Nitric Acid and curly maple

Peter Storey Pentz

Well-known member
I have recently acquired a nice little late 18th C. maple Chippendale chest of drawers.  Its finish history is typical.  It started life mahoganized (traces remain on the interior), was stripped and refinished, and was placed in such a way as to severely sun fade it.  There is some curly figure in the top and drawer fronts that I would like to enhance, if possible.  The question I have is: How effective is nitric acid in "bringing up" the figure in curly maple?  I have been told various things in a generalized way about its use as a period finishing technique (it was called aqua fortis in the 18th C.) but I cannot find any specific, modern information on its use.    PSP 
Only a few years too late, but.........

I used both nitric and chromic acid (sodium dichromate dissolved in 98% sulfuric acid, used for cleaning stubborn lab glassware) back in the late 70s and 80s, when I was building muzzle loading rifles with maple stocks.

If anyone should try this, it is absolutely necessary to completely neutralize the acid when the desired color is achieved. If this is not done, the residual acid will continue to darken the wood until it is completely reacted. In cases where repeated applications were used, the wood turned almost black in a couple of years.

Some use baking soda, but this sometimes results in a greenish tint. Household ammonia does not cause the green.
Look on some of the muzzle loading rifle web sites for details on the use and sources for materials - just keep in mind this is the internet and there is some bad info out there !
I tend to shy away from nitric acid because it can be hazardous. I know a lot of guys use it on gun stocks, but I'm not so sure I would go that route on a full sized piece of furniture. An analine dye would be my choice.