This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
Make a strong solution of any coloring matter which is soluble in methylated spirit, such as cochineal, saffron, the aniline dyes, etc. Filter through fine cambric, and to this filtered solution add brown shellac in flakes in the proportion of 4 to 5 ounces of shellac to each pint of methylated spirit. Shake once a day for about 8 days. If too thick it may be thinned by adding more colored spirit or plain spirit as required, and any lighter shade can be obtained by mixing with plain lacquer mixed in the above proportions. Lacquer works best in a warm, dry place, and the process is improved by slightly warming the articles, which must be absolutely free from grease, dirt, or moisture. The best results are obtained by applying many coats of thin, light-colored lacquer, each coat to be thoroughly dry before applying the next. Apply with a soft camel's-hair brush; it is better to use too small a brush than too large. When complete, warm the articles for a few seconds before a clear fire; the hotter the better; if too hot, however, the colors will fade. This makes the lacquer adhere firmly, especially to metallic surfaces. Aniline green works very well.
A lacquer which to a certain degree resists heat and acid liquids, but not alkaline ones, is obtained by heating fine, thickly liquid amber varnish, whereby it is rendered sufficiently liquid to be applied with the brush. The copper article is coated with this and left to stand until the lacquer has dried perfectly. Next, the object is heated until the lacquer commences to smoke and turns brown. If the operation is repeated twice, a coating is finally obtained, which, as regards resisting qualities to acid bodies, excels even enamel, but which is strongly attacked even by weakly alkaline liquids.
The ebony lacquer recommended by the well-known English authority, Mr. H. C. Standage, consists of 1/3 ounce aniline hydrochloride, 1/3 ounce alcohol, 1 part sulphate of copper, 100 parts of water. The aniline dye is dissolved in the alcohol and the copper sulphate in the water. The wood is first coated with the copper sulphate solution, and after this coating has been given plenty of time to dry the aniline salt tincture is applied. Shortly the copper salt absorbed by the wood will react on the aniline hydrochloride, developing a deep, rich black which acids or alkalies are powerless to destroy. Coat with shellac and give a French polish, thus bringing the ebony finish up to a durable and unsurpassed luster.