How to create a Smoked Timber Finish

What is a Smoked Timber Finish?

A Smoked timber finish is a timber finishing technique that creates a rich darkened brown look while accentuating the grain pattern. This darkened brown look is favoured by designers who are looking for a classy/ luxurious look reminiscent of exclusive clubs and bars. When you see smoked timber your head conjures images of the best whiskies and expensive cigars. You may have already seen this effect as it is typically used in high end interiors such as those found in upscale hotel lobbies. Smoking timber can help also replicate the effects of age. Therefore some Do-it-yourselfers choose to smoke timber in order to match newly installed timber along with older timber or to create a rustic designs in contemporary homes.

smoked timber finish

*Note the colour will depend on the amount of tannins present in the timber species as well as the type of species

Origin- Traditional Method of Smoking Timber

Traditional Methods of smoking timber requires the timber to contain tannin. Once the timber with tannin is exposed to ammonia, it will then pull the tannin from the timber onto the surface and darken it. This method of Smoking wood originated around the nineteenth century in Europe, where it was accidentally discovered when stable hands noticed that timber in stable blocks were darker in those that were directly above the stalls were horses had been kept. The reason for this was because of the ammonia fumes that was coming off the horses urine, which then floated up onto the timbers above and reacted with the tannins  caused the darkening reactions to occur. Today timber smoking is still typically accomplished by placing the desired timber into an enclosed environment and exposing the timber with ammonia in the atmosphere. In a small scale this poses minimal health risks, however  this can easily become a hazardous process especially when it comes to smoking on a larger scale such as an entire level of timber flooring.

Health Concerns

While low levels of ammonia inhalation poses minimal risks,  the Australian government warns that high concentrations of ammonia exposure can lead to irritation and serious burns on the skin, in the mouth, throat (laryngitis), lungs (pulmonary oedema) and eyes (conjunctivitis). Exposure at very high levels of ammonia can even lead to death. While it is possible, albeit extremely time consuming to smoke timber on a larger scale by breaking up the job into smaller areas and then repeating the process over and over again. Since the reaction requires exposure of ammonia in the atmosphere rather than directly applying ammonia onto the timber it becomes difficult to safely manage and can mean that this method is impossible for those who cannot isolate the project from others, such as a busy mother renovating their family home with children and pets running around the house. Therefore we have developed a safer, quicker and money saving solution which you can utilise to acquire the darkening effect of smoking wood without needing ammonia and therefore not exposing you to the health risks involved.


Rubio Smoked- A Safer and Easier way to create a Smoked Effect.

Rubio Monocoat has developed a timber coating that allows for the creation of a darkened effect without the need for ammonia. Rubio Monocoat Smoke is a product that was specially designed to quickly give a smoked aspect to oak wood (or any other tannic acid containing types of wood). Rather than expose the timber to ammonia. All you need to do is simply apply a layer of RMC smoke after sanding. That’s it. However it is recommended after applying the RMC smoked coating, to also apply a top coating of RMC Oil Plus 2C which will moleculary bond with the timber and provide protection from everyday wear and tear, extremely useful for flooring as it is generally high traffic area. Traditionally the final effect depends on how long the wood is kept in the environment filled with ammonia, with Rubio Smoked simply dilute the Smoked concentration with water to achieve a lighter brown colour.

RMC Smoke is suitable for the average person who wants to create the effect on a small scale such as piece of furniture, fixture, flooring and is also suitable for industrial applications such as floor sanders who are assigned to install, maintain and restore flooring for their clients.

*Variations in the end result of the finish – depending on the origin, tannic acid-content and quality of the timber

Which Timber Species are Best for Smoked Effect?

Creating a Smoked Effect is best accomplished using Timber that contain high amounts of tannin. Oak’s are the most popular choice as it contains a high content of tannin which therefore allow for much darker tones to be achieved, but it is possible to smoke any timber that contain tannin.

Examples of high Tannin timbers are:

  • Red Oak
  • White Oak
  • Spotted Gum
  • Blackbutt
  • Pacific Teak
  • Merbau
  • Tasmanian Oak

How to Smoke timber Using Rubio Monocoat

What You Will Need:

1. Prepare the surface

  1. Sand the surface smooth. We recommend sanding wood up to 120 grit (150 grit on furniture is acceptable) but don’t go finer as that closes off the wood grain making absorption of the finish difficult.
  2. Vacuum up the dust on the surface.
  3. Clean the surface using Raw Wood Cleaner and allow to dry completely.

2. Apply Rubio Smoked

Apply Rubio Smoked by using a roller or a brush. If a smooth effect is required saturate the surface completely with the product.

3. Wash of the excess of the product with water and a sponge,

Go over the surface and wring the sponge with the absorbed product out in a bucket.

4. Allow to dry

Let the surface dry completely (usually 12 to 48 hours).

5. Sand the surface lightly with a pad and Remove any dust again.

6. Apply the Protective Top Coating- Oil Plus 2C

This provides a protective coating that ensures the colour and look given by Rubio Smoke is ensured for years

Remove excess Oil

Important! Rags saturated in oil are combustible and require being disposed of in accordance with local regulations.

4. Allow the Surface to Dry

Allow the surface to dry under favourable drying conditions. This means temperatures at least in the 18-21C range, relative humidity around 50%, and plenty of air movement. Cooler conditions or very high relative humidity will extend the dry and cure time.

Oil Plus 2C may be carefully handled after 24-36 hours and is 80% cured in 48 hours. Full cure is achieved within five days.

Do not expose the oiled surface to moisture until completely cured!

Interested in other Timber effects?

Head on over to our effects page.

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