Artificial petrification of wood

Artificial petrification of wood - the recipe

Hicks, H., 1986, Mineralized sodium silicate solutions for artificial petrification of wood: United States Patent Number 4,612,050, Patent issued September 16, 1986 to Hamilton Hicks of Greenwich, CT, pp. 1-3. (klik hier om de PDf gedownlad van te bekijken)


Hamilton Hicks has patented a chemical solution for rapidly petrifying wood. The solution consists of three components:


(1) commercial sodium silicate solution (the chemical known as "water glass", Na[2]Si[3]O[7]),

(2) "natural spring or volcanic mineral water" having high content of calcium, magnesium, manganese and other dissolved metal salts (this solution can be spiked in the laboratory with clay to increase metal ion content), and,

(3) an acid (citric or malic acid are recommended).


For artificial petrification to occur, there is some special technique in mixing these components in the correct proportions to get an "incipient jell condition". Some mixtures are suggested. One example of the new solution, on a volume basis, is given for 100 gallons of mixture as an example:


5 gallons of saturated mineral water as obtained from washing a large quantity of clay,

50 gallons of sodium silicate solution containing at least 15 percent sodium silicate in dry form, by weight,

45 gallons of highly mineralized water, such as spring or volcanic water,

1 ounce of a dilute acid having a pH of from 5.5 to 4.0.

Hicks writes:

Briefly summarized, the present invention is a sodium silicate solution adapted for application to wood and comprises mineral water and sodium silicate acidified to an incipient jelling condition. When applied to wood, the solution penetrates the wood.

The mineral water and sodium silicate are relatively proportioned so the solution is a liquid of stable viscosity and is acidified to the incipient jelling condition to a degree causing jelling after penetrating the wood, but not prior thereto. That is to say, the solution can be stored and shipped, but after application to the wood, jells in the wood. When its mineral content is high enough, the penetrated wood acquires the characteristics of petrified wood. The wood can no longer be made to burn even when exposed to moisture, or high humidity, for a prolonged period of time. The apparent petrification is obtained quickly by drying the wood.


The amount of acid in the solution appears to have a critical effect on the production of the jell phase within the cell structure of the wood. More acid induces jell formation.


The unique jelling of the solution, when penetrated in the wood, can be attributed to the fact that due to its acidification, the solution is almost ready to jell, and that when in the wood, jelling occurs due to further acidification by the acid or acids inherently present in wood, although evaporation may play its part. Wood thoroughly impregnated by this new solution as by repeated applications or submersions in the wood, after drying has all of the characteristics of petrified wood, and even its appearance.


Hicks has suggested that this invention has application to the needs of horse breeders who want to fireproof stables with nontoxic materials which also inhibit horses from chewing and nibbling on wood. The chemical components used to artificially petrify wood can be found in natural settings around volcanoes and within sedimentary strata.

Is it possible that natural petrification can occur rapidly by the process described in this patent?