blank, I think it would depend on what you glued it with. Ammonia will brown the strips all the way through. You will plane brown cane. I like the color.  Over night for a deep brown an hour or so for a light brown.  (David Ray)

      My 6 hour soak in household ammonia made for a very even, very dark brown all the way through the butt cut off.  (Joe West)

    The same question came up over on Clark's forum a while back. I think the preferred method was to put the unvarnished blanks in a PVC tube, with both ends capped, along with a coupla tea spoons of ammonia  and set in the sunshine for about eight hours. Supposed to produce a brown tone like the South Bend rods had.   (Dave Williams)

      Many years ago, from an idea in Herter's rodmaking book, I fumed a set of strips in aqua ammonia,  a product used to develop white prints.  The strips were suspended for a week in a tube over a container with approximately 1/2 pint of aqua ammonia.  The strips became a deep chocolate brown.  Don't do this in the house, and avoid breathing the fumes.  (Ted Knott)

        I tried the ammonium carbonate baked in an oven once (nearly sent me to my maker). I used the oven outside but I still had the Denver City Hazmat team come knocking at the gate. Ammonium carbonate works really well for browntoning rods, but you need to have a sealed oven to bake them in. I wouldn't suggest anyone trying it at home. Fortunately most other rodmakers aren't as dumb as me (although I've heard rumors that some are actually dumber...). The TransTint dyes can produce OK results, but for my money and effort, nothing beats Potassium Permanganate as an alternative to ammonia fuming. The PP is so much safer (unless you drink it) and you can control the tinting very easily,  obtaining any brown tone you need.   (Jeff Fultz)

    Please don't mix them together.  (Henry Mitchell)

      I THINK THIS SHOULD BE VERY STRONGLY EMPHASIZED!  CLOROX AND AMMONIA MIXED GIVES OFF SOME EXTREMELY NASTY FUMES!  You could well end up in either the hospital or the morgue!   (Neil Savage)

    This may sound stupid but has anyone tried to brown tone blanks with tea?   (Jim Lowe)

      Yes, I did. Didn't do a thing to the color. Later when I soaked the blank in household ammonia it colored to the darkest brown I had ever seen. I think it had something to do with the tannins in the tea reacting with the ammonia.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    Many of the "Browntone" rods from the classic era were actually blonde rods that were finished with tinted varnish. Recently I have had 2 Heddon made rods that were finished with orange shellac. Most of Divine's dark-tone rods are also finished with brown tinted varnish. One of the Heddon made rods I am currently working on is a Shakespeare "Intrinsic" which is a two tone rod with very dark finish on handle 1/2 of the butt section and a lighter brown finish on the rest of the rod. There must have been some reason for this. Perhaps the old guys new that over heating cane or fuming it had its "dark side."  (Doug Easton)

      Several years ago, I bought a 9' 3 piece Shakespeare #1750 "Texas Bug Rod" on eBay.  One half ( handle end) of the butt section was a chocolate brown, the remainder blonde. Sinclair's book places this as a late '30's manufacture. Chocolate area had a few chips, obviously tinted varnish.  I never could find a suitable filler so, as much as it pained me, I removed the chocolate in stripping the entire rod, saving only a rectangular section that contained the #1750. I still have the rod but a computer virus caused me to lose the eBay photo that I had saved.  (Ed Riddle)


Just a testimonial.  I bought four bamboo blanks a while back and finished them out to fish with.  Well, I had ammonia soaked one for a full day  (right off the bat  -  before I did anything to the blank), finished the rod out and fished with it in Montana. Landed some nice fishies in Montana with it etc.  Finally, accidentally tweaked the tip and weakened the cane (way too much) to want to use it anymore. Since I had an extra tip I broke the weakened one apart (just out of curiosity to see the cane inside)  Well, low and behold the cane inside was just as dark as the cane outside (quite dark) from the ammonia treatment I originally gave the blank. Heard someone somewhere once say they felt ammonia treatment also added to the "Tempering" of cane.   (John Silveira)

    Yes if you soak your strips in house hold ammonia they will be brown all the way through.  I do this while they are strips and then glue but have never had any breakage problems.  One of the rods I use all the time but I do not have any data to show if it weakens the rod or not.  (David Ray)

    I read in a post somewhere a recommendation that the strips or the section should be suspended in a closed container, with enough ammonia in the bottom of the container (like a dip tube) to let the ammonia gas do the color toning.  Anyone tried that?  (Leo deMonbreun)

      Another question is, do any materials experts know exactly what the ammonia is going to the cane???  Is it oxidization or something?  (Joe West)

        Do any of you who have done the ammonia treatment lightly flame the cane before, or do you start with blond cane?  (Chris Hei)

        Bob Milward’s book claims the cane is weakened.  (Dave Norling)


I looked through the old archives for ideas on toning blanks. Someone  wrote that F E Thomas toned their rods with Iodine. I thought to try  this but discovered that iodine is no longer available here in  Sydney. One of its replacements is called Betadine but it won't color the cane at all. Any thoughts, please.

By the way how do you search the new archives by topic?  (Sean McSharry)

    Go to a manufacturing chemist, or someone you know at a University chemistry department, or to a wholesale chemicals house like Ajax, McGloins or similar.  You'll find the listing in the Yellow Pages.

    What you want is pure crystalline iodine.  To make the tincture, you just dissolve these in alcohol.

    Careful, it STAINS!  (Peter McKean)

      Well, thank you for that. I might ask a few church members to look in  their medicine cabinets too! I only need a bit to experiment, as I  suspect that the shellac/tung oil rub on varnish that I have settled  on may  well wipe off the iodine! Will let you know. The gum and bark  did not work, although the latter when blown into a pool certainly  does leave a stain for a few days.  (Sean McSharry)

    Don't feel too bad.  Iodine does a lousy job.  Potassium Permanganate works well, if you can find it.  (Ralph Moon)

      There was a Power Fibers article on toning with Potassium Permanganate. There is another article by Mark Wendt on toning with aniline dyes, as I recall.  (Larry Blan)

      Do not know if this has been mentioned...

      But Jeff Fultz has the Potassium Permanganate on his site at a very reasonable price...

      Works great and a jar will last a very long time...   (Dave Collyer)

        I wonder if it can be shipped "Down Under"?  (Neil Savage)

          Jeff checked USPS Regulations...

          There are no USPS Regulations on PP, I'm sure it's the same down under...

          Drop Jeff a line and he will check it out...  (Dave Collyer)

          The flakes for potassium permanganate can be bought from Colorado Scientific. They ship UPS ground only. The little bottle of flakes for less than $10 is a lifetime supply; mixed with water. It is a very standard chemical at any science supply house.  They also have ammonium chloride, the crystals used in the oven during heat treatment, for toning to a honey color. However, my attempts (well ventilated) have not been very effective.

          One tip: When using the potassium permanganate to wipe on the blank it does not penetrate deeply (when wiped), even after multiple coats to get quite dark. So if you sand wraps, or cut tag ends with a razor blade, a slight slip and blonde cane is exposed by nicks and slight abrasion. You can touch it up, but the splotch is still there when looking closely. Next time I use it I will probably dip at least once before wrapping.  (Paul Franklyn)

            I haven't tried it myself, but the stuff for ammonia toning in the oven is ammonium carbonate. Ammonium Chloride is the kicker for urea formaldehyde glues such as URAC. If that's what you meant to write, then never mind.  (John Channer)

              Oops, I meant the ammonium carbonate.  (Paul Franklyn)

    Woodcraft has TransFast Dye Powders that may work for you.  There are several colors and there are no shipping restrictions.

    I personally like the TransTint Dyes but they can't be shipped by air or sea.  (Don Anderson)

    I did an experiment using a wood dye from Lee Valley they called a "touch up marker" and which looks like a felt-tip pen. I put it on the blank, rubbing it in some, and trying to rub off any area that had an excess. I then simply put it in Mike Brooks' impregnating sauce thinking that would either dilute it or suck it into the blank. The blank stayed an almost mahogany brown and the finish looks shinier  than usual for an impregnated blank. It did not come out perfectly even, which is my fault, not having rubbed hard enough where there was an excess, but did give a nice color. Ingredients in the fine print were, however, toluene, xylene, isobutyl ketone etc.  (Henry Mitchell)

    Thanks to all who took the trouble to reply. As I just said, I need to find a toner which once applied would not be  affected by the alcohol in the rub on varnish I use. Maybe I’ll give  iodine a miss for now. I've asked Jeff about that and the issue of  shipping. Fall back will be a wood dye, but that will need  experimentation.  (Sean McSharry)

      This method depends on your opinion of soaking your blank or not, but I have gotten any shade of brown you may want all the way to almost black.

      You can get a medium brown tone by just soaking your blank in straight household ammonia, but if you want darker, brew up some black tea - green tea doesn't work as well - and soak the blank overnight in it. Let it dry, either in a drying cabinet or hanging somewhere. You won't see any difference in your blank at this stage. Next soak it in the ammonia - the longer it soaks the darker the blank gets. How dark it gets depends on which tea you used and how strong it was. When it reaches the shade you want, take it out, wash it off with plain water and let it dry. Somewhere outside or with good ventilation is best, the ammonia fumes can get strong.

      I have done this on three rods so far, no problems with them yet, and in case you are wondering I am one of the people who soaks my strips in water before I plane them.

      By the way, ALL the enamel and glue must be off the blank before you soak it in the tea or you will get light spots.  (Darryl Hayashida)

        Well, I did first try household ammonia. I just stuck one end of a  blank in a liter jug of the stuff for 24 hours. The jug label said  shake before using, but I imagine that would wear off in a few  minutes. Anyway, there was no color change at all, not even on the  very lowest bit where perhaps the most potent concentration might be.  Perhaps we have a very tame type of ammonia in NSW?  (Sean McSharry)

        I just looked at that bottle of Ammonia, and it says Cloudy Ammonia.  The fine print says contains 20 g/L Ammonia (as NH3). Maybe it is too  tame?  (Sean McSharry)

          I don't know what cloudy ammonia is, the household ammonia around here is 3 percent ammonia. 20 g/L sounds like it is stronger than the stuff I use. I would suggest that you watch closely the first time you do it until you get a feeling for how long it takes.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    I am a rodmaker living in New Zealand and have used household ammonia to browntone 3 rods now. I think we have the same weak ammonia  here as in Australia. (20 g/L cloudy ammonia). I let the strips soak for 5 days in the stuff. By this time they have turned dark chocolate brown. As they dry up  they get a lot lighter. The end result is a quite nice honey color.  (Tor Skarpodde)

      There you are. We live in a diluted part of the world. I'm going to  try some of Jeff's stuff; he says it is impervious to alcohol.  (Sean McSharry)

      I have heard of ammonia that is used to develop blueprints that is MUCH stronger than household ammonia. I have never used it, and it sounds like something to avoid. Try the tea soak. I don't know exactly what is happening, I think it is tannins in the tea that react with the ammonia to crate a darker brown.  (Darryl Hayashida)

        You are right, Darryl. Blueprint ammonia is commonly referred to as Aqueous Ammonia. I believe it is 30% ammonia. This would compare to the typical household ammonia at 5-10%.  (Larry Blan)


I have been playing around with Potassium Permanganate for over a year now and find myself somewhat disappointed with some of my results.

I really love the dark brown color I get when I use the product full strength on the surface of the bamboo, it is like a deep walnut. I coat it with MOW which eventually produces a beautiful red brown high gloss which I think is quite unique and very desirable.

The problem I have is that prior to varnishing the bamboo oxidizes to a nice rich brown-black color which I have brushed on and the  coverage appears to be even and the oxidation appears to be even as well.  But once the varnish is applied light and dark patterns appear on the cane in an unpredictable and often very undesirable way. For example I took a rod out of the sock today that I had not seen in several months and couldn't believe the changes, There were some areas which didn't seem to have any oxidation at all.  The color patterns don't seem to be predictable in any way, nor do they follow the grain of the cane.

I don't want to give up on this product and I plan to try some more experiments; this time by mixing up a batch and putting it in a PVC  tube which I can dip the blank into to be sure I get an absolutely even reaction. I will also try different strength solutions which may  possibly produce different results.

So my questions to the list have to do with what your experience with this technique is. I know most of you use it only as a local coloring agent and are not doing the whole rod; but have any of you noticed a lightening of the area over time or any blotching or other strange patterns?

I would be very interested to hear what you have to say and would hope to get some good advice regarding this frustrating reaction.  (Dick Steinbach)

    I might suggest, if you do not do so all ready...

    Evenly sand the whole blank with 220 to evenly open the grain...

    Wipe the blank with Lacquer thinner to remove finger prints before dipping or wiping in P/P...

    Once Browntoned, apply two coats of Spar before you do any thing else...

    As with any oxidization, surface prep and care are  very important...(Dave Collyer)

    What do you mean by full strength? I have only used PP diluted in water. Surface preparation is vital to good results. If the surface of the cane is not completely stripped of all rind, you will get blotchy effects. I have also found that the chemical needs to be rubbed on. I don't think your dipping method will give you the desired results your looking for. Bamboo not being very porous will not allow the chemical to really soak in, this is why I use a rubbing method.

    After rereading about your problem I believe that you are leaving the chemical on the cane and you are seeing the chemical itself oxidizing. Then, when you varnish, some of that surface oxidation is being removed. Try buffing the rod blank with a soft cloth after you have oxidized it. The chemical must be completely removed prior to varnishing.

    My method with diluted PP is to wipe (rub) it on and then quickly wipe it off. This will produce a light color toning. If you want it darker repeat the process. To get a really dark color I might have to apply it 6 times, rubbing the chemical in for a longer period each time before wiping it off.  (Jeff Fultz)


I just spent the last 40 minutes going through the archives reading the posts on staining bamboo. I know a lot of you favor the TransTint dyes from Woodcraft but there aren't any stores in my area and I'd rather not order it and have to wait. So my question is: Has anyone used Minwax stain to match the reddish brown color that Heddon rods had? If so, what particular color seemed to match best. I just finished a spare tip for a 8' featherweight and surely don't want a blond tip on that dark mid and butt.   (Will Price)

    I used the Minwax Red Mahogany on rods, depending on how dark I want the rod determines the number of coats I use.  Between each coat I run 0000 steel wool down the rod.  You should be able to find it in 1/2 pint cans to give it a try for about $3.00.  (Wayne Daley)

      I sometimes use alcohol markers on my forms or cane. Usually black red or blue. Might be interesting to do some trials as to the use of markers on rods for color. They are not used on furniture because too expensive or unpractical I suppose. Bu might be OK for rods? Indian ink, making them jet black?  (Geert Poorteman)

        Alcohol markers are usually not very UV tolerant.  I think you'll find that after a bit of exposure to the sun, the colors will fade.  (Mark Wendt)

        I have a story for you.  A long time ago, I built a thermostatically controlled electric oven for my rods.  I didn't work out so well.  I ended up with a rod that I called my Zebra rod.  White on both ends and very dark brown in the middle.  I couldn't live with that so I used India Ink and made it black.  Gave it a coat of varnish and it was and still is a very good rod.  Will I do it again,  I think not.  (Ralph Moon)

    I've been experimenting with Rit dye.  I got a bottle for a few pennies at a Winn-Dixie that was closing.  So far I haven't tried it on a rod,  but I have tried it on scrap and it seems to work okay. I let it dry overnight, then applied a couple of coats of Birchwood Casey true oil.  I'm getting ready to try it on an experimental rod that I'm building.

    My concerns are,

    Will it come off as I apply finish?

    Will it block my finish from adhering to the bamboo?

    Will it face?

    I'll let you know on points one and two.  Point three could take some time.  (Terry Kirkpatrick)


I'm making a rod for a friend and earlier in the year, just near completion, I sheered the grip off on my lathe. I've just finished a new butt section and of course the colors don't match. I'm wondering if I can at this point "safely" do some touch up flaming to darken the cane. I can't use potassium permanganate as the finish I use reacts with it and the varnish starts to flake off.

Is a finished rod section to thin to be flamed? The rod is glued but I haven't yet taken off all of the bit of thin enamel covering the power fibers.

What do you think?  (Jim Lowe)

    I wouldn't intentionally flame a glued up section, I've scorched enough sections straightening them to know that you'll just burn the corners and boil out the glue. If PP won't work with the finish you use, use another, I know it works with Man O War. You can try the appropriate

    stain or dye, but I've been less than happy with the results, tinting the finish works about as well or put a coat of poly stain (stain and finish in the same can) on it first.  (John Channer)

    Not wanting to be one that "plugs" a brand, but what about using a cane toner? Jeff Fultz makes a pretty good one.  (Don Peet)

    Try some household ammonia, it's has to be at least a 33% solution.Use it full strength from the bottle. Ron Barch showed us a section he did at the Canadian Cane gathering and he repeated the process until it match a dark flamed rod he was making a section for. It looked great. Do a test strip to see how much to do.  (Ken Paterson)

    Thanks for all the responses about my toning problem. I've been given a lot to think about. Several people mentioned ammonia and I'm wondering am I supposed to rub the blank with ammonia or use the  set the ammonia in  a cup in a tube in the sun method.  (Jim Lowe)

      I think Ron Barch just rubbed it on with a cloth and let it dry. It took him a few coats to get to the final color match of a dark flamed rod.  (Ken Paterson)

        For the ammonia treatment he built a PVC tube arrangement to hang the rod sections in and left it sealed in the sun to get the toning.

        He used the Fultz staining and wiped that on twice to get the other color test.  I just used the Fultz stain and it is great and I can still breathe.  (Gordon Koppin)

          I'm replacing a mid section on a Heddon and found a oil stain from Woodcrafter that matched.   Cherry, believe it or not.  It looks good, but the final test will be when it's got the varnish.  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

      I have been trying to duplicate that browntone with a touch of mahogany red that looks so great on the Heddon rods. I got a real nice browntone by using the commercial grade ammonia and instead of trying to get an elaborate PVC tube set up I just set the tube over the open bottle of ammonia and suspended the joints from the top of the tube. All this is done OUTDOORS of course. I couldn't, however, get that touch of mahogany red that sets the Heddons apart (if you ever see a Heddon blank with no finish on, you'll know what I'm trying to describe). I contacted Michael Sinclair and asked if he ever came across the process or formula that Heddon used while he was researching his book. He said that Heddon was very secretive about a lot of their processes and never revealed all the ingredients used in their process. I then contacted Mike Brooks, having been told that he was able to duplicate the Heddon coloration fairly closely. He said his best results were obtained by adding iodine to the varnish. So far I've come close enough that I'm pleased with the results but I'm still shooting for an even closer match. Just remember not to overdo the ammonia as it can get to the point of making the bamboo brittle  (Will Price)


Normally after final sanding, I wipe the blank off with a tack cloth and dip to seal the blank.  I have a blank that I used Jeff Fultz’s browntoner on and am now ready to dip the blank.  Before browntoning, you are suppose to final sand and then apply the chemical.  I did that.  The instructions that come with the bottle say to wait 24 hours before finishing the blank which I have done.  I have also handled the blank quite a bit since then and would like to wipe down the blank before dipping to avoid any fish eyes that may occur and to cut down on the amount of imperfections in the finish.  Does anyone know if wiping the blank down with turpentine, mineral spirits, or something like that affect the browntoning color?  (Greg Reeves)

    I just finished up five blanks using Jeff's brown toner. I tone my blanks then place them in an impregnation bath (spar varnish, mineral spirits, penetrol) for several days. After removing the blanks from the bath I wipe them down with a lint free towel and then hang them to dry for several weeks. Initially I wipe the blanks down daily with mineral spirits to remove any varnish seepage on the surface of the rods. I have found that the brown toner is not effected by the mineral spirits, but this is just my observations. I then dip the rods in varnish twice before moving forward. One thing I have found with the toner, I can't fix any defects in the toner. If it isn't perfect strip it down completely and start over, don't try to repair a defect (like a sand through) or live with the imperfection. I really like Jeff's toner and tone all my rods.  (Will McMurrey)


I’ve tried various types of stuff to dye rods. Leather dye, marking pens and the like. Ordered some Browntoning stuff from Jeff and thought I’d give it a try.

So the blank is ready and I brush on a small amount of Browntoning using a sugar cube piece of Mr. Clean’s Magic Erasure. A dap along each side and a quick wipe. Whoa up there. The Browntoning is not sticking to all of the blank. Must be some glue still left.

Quickly sanded the areas and started again. Still more glue left but getting smaller and smaller areas. But now the stained areas don’t look like the unstained areas. Steel wool the blank again and brush on some more Browntoning. Still, the very small spots of glue left so back to sanding. OK, this is the last pass and it looks - - well OK. Still the stain looks “blotchy”. Slept on the problem. Next day, looked it over and I really didn’t like the result. So back to sanding and steel wooling to get the stain off. There it’s done. But there are a few areas particularly in the butt where the stain has gone into the glue line area. Small strips here and there. Sanded more till they seemed all gone. So, I’ll dipped the rod. Three coats and left it to dry. Looked over it the next day and it was really ugly. Each of the tiny specs of stain in the glue line area appeared to be ” wide. This coating has to go. Removed all the varnish and restained. Looks Good – well better anyway - the glue lines are now less offensive and I’ll dip it. Well, that was a screw up. Seems like I wasn’t as careful as I could have been. Although the stain appeared to be holding right out to the glue line, as soon as it got into the dip tank, it pulled away from the corners. Now I’ve got black glue lines with a small strip of light colored cane followed by a stained finish. Now the blank really looks like hell. But I’m done. Not going to spend another minute on it except to finish it up and take it fishing.

But, there is an upside. I gonna market these rods as tiger stripe rods that have been hand crafted in Canada by an old grizzly irascible guy slaving in isolation who doesn’t want to be bothered by the big rod companies when they come calling.

Guess this was the lesson for the winter. Sometimes you get it wrong - sometimes getting it wrong isn't as bad as trying to fix things.  (Don Anderson)

    I had my first experience with browntoning a couple of days ago using Jeff Fultz's browntoner.  I'm sorry it went bad in the beginning but on the upside you have a unique look to your new blank.  I think what helped me was using the tri-scrapers from Golden Witch to help remove glue residue after pulling off the string.   Those things work really well at cleaning up after glue up.  After scraping the glue off, I did a final sanding to remove any chatter from the scraper and then applied the browntoner with a paper towel dipped in the chemical.  A couple of passes with the paper towel over the blank, I waited about 10 seconds and wiped clean with a fresh paper towel.  I did this on both of the sections of my 2/1 and got a uniform coloring of a nice honey color.  I waited 24 hours and dipped the blank.  I didn't notice any abnormal look from the chemical with the glue.  I use URAC 185 so I'm not sure if that helped or not.  I also only have one coat of Spar on it right now.  It will get it another coat tonight so hopefully everything will turn out OK.  Do you think that the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser may have had anything to do with it?  I'm not familiar with that product so I have no idea.  (Greg Reeves)

    PS:  I just looked up the Mr. Clean Magic eraser and it looks like that could have caused a problem with the adherence of the chemical to the blank.  It contains some form of cleaning agent in the eraser that may have caused problems.  Just my .02 cents.

    1] The glue used was Elmer's Ultimate Polyurethane Glue.

    2] I'd thought I'd sanded all the glue off - this is where the process went sideways. If the glue had been completely off - things would have worked out fine. I haven't a clue how a person would know off the glue was completely gone unless he sanded a lot off the rod. The excess glue is taken off during the binding process. All that remains is a little sheen of glue. There was none of this in evidence when I tried the Browntone.

    3] Been using Mr. Clean Magic Erasures for some time to "touch up" things.

    And I've got one pug ugly rod.  (Don Anderson)

      1]  Well there lies your problem.  Every rod builder knows that the only glue suitable for rod building is Titebond III!!!

      Wait a minute, or was is Titebond II, or original Titebond, now I'm confused.

      Or was it Nyatex, or Regular Elmer’s, or URAC 185, Weldwood, Cr591, or maybe Resorcinol.

      Sorry, I just couldn't resist starting another glue email to the archives.

      2]  I have been leaving some enamel on the strips before glue up opening the forms up an extra .001 or two at planing time so I can use the scraper and sand paper to allow me to be fairly confident that I have removed all of the glue off the rod without removing too much of the power fibers and still keeping the dimensions close.  I wasn't sure from your original email that you could visibly see glue on the blank or positively tell it was glue. 

      3]  The Mr. Clean being a culprit was just an idea.  Never used the stuff myself so I thought I would go to their web site.  The thought of the chemicals in the eraser kind of scared me.

      Sorry about the pug ugly rod.  I'm sure it will still fish and cast great.  (Greg Reeves)

        When you use Nyatex or Gorilla Glue, wiping down the blank with Mineral Spirits will reveal the left over glue residue. The glue will show up as a grayish color! The Mineral Spirits shows one what the blank will look like after varnish is applied. A little trick taught to me by Master Rodbuilder R.L. King. (Mike Fennell)


Has anyone toned a glued (Titebond III) rod with ammonia?  Did it hold up OK?  (Gary Nicholson)

    I do my ammonia toning on the strips before glue up. Over at the Classic Fly Rod Forum there was some discussion on this and if I remember correctly Steve Kiley said he had delamination problems ammonia toning after glue up. I'm not sure what glue he uses so hopefully he'll add to this. I would guess that Granger and Heddon did it the same way as I have repaired a couple of each that were delaminated  and the toning is all the way through. The pith was just as brown as the exterior. With that being said, I use fumes from ammonia hydroxide (used in the blue print industry) for my toning. There are those who rub household ammonia on the rod but I have never tried that. Not much help so hopefully others will chime in.  (Will Price)

      A long time ago, before Bob and Betty Marla sold Bob's Tackle to Rick from Rick's Rods, Betty gave me a tour of their facility. I was considering buying it from them. They had most of the old tools and equipment from Phillipson there. Included in all this stuff was a milling machine that had long before seen its days and a craftsman lathe, gluing machine, beveler, etc. also was the ammonia toning vessel!

      This apparatus looked like an old bomb from a Jules Verne’s movie! It was made from an old hot water heater I believe. It was a long tank with a pressure gauge on it and some tubing if I remember correctly.

      So here is the story as I got it from Betty that day:

      "We would put the strips into the vessel with a bath of water and ammonia and pressurize it to about 5 lbs. leave them in there for a while, half hour or an hour. We would then take them out and dry them on the drying table outside in the sun. We had to be careful when we did this because the neighbors would complain about the strong ammonia smell! After they dried we would run them through the beveler and then the milling machine to make the butts and tips."

      So that was the story the way I got it or at least the best I can remember it, I think it's pretty accurate.

      That being said I have tried all the methods I have heard of and the best results I ever got was by putting the rough beveled strips into blueprinting ammonia in a tube and just soaking them in this for a while, then heat treating them. You can get a very nice color this way and I never had a delamination problem, it’s just a lot of work and you really have to be careful with that stuff. I think I am going to try household ammonia some day as it is not as dangerous. You still have to be careful with it and the neighbors might complain or in this day and age you may get questioned about running a meth lab!

      Hope this helps and if you do try household ammonia I would say just put the strips into a household ammonia bath full strength for say 15 minutes. To a half hour or so and heat treat them.   (Joe Arguello)

        I’ve tried using ammonia vapors in the same way you tone white oak for craftsman style furniture, but had lousy results.  I am next going to try (one of these days) putting household ammonia in a schedule 80 PVC tube (dark gray) and put that in the sun for a while to heat up, then introduce the strips and let them bake for an hour.  Drying in the sun sounds like a great idea, because you’d get good heat (summer) and it’s outside so you won’t kill anyone in the house.

        Fine Woodworking had a great article on ammonia toning oak maybe a dozen years ago.  Probably can buy the issue from them still.  (Brian Creek)


I'm thinking about using my Neumann-style heat-gun oven to try ammonia-treating a couple blanks.  A small Pyrex bowl of ammonia in the bottom, then run the heat gun to move air past the ammonia, then up the "flue" past the blanks.   Outside of course.  Anybody tried this?  Since the blanks will be hanging freely (not bound or held straight by Harry's star fixture, for example), any recommendations of temperature (too hot and I assume the blanks may take on curves of their own...) and time?  (Lee Koch)

    What is required is for the blanks to sit in an ammonia vapor for a period of time, I think the method you are proposing will simply move that vapor past the strips and not allow enough time for the strips to absorb the ammonia. What I have done is: I got a tube and made some snug fitting wood plugs for both ends, (I think that a larger pvc tube would work as well and you can get the caps to fit those) I then washed the strips in some blueprinting ammonia by putting the strips in the tube and putting some of the ammonia in with them, then slosh this all around so as to wet all the strips, don't uncap this and put it in the sun for a few days. I got the nicest color you could hope for.

    CAUTION:  THIS IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AND ONE WHIFF OF THAT STUFF CAN SERIOUSLY HURT YOU.

    This is why I don't do this anymore! If you do, you need a good mask and face shield. I really don't think it's worth it. Learn to sand/grind the node off of a culm which has been split in half and flame it evenly, this will give you a nice even color and is much safer.

    Please be careful!  (Joe Arguello)

    Ray Gould describes how to construct a color toning tube for treating your blanks with Ammonia in his book "Cane Rod Tips and Tapers". I constructed one similar to his but instead of having an angled  tee fitting at the bottom I used a plumbers sweep and adapted it to a mason jar so that I can quickly attach and detach the Ammonia Hydroxide quickly while outside holding my breath. I have not found it necessary to soak the strips as Joe does but that just the vapor put off by the ammonia suffices. I usually treat for the strips before heat treating in the sun on a summer day for 20 - 24 hours for a nice rich color and for up to 3 days in my shop in the winter.

    If you or anyone else is interested in a photo of my color toning tube let me know and I will be happy to send you one. 

    Green_ammonia tube

    (Don Green)

      I like Ray's apparatus, but would put a ball valve between the ammonia chamber and the main tube. That way you would only have to mess with an open ammonia source when doing the initial filling.  (Larry Lohkamp)


For those of you who don't color their rods by flaming, what's the difference between staining vs. dyeing?  What dyes/stains are recommended?  (Mark Wayne)

    This is a good example of a subject that is thoroughly covered in Understanding Wood Finishing by Flexner.  Essentially, staining entails trapping particles of the staining material in the surface pores of the material to be stained, whereas dyeing involves actual soaking in of the dye.  That's why oil stains don't work well with bamboo but dyes do.  Jeff Fultz's Browntone works well as does Transtint which is an aniline dye, I believe.  No $$ interest in any of these products...  (Darrol Groth)

      I have used both Jeff's product and Transtint and prefer Transtint. For me Transtint is more user friendly. I know a lot of you guys use Jeff's product and maybe I just need more experience with it.  (Dave Wallace)

    All of my rods with the exception of one blond have either been flamed or ammonia toned. I just prefer a deep, rich browntone. The ammonia toning done with the commercial ammonia used in blue print making gives off noxious fumes and SHOULD/ MUST be done outdoors unless you want to live dangerously. I follow the directions in Wayne Cattanach's book. I have also used Jeff Fultzs' cane browntoner which works nicely as well but doesn't quite give the color I want. Jeff sells his product through his web site very reasonably priced and might be the best place to start. It's also the easiest to use IMHO. (Will Price)

    I hope the guys who use colorants on their rods don't hate me for this, but dyes and chemicals pull out all the weirdness in the surface of bamboo, sort of the same effect that stain on pine or poplar without stain controller has. Flaming and for some reason ammonia toning don't do this, if anything they both accentuate the nicety of the grain.  I'm probably way too critical of this effect, but my excuse is all the years I've built cabinets and installed and finish interior trim, I've just been up close and personal with too much wood. Bamboo is too dense for oil based stains to have much effect on unless you just coat the surface and let it dry there, if you try to rub it in like you were staining a board you'll just rub it off and be right back where you started. Several models of old South Bend and H-I's were stained, if you strip them you wind up with a much lighter rod than you started with, if you strip an old stained piece of furniture you will only lighten it a little.  (John Channer)


I have a customer who is keen on a very dark brown rod. Is this achievable with ammonia browntoning?

I am loathe to flame heavily and also not sure how to achieve short (and long term) consistency with staining. Any ideas would be appreciated.  (Steve Dugmore)

    I have had good results with ammonia brown toning. Heat and time is all that is required to get the proper results.

    My method follows;

    1. Split cane

    2. Rough bevel

    3. Bind strips in MD fixtures

    4. Place bound strips in a Black 1 1/2” ABS plastic toning tube, I sent Todd a picture of mine some time ago but was not able to find it in the “Bamboo Rod Making Tips Site”

    5. Blue printing ammonia is very hard to find now but Ammonium Hydroxide –NH4OH (29% NH3) -  Semiconductor Grade” will work even     better.     I     found     mine    on    the    web    at www.chemical-supermarket.com  .

    6. Place toning tube in an area exposed to the sun with an outside daytime temperature between 70 degrees - 90 degrees for two days.

    7. Hold your breath and remove the strips from the tube.

    8. Place the strips in a convection oven at set the temperature to 180 degrees for 4 hours, raise the temperature to 350 degrees - 375 degrees for 17 minutes.

    9. Remove the strips from the oven and set aside for a week or so to regain moisture in the bamboo.

    10. Finish the strips via plane or mill to dimension.  (Don Green)


I’ve read the stuff on the bamboo rod making tip page regarding toning bamboo. I’ve come to the conclusion that ammonia will be able to give me the results I’m trying to achieve since I only want to tone half the strips before gluing. I’m making an alternate blonde, dark stripped rod and I did flame the desired dark strips for a dark color and although I believed the color was deep enough and evenly applied at the time, however, after sanding the enamel in prep for final planing I realized I was not happy with the lack of color and insufficient contrast.

So, to clarify do I use liquid ammonia in a container at the bottom of a sealed PVC tube which house the strips to be toned? I would think the strips will be suspended but is there a need to have some breather holes in the tube at the top and bottom to create a draft to move the ammonia past the strips?  How much ammonia do I need to use, half a liter or 1 liter?  Will the ammonia affect the epoxy gluing and is there a remedial step to prevent any glue complication with ammonia toned strips?

Can anyone help with some of the details – bumps in the road I should be careful not to hit in this process?  (Boris Gaspar)

    I want to be clear on your and others' understanding of "liquid ammonia" for safety's sake.

    Ammonia exists as a gas at atmospheric pressure and ambient temperature. Pressurizing it and putting it into a pressure bottle will give you "liquid ammonia", just like you get liquid propane in your grill gas bottle.  This liquid ammonia is used as a quick form of fertilizer in which the gas or even liquid ammonia is injected into the soil, using highly specialized tools.  Ammonia is a highly irritating gas and very poisonous in high concentrations.

    You can buy common "household" ammonia as a dilute aqueous solution of ammonia gas in water.  Never mix this or the higher concentration blueprint ammonia solution with bleach as the resulting product is a highly poisonous chloramine..

    Liquid ammonia in a pressurized state will actually dissolve so quickly in water that if you were to place a tube from the ammonia tank directly into water or worse acid, the fluid may get sucked back into the tank and explode.  I saw it this happen in a poorly designed chemical plant and the operator was killed. SO be VERRY Careful if  you are going to use actual "liquid ammonia."

    It can be used safely  with lots of ventilation and using the pressurized tank as a source of gaseous ammonia.  Alternatively I have seen instructions here for preparing ammonia gas chemically in the toning chamber.  I prefer this if proper safety precautions are taken. Above all do it outside to protect yourself and your family.  (Dave Burley)

      Amen. Farmers use ammonium hydroxide here in western colorado to inject in the ground as fertilizer after the corn is planted in the spring. Your eyes will water and your nostrils burn as you drive down the road…  (Tom Vagell)


How well does a mixture of ammonia and water penetrate the roughed strips, so as not to get light and dark variations? What is a "good" ratio? Would it be more efficient to let the strips soak in a black container heated by the sun? Does this procedure work best before or after heat treating, rough planing?  (Jon Holland)

    Has anyone gotten color change from household ammonia? I tried it first, and rubbed it in, soaked the cane in it, everything under the sun and got hardly any color change whatsoever. Then I saw in Wayne’s book the method for fuming with ammonia hydroxide that is used in making blueprints. Works great but I would never do it indoors as the fumes are very toxic. I do it out on my deck in the summer and am still careful not to breathe the fumes when checking for color change.  (Will Price)

      I went and bought a gallon of pure ammonia from the store - it wasn't a diluted type of ammonia.  Bought a clear Plexiglas tubing / sealed one end filled the tube with ammonia - immersed rod and stood tube up in the corner exposed to sunlight all day.    It's controversial but I also read that soaking in ammonia might have a slight hardening / stiffening effect to the cane. I like to believe.  (John Silviera)

        Did it work?  (Timothy Troester)

          It worked great for the color tone - nice deep rich brown , as far as stiffening the rod - have no clue.  (John Silviera)

    I’ve soaked in ammonia and got great results - I was told to get a clear tube to put the rod into along with the ammonia and hang in the sun - this way I can watch the color and take the rod out at the desired tone / shade of color I wanted.   worked very well for me.   (John Silviera)

    So here we go: I really don't think Betty told me what kind of ammonia they used. But what I have done is use the concentrated ammonia from a blueprint supply store. This stuff is really nasty and even a slight whiff of it makes your eyes water and takes your breath away. This is the reason I don't use it very much. The way I did it was to simply place the strips into an aluminum tube with caps on both ends, I them poured the ammonia in the tube full strength, swished it around and let it sit in the sun for a few hours. I then poured out the ammonia back into the bottle it came from and let the strips dry before beveling, heat treating and planing. I got a rod that was just beautiful color but I really didn't like the process. I am going to try soaking one in straight household ammonia for a couple of hours before heat treating to see what happens.  (Joe Arguello)

      Maybe I should be more clear -

      the rod was completed / glued up / it was a blonde blank that I soaked.  Then I went ahead and oil finished it with the shellac/oil method rubbing the finish on .

      then mounted all the hardware ....      It turned out to be my favorite rod - a three piece.  (John Silviera)


 

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