Posted on

Potassium Dichromate, Oxalic Acid, and Carnauba Wax

Potassium Dichromate, Oxalic Acid, and Carnauba Wax

by Jeffrey R. Elliott

Originally published in Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #52, and #55, 1977 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie, Volume One, 2000

Potassium dichromate. European luthiers commonly use potassium dichromate to give that nice, brown “aged” look to lighter, newer woods. It can be used by itself or mixed with aniline dyes for additional color tints. Primarily it has been used to darken the interiors of violin-family instruments, although I know of many who have used it on the exterior to darken spruce and maple. I have used it both inside and out to create a “naturally aged” looking wood on guitars.

Potassium dichromate is a chemical activated by light from the sun, sunlamp, or infrared lamp, but direct, natural, full-spectrum sunlight is best. Beware: Indirect light will not activate it, and the solution will tend to color the wood a murky green. The solution is rather weak — two tablespoons to one gallon of water. It can be applied by brushing or by wiping it on with a cloth (wear gloves). Although I have never tried it, I imagine a spray method would work as well. Whichever method is used, a light, even coat is recommended.

Become A Member to Continue Reading This Article

This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

If you are already a member, login for access or contact us to setup your account.