Wood Graining Techniques - Brushing

Wood Graining Techniques - Brushing

Techniques and instructions for beginners and pros alike, wood graining by brushing.

Craftsman Style

¶ Real graining has passed into the discard, like all else in life and art which pretends to be something which it is not. At its highest point of development, graining was done with great skill, a hundred and forty or fifty years ago, but of course much poor graining was done by finishers with but little skill and so that only hastened the day when people ceased to want pine and poplar to look like oak, walnut or mahogany. Today there are but few occasions where the skill of the grainer is needed and then it is usually a door or two or a few office fixtures on remodeling jobs which are to be refinished to look like some new furniture, fixtures or trim.

¶ On some jobs of remodeling the matter of cost must be kept down to the minimum and for that reason the old painted, grained or cheaply finished trim, fixtures and often the furniture must be given a brighter color note and fresh look without spending much money on the refinishing. A job of real graining done by capable craftsmen costs quite as much as any first class finish. So brush graining is often resorted to to meet the requirements in all respects. Brush graining is really a process of staining on top of prepared, opaque grounds. The finished effect is clean, bright and attractive, without any attempt to imitate the grain and figure of any wood in detail, although the general color tone of other finishes are closely followed.

¶ Brush graining techniques are easy and very simple. A working schedule for the average job is as follows:

¶ Operation 1: Prepare the old painted, grained or varnished surface as you would for repainting. That is, sandpaper it to make it smooth, clean and to remove the gloss.

¶ Operation 2: Mix and brush on a ground coat to dry flat and tinted a color to suit the final color wanted. The paint may be white lead thinned with about ¼ linseed oil and ¾ turpentine or with flatting oil. Or use a flat wall paint. The color may be any color wanted for novelty finishes but for conventional colors ivory white, cream or tan is best. Use a pink for a mahogany ground. If the old surface is light in color one coat may serve, but usually two coats are needed and the second ground coat, then, should be mixed without any linseed oil, using turpentine or flatting oil. All holes, cracks and bruises should be filled with putty after the first coat has been spread and is dry.

¶ Operation 3: Stain coat. If the final finish is to be varnish, shellac or wax the stain coat should be mixed with what are called distemper water, or graining, colors, using cider or vinegar for the liquid. A very little glycerine may be necessary if the color sets too fast to permit drawing in the grain with the brush. If there is to be no finish beyond the stain coat you may use tinting colors ground in oil and thinned with about ¼ boiled linseed oil and ¾ turpentine or with flatting oil. Any of the semi-transparent colors may be used. Those most often used are raw and burnt umber, raw and burnt sienna, chrome green and to make black for a gray finish, mix raw umber and ultramarine blue for use over a light gray ground color. Apply this coat with the usual four inch flat wall brush and while it is wet proceed with the next operation.

The Correct Way to Hold the Brush for Stippling
Picture 47. The Correct Way to Hold the Brush for Stippling.

¶ Operation 4: Stipple the wet stain color using an ordinary calcimine brush. Hold the brush like a hammer and pound the surface with the flat side of the bristles as indicated in Picture 47. Start at the top of the door or other surface and draw the brush down while stippling with it all the time as noted in Picture 48. Don't coat in too large a surface at a time, since the stain color, when water colors are used, sets in a few minutes so it can not be worked any longer. If you fail the first time wash off the stain color put on and start over again. It is not likely that you will be able to produce a nice even stipple the first time you try, but keep on washing it off and repeating until you have a fairly even grain effect.

The Graining Ground Color Being Stippled Down a Door
Picture 48. The Graining Ground Color Being Stippled Down a Door.

¶ Operation 5: Grain streaks may now be put in while the stain color is still wet by taking an ordinary whisk broom or a coarse dry duster brush and drawing it down through the color from top to bottom. This will uncover the light colored ground coat and give a contrast with the stain color which the whisk broom piles up in streaks which resemble in a general way the grain of woods finished in stains. When drawing the whisk broom down don't try to keep it moving in a line that is straight, wiggle the brush a little so as to produce a wavy grain in places. Note Picture 49.

Drawing in the Wavy Grain with a Whisk Broom
Picture 49. Drawing in the Wavy Grain with a Whisk Broom.

¶ Operation 6: Varnish, shellac or wax. When water color has been used for the stain coat it will be dry in half an hour or an hour so that you can coat it over with shellac, varnish or wax to make a serviceable finish. If oil color has been used for the stain coat it can be finished in the same way but it should dry at least 12 hours before any coating is put on top of it.

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