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´╗┐Title: The Art of Graining: How Acquired and how Produced. - With the description of colors and their applications.
Author: Pickert, Charles, Metcalf, A.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's note:
    Minor spelling and punctuation inconsistencies, and hyphenated
    words,  have been harmonized. Italic text has been marked
    with _underscores_.
















    Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872, by
    in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.


The Art of Graining is judged by the authors of this treatise to be
of sufficient importance to justify a work devoted especially to
the task of giving instruction to learners of the art.

All graining is an imitation of some more or less well known
wood, and the learner may doubtless draw from nature the copies
he desires to imitate; but it is only trained skill that can
accomplish the task perfectly, and it is presumably true that those
who, in acquiring a long experience, have made the obstacles to
success a special study, are best prepared to afford instruction to
a beginner.

The authors of the work present here the result of a long
experience in the practice of this decorative art, and feel
confident that they hereby offer to their brother artisans a
reliable guide to improvement in the practice of graining.

It is earnestly recommended by the authors that learners should
practise drawing the several copies given as samples, with drawing
pencils, using both narrow and broad-pointed, as the surest means
of acquiring such thorough mastery of proper manipulation as will
insure the highest degree of success.

It is believed, moreover, that experienced learners will find
it not amiss to avail themselves of the methods set forth in
this treatise, affording as they do, the sum of the examples of
fellow-artisans who have carefully studied nature's own modes,
and have studiously followed such plans in working as insured the
closest and most durable adherence to the original form and color.




As oak and black walnut are the principal woods imitated in
graining, we have given them a prominent place and careful
attention in our work, for when the ability to produce imitations
of _those_ properly is once thoroughly attained, the graining of
other woods becomes a comparatively easy task.

       *       *       *       *       *

_First_:--In preparing work for graining, great attention should be
given to the shellacking of all knots and other parts containing
any inequalities of surface, whether from the exudation of pitch,
gum, or other substance; unless this precaution is observed the
pitch or gum will force itself through a great many coats of paint.


For oak-graining the priming coat should be white, mixed (not too
thickly) with pure lead and linseed-oil; then, when thoroughly dry,
and ready for a second coat of paint, much care should be observed
in well stopping or puttying with white lead or common putty, as
may be thought best, leaving all nail-holes or other inequalities
well filled, pressed in and rounded up, so that when thoroughly
sand-papered it will leave the surface entirely smooth and level.
For a second coat of paint, a little yellow chrome or Rochelle may
be added, sufficient to make it a light cream color, using for a
body pure lead, turpentine, oil, and a small quantity of japan,
making the paint a trifle thicker than the priming coat, having it
well mixed and strained, so that it shall not contain any lumps or
foreign substance. Here let us say that the habit of undertaking to
do graining work on two coats of paint is entirely wrong; good work
cannot by any possibility be performed unless there shall have been
at least three coats laid on as a foundation,--otherwise it will
not wipe out clean, but will appear muddy and foul when completed.

For a third coat of grained work, if a very light oak is desired,
add to the same mixture of lead, oil, etc., sufficient yellow
as before, to produce a delicate cream, adding to that a very
small quantity of American vermilion, or Venetian red. After
laying on the second coat, the work should be well and carefully
sand-papered, puttying (as before suggested), if necessary. When
the third coat has been on two or more days, and has become
thoroughly hard and dry, use upon the surface very fine sand-paper,
so that a perfectly smooth finish may be obtained.

For light-oak graining-color, use equal parts of raw umber and
raw Sienna, and if a little darker shade is desired, tone with
burnt umber, grinding into the same a little _Paris_, or common
_whiting_, which gives it body and holds it together. A little
beeswax or brown Windsor soap dissolved in turpentine may be used
if desired, but in a small quantity.

For mixing the colors employ one-fourth boiled oil, three-fourths
turpentine, adding for drier a very little japan. Graining-colors
should invariably stand from six to ten hours after mixing before
being applied, and if too thick, when adding the thinners be
cautious to avoid stirring from the bottom. The colors should be
mixed to such a consistency, that when put on, a perfectly clear
and transparent appearance may be obtained. For darker shades of
oak, more yellow and red should be used in the ground-work and more
burnt umber in the graining-color, adding enough of the burnt umber
to make the graining-color harmonize with the ground-work. And here
we would suggest that every grainer, who desires to perfect himself
in the art, should procure small pieces of the various kinds of
wood he wishes to imitate, and in all cases mix his colors in
harmony with those shown in the wood--mixing his ground-work so as
to compare with the _lightest_ shade observable in the wood.

Too much care cannot be taken in the _preparation_ of
graining-colors; more failures have been made through neglect of
this, than in the execution of the work itself, for except the
colors are in proper harmony with the wood desired to be imitated,
the work, though well executed, must be a failure in the production
of the wished-for object.

For the last coat of the ground-work for oak, there should be a
sufficiency of oil to impart a slight gloss when laid on, which
enables it to be wiped clean, free, and unclouded.

For _shading_ oak use a little raw Sienna, raw and burnt umber,
mixing with oil, turpentine, japan, etc., as before mentioned.
Where knots or curls occur in the grain, as shown in our
illustration, there light and careless shades should be thrown
in, avoiding anything prominent or harsh, and in most cases make
the growth or heart slightly darker than at the edge. A beautiful
effect can be produced by combing over the flaking with a fine or
coarse rubber comb, blending very lightly in the same direction the
veins or comb take. The effect produced is to sink the flaking,
making it look solid and true to nature.

For wiping out oak (as in samples shown), see description of
process in our following chapter on black walnut, using the same
tools, etc. (rubber combs, English or American steel combs in oak,
not in walnut). Where flaking is done it is combed first with a
coarse, then a fine steel comb, but where heart or growth-pieces
occur, no comb should be used until wiped out, then comb with a
fine comb very lightly in the same direction the grains may run.

In graining, particularly oak, care should be taken to have the
grains lose themselves regularly at the sides, not leaving the
heart-piece abruptly, but gradually (as shown in our illustration),
preserving a proper harmony of colors from centre to outside.


The same care should be taken in puttying, sand-papering, mixing,
and applying, as hereinbefore suggested in the chapter upon
graining oak.

The ground-work for black walnut should be mixed with pure white
lead, turpentine, oil, japan, etc., colored with chrome yellow
or good Rochelle ochre, American vermilion, or English Venetian
red, and burnt umber, which if properly combined produces the most
proper ground-work attainable. This wood varies in color, some
pieces bearing upon the yellow, and others upon the red, either
of which may be correctly imitated by adding yellow or red as the
case requires. There are some pieces, however, of a grayish cast,
and if such a characteristic is desired in graining, add to the
ground-work a little Vandyke brown.

The ground-work (last coat) should be so mixed as to have, when
dry, an egg-shell gloss, in order to prevent the first coat of
graining (which is "distemper-color") from crawling or running
together. Black walnut is a very porous wood, and unless the pores
are properly shown in the graining, the imitation will be far from
perfect; no grainer, therefore, should depart so far from nature as
to omit this necessary and absolute consideration.

For the accomplishment of a correct imitation in this respect, take
a small quantity of sour or common ale, or, if not obtainable,
a little vinegar and water (equal parts) will do (urine is an
excellent substitute for either of the liquids named), and to
this add, for coloring purposes, three-fourths burnt umber and
one-fourth Vandyke brown; when this is applied, and before dry,
take a dry brush (a flat one is preferable), and "whip" the color
thoroughly with the same, keeping the hand close to the surface of
the object to be grained; and as pores in some pieces of walnut
show far more distinctly than in others, to imitate this, certain
portions should be whipped very coarsely, while other portions
should be whipped very fine. Care must be taken in whipping, to
have all joints, etc., left perfectly square as constructed, and
the whipping should invariably be done as the grain of the wood
is designed to run. The distemper-color should be mixed to a
thickness, that, when applied and properly whipped, the general
tone of the ground-work shall not be materially changed.

Some grainers, before proceeding further in graining black walnut,
have varnished the distemper-coat; we regard this as entirely
useless, as well as detrimental to the general tone of the graining
when done. The impression current among some painters, that when
the graining-color is applied to the distemper-color, without first
varnishing, it (the distemper-color) will rub up, is erroneous, for
when perfectly dry it is all ready to receive the graining-color.

After complying with the foregoing directions, the article being
now all ready for graining, having, as shown, received the
distemper-color, take three-fourths burnt umber and one-fourth
Vandyke brown, mixed with three-fourths turpentine, one-fourth
oil and japan, using beeswax or soap to prevent its running as in
oak-graining (of course the color must be varied to comply with the
ground-work by adding burnt umber, Vandyke brown, or burnt Sienna,
as hereinbefore set forth in our directions for oak-graining), and
to avoid darkening the graining but a very little, the color should
be used thin.

In graining a panel, for instance, in order to obtain a correct
imitation of black walnut, the grainer, when running the
heart-piece (as shown in our illustrations), should have upon his
pallet, glass, or board, a small quantity of umber and Vandyke
brown to darken the centre a little, thereby showing the grains
perfectly clear in the centre while they lose themselves near the
outer edge.

In graining black walnut, combs should be used as little as
possible, leaving all the plain parts to be finished in the
glazing. For wiping out growths, some use chamois, others use
cotton cloths drawn closely over the thumb nail, while many use
in place of either, a small piece of rubber, or belting cut about
one-fourth of an inch wide at the end used, and in some instances,
where a cheap job of graining is desired, rubber combs cut fine and
coarse can be used with good success in running growths or hearts
by blending lightly after combing.

This brings the work up to a finishing, or shading point, for which
purpose use principally Vandyke brown, burnt umber and ivory-black,
mixed with oil, turpentine, etc. (as hereinbefore named), and
by keeping upon the board, glass or pallet, a little of these
separately, and using more of one than the other, a beautiful and
correct variety can be produced, it being almost impossible to find
two pieces of walnut exactly alike in shade. Like the rest, shading
must be applied with a brush, and where crooks, curls, or knots in
the grain may appear (see illustrations), careless and light shades
should be thrown in, and in the greater number of cases cause
growths a trifle darker than edges. For shading the plain parts,
a fine and very proper effect will be produced by first applying
the color and then by laying on a flat brush, pressing it heavily,
and drawing it crooked or straight as desired, then by blending
the same very lightly. Where the brush is not thus used, a similar
effect can be produced by wiping out lines at small intervals, then
blending, in all cases avoiding the too common error of putting
_too much work in the graining_, and preserve a proper harmony of
colors so that when completed the work will appear rich, clean, and

All graining can be finished by varnishing, or to imitate in
"oil-finish" if preferable. Should the latter be desirable take one
(1) quart of turpentine; one-fourth (1/4) lb. of white wax (melted
in turpentine), adding one half (1/2) pint of best coach varnish
(hard drying); one half (1/2) pint of boiled oil, and one (1)
gill of japan--apply with a brush, and use sparingly, one coat is

By conforming to our directions, in the graining of black walnut,
great and satisfactory results will follow.


In preparing work for rosewood the same instructions should be
followed as are laid down in the preceding remarks upon the
graining, etc., of black walnut, for the ground-work of both woods
is formed of the same colors, only more of the red and yellow is
used for rosewood than walnut, as the former varies more in tone
between red and yellow. The same rules in both cases should be
conformed with, and similar tools in applying or laying on are
used. In preparing ground-work for rosewood, however, a little
rose pink may sometimes be employed advantageously. Of course the
egg-shell gloss must be attained after the third ground-work is
laid on, in order to receive the whipping-coat properly.

Pores in rosewood being very fine, the whipping should be as fine
as possible. The distemper color is made from burnt umber, a very
little Vandyke brown, and a small quantity of rose-pink, ground in
ale, or vinegar and water, etc., as before mentioned, and applied
very thin. The first coat of graining is mixed from Vandyke brown,
burnt umber, and ivory-black (though mainly from the former),
ground very fine in oil, turpentine, wax, etc., and must stand
after being mixed for some six hours before applying. In some
cases, where a reddish cast is desired, it will be well to use a
trifle more of the rose-pink.

As the grains in rosewood run very irregularly (see illustration),
great care must be maintained in combing, it being necessary in
most cases to employ extremely coarse and fine combs; and at times
it may be absolutely necessary to use a pencil, in bringing up this
imitation to perfection, and all of the combing and pencilling
must be blended down very softly with a fine badger blender. For
the glazing, the same colors may be used, though chiefly Vandyke
brown and ivory-black, making the dark places principally from
the latter, though, of course, all of these colors are to be made
exceedingly thin and as transparent as possible.

Where a particularly rich finish is desired, a good effect will
result by giving the work another extremely thin coat of glazing,
composed of rose-pink with a little ivory-black, thus sinking
and harmonizing the whole work, giving it a rich and very fine
appearance. When the work becomes thoroughly hard and dry, it can
be finished either in varnish or oil, as heretofore mentioned in
the finishing of black walnut.


This, though a very beautiful wood, is not as commonly used in
graining as some others, though a fine effect can be produced by
graining panels, etc., in rooms where the principal graining may
be black walnut, oak, or rosewood, forming thus a contrast, which,
when well executed, presents an extremely fine appearance, and as
maple is never used for an outside finish (therefore not being
exposed to the weather), it can be grained more successfully in
distemper than in oil, and also much more readily, the consequence
of which is, we shall speak of it as being grained only in
distemper color, though the same colors, used by a skilful hand, in
oil, will produce the same beautiful effect.

The ground-work for maple is made from white, tinted with chrome
yellow, making the very lightest cream, and the same rules as to
mixing, laying on, etc., etc., are applicable to the graining of
maple as to the other woods hereinbefore mentioned, viz., walnut,
oak, and rosewood.

The graining color is made from raw Sienna and a little raw umber,
not far from equal parts, and ground fine in ale, etc., as before
laid down for distemper colors. By rubbing the ground-work upon
which all distemper colors are laid, with a damp sponge, it will be
found to take the color much more readily than when not so rubbed.

The tools necessary for the graining of maple are a badger-hair
blender, two or three top, or over-grainers, varying in width;
and in running of heart-pieces, pencils must be used. For making
the curls in curly maple, there can be nothing better than a
raw potato, cut, say two or three inches wide, with a thin,
straight edge, although the work can be performed by using a
piece of rubber, or belting, with a similar straight edge. A flat
camel's-hair brush, used wet, will accomplish the same, and for
this purpose it is employed quite successfully.

In forming the bird's-eyes, a potato cut in two, near the centre,
with various inequalities made upon the smooth surface, and
carelessly pounced over the surface of the work, will prove
successful; but we know of nothing better adapted for this purpose
than the ends of the fingers, touching the surface therewith at
intervals. (See samples.)

After a thin coating of the distemper is laid on, for the
production of curly maple, take a potato, or some one of the other
things spoken of, and form the curls by running it crosswise,
making them as irregular and careless as possible, then blend
them down to a perfect harmony, after which pounce the same with
the end of the blender as softly and finely as possible, as the
pores in maple are nearly indistinct. After allowing this to dry
thoroughly, if a heart or growth is desired, run the same with
a pencil as before mentioned, or form the grains by taking the
over-grainer, touching it in the color (having combed the grainer
before being touched in the color); then run it down over the work,
holding the hand near the work; then blend those also carefully,
and, especially in maple, avoid anything harsh or stiff in the
color, or the running of the grains, as maple, when completed, is a
very light and transparent wood. Where bird's-eye-maple is desired
(after the thin distemper color has been used), take the damp
sponge and roll it carelessly over the surface, which will remove
a portion; then blend softly as in forming the curls, after which,
and before it is allowed to dry, form the bird's-eye with a potato
or fingers, as before mentioned, in those parts where the color
has not been removed; then, when entirely dry, form the grains
either with a pencil or a grainer, as set forth in directions on
curly maple. Care should be taken to have the bird's-eyes shaded
(as per illustration), thereby making them natural and complete.
After complying with the foregoing instructions, the work is ready
for the varnish, and in most cases will be found satisfactorily
finished, though it can be materially improved by first giving it
a very thin coat of varnish, then a very thin glazing coat of the
same colors, though principally of Sienna, forming curls, shades,
etc., where they may have been omitted, or will be found to improve
the work. You will observe in our illustrations that the grains of
maple, both bird's-eye and curly, are entirely different from those
of any other kind of wood, both in course and formation. In all
cases the illustrations herein given must be followed as closely
as possible, which, if properly complied with, will, in all cases,
produce the desired result. If desired to be grained in oil, combs
should be used instead of top, or over-grainers.

In connection with maple, we would here say that there is such a
wood as _satin-wood_, but it is rarely used in any manner.

If, however, it should be desirable to grain it, it will be found
that the colors used in graining maple (raw Sienna being the chief
material) are the same as those used in the graining of satin-wood,
and the process varies in no essential manner, only that the colors
and graining should be more indistinct with satin-wood, it being
an extremely pale and transparent wood. Care must be observed to
preserve in the imitation the purity and character of the original.


A very beautiful and prolific wood, attainable so easily throughout
the greater part of the country, is now growing in daily favor for
the interior of houses and other buildings, its susceptibility of
high finish making it desirable as well as handsome, and probably
when well grained it presents more attractiveness than any of the
other woods.

Grainers, therefore, should become skilled as far as possible in
the imitation of this brilliant and durable wood, and it seems
our duty to call especial attention to our illustrations of this
wood while endeavoring to impress upon the minds of our readers
its adaptability for the purposes herein cited. The ground-work
of ash is produced by using a little chrome or Rochelle yellow,
together with the least possible tint of red, to which add a
trifle of Vandyke brown. But little of this must be used or the
ground-work will be too gray. The color when mixed must compare
with the lightest shade found in the wood itself. The ground-work
must be left with the egg-shell gloss, spoken of in our former
chapters. Ash being a very porous wood, the pores, therefore, must,
in no case, be left out in the graining, otherwise the work will be
incomplete, and for the purpose of producing those take one-half
raw umber, one-fourth raw sienna, and one-eighth Vandyke brown;
grind all in ale, etc., and apply the same, using it very thin, and
whipping it thoroughly, as instructed in directions pertaining to
rosewood, etc.

For the second coat, or oil-graining, use the same colors in about
the same quantities, ground in oil, turpentine, wax, etc., as
mentioned in graining other woods. The same rules as to graining
black walnut--darkening the centre a little, and having the
grains lose themselves at the sides or ends--are applicable in the
graining of ash, and the same tools should also be used in the
graining of this wood as are used in that of black walnut; the
hand should run the same as in graining walnut, and the grains
should run with equal regularity. In _shading_, the same colors
may be used, adding a little more Vandyke brown, and grainers,
particularly in shading, should study to imitate nature itself
in each particular. Of course the colors should be so mixed and
strained as to avoid the possibility of their containing harsh or
lumpy substances, so that the work will prove to be clean, smooth,
and free from any cloudy or impure appearance.

It can be finished in varnish, or in oil, the same as other woods
heretofore named.


Is largely used, and, like ash, is a particularly beautiful wood.
Becoming so well and favorably known for the various purposes to
which it can be applied, grainers should study well its beauties,
and in their imitation thereof strive to hold the mirror up to
nature. The ground-work of chestnut is produced with the same class
of colors as that of ash is, only a little more Vandyke brown
should be employed, to produce a more grayish tint than is found in

Though chrome is used in the ground-work of chestnut, we deem it
inferior to Rochelle yellow, inasmuch as the latter has a more
subdued shade, in nearer conformity to chestnut, than that produced
by chrome, the latter giving the work a more sprightly hue than is
observable in the wood itself. Chestnut is very porous, or rather
it shows a more porous condition than ash itself, and to produce
this there should be used a little raw umber, raw Sienna, burnt
umber, and Vandyke brown, in nearly equal parts, ground in ale,
giving the work a very thin coat, and whipping coarsely, so that
when done the pores will show very plainly. For the second, or
oil-graining, use the same colors, in the same quantities, ground
in oil, turpentine, wax, etc., as before instructed. Grain on much
the same principle as in ash, only coarser,--the grains in chestnut
running much coarser, but yet with the same regularity as those
found either in ash or black walnut. For shading chestnut use a
little burnt umber and Vandyke brown (rather more of the former),
to which add a small quantity of raw Sienna, grinding them in oil,
turpentine, etc. In applying this color have it very thin, as in
other grainings, and as chestnut is a plain wood, presenting a
great uniformity of color in itself, great care must be taken to
avoid any material change in the appearance of the graining by any
heavy shades.

This rule, it will be observed, is in this regard dissimilar
from that laid down to govern the graining of ash, as the latter
presents in nature many heavy and eccentric shades, etc., while in
the former there is very little diversity in the shade. The same
process of wiping out and darkening the centre is applicable to
this wood as that set forth to govern in the cases of walnut and
ash, similar combs and tools being used in the work upon each and
all; and, like the other woods, chestnut can be finished in oil or
varnish, as heretofore noted, and when finished is substantial in
appearance and very beautiful.

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