Tag Archives: wood graining

Oak panel door

Advice on Wood Graining, 1828

Since I just wrote about wood graining, I thought it would be appropriate to share this passage written by Nathaniel Whittock back in 1828 on the subject:

It is of great consequence in imitating oak that the joiner’s work should be represented naturally as well as the wood. The practitioner in graining who resides in any large town, will have ample opportunities in observing the work of others, and improving from their beauties, and even from their defects. If a new oak door is to be formed, the joiner is solicitous to select wood as finely flowered and free from knots as it can be procured; and if a join is made in a panel he is anxious that the wood should be of the same colour, and if possible that the grain and flower should match, as nothing would look worse in his eye than knotty wood and difference of colour.

And yet it is the constant practice of the painter, in order to shew his skill in graining, to make both those faults show as glaringly as possible. Nothing can be more offensive to the eye of taste than to see the panels of a door joined at all; but if the painter chooses to shew his skill, let the joint appear neatly put together, and shew the joint by combing the grain in opposite directions. The common error is to form the joint by glazing part of the panel with a glaze of vandyke brown, leaving the other part the natural color of newly cut oak. This certainly shews a joint, but shews it much in the same way that a tailor would shew his skill in patching a hole in a black coat with a piece of scarlet cloth.

Oak panel door
Oak panel door

Editor’s note: The word “shew” used here is simply an older spelling variation for the word “show”. Originally published in The Decorative Painters’ and Glaziers’ Guide, by Nathaniel Whittock. London: Isaac Taylor Hinton, 1828, pp 24-25.

Step-by-step wood graining process

Graining Some Wood

Our production of Anna Christie closed last night at Triad Stage. The first act takes place in a bar, filled with wooden furniture. The bar, tables and chairs all needed to match, and since they were constructed from a variety of wood and other materials, the best way to do that was by painting all of them.

Our scenic charge artist, Jessica Holcombe, helped us develop a process to match the wood sample that our designer picked out. The base coat was a wet blend of two colors: a light tan, and a slightly darker beige. We blended them in the direction that the fake grain would go.

Base coat
Base coat

The next layer was a maroon/pink graining layer. A lot of the graining was done simply with a chip brush lightly dragged along the surface to make stripes. For some of the larger surfaces, we broke out the grain rocker to make some knots and other grain characteristics.

Graining
Graining

For the third layer, we made a glaze from some amber shellac and a bit of brown tint, and painted that over the whole thing.

Glaze coat
Glaze coat

The picture below shows the progression of this graining process, starting with an unpainted chair I bought.

Step-by-step wood graining process
Step-by-step wood graining process

When the furniture got on stage under the lights, it was too bright and the grain had too much contrast. We added another glaze coat of tinted shellac, this time using a darker brown to tint it. Jessica also showed us how to flock (edit: I mean “flog”) this layer, giving it a bit of the subtle pores and perpendicular stripes you can see below.

Final glaze
Final glaze

When doing a wood grain, the more layers you can add, the richer and more realistic your final result will be. There are many other techniques and tricks you can utilize depending on the specific type of wood you are trying to replicate; it is important to have a clear reference photo or physical sample of what you want your wood to look like.