Category Archives: Reproduction

PITCH PINE WOOD GRAINING WITH DONAL QUIGLEY

Donal Quigley is an Irish painter and decorator who has a passion for wood graining and tells us about his process and techniques for reproducing pitch pine.

ABOUT DONAL

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Donal Quigley is a third generation painter and decorator from County Kilkenny in Ireland.  His apprenticeship was served under the guidance of his father in the eighties and after completing his training, Donal founded his own decorating business in 1992.

Besides the standard painting and decorating work, Donal found himself working in more and more specialized areas such as hand painted signs, gilded hand-carved signs and sandblasted glass signs as well as different wall finishes.

In 2014, Donal studied at the SWR Decart Studio in Dublin under the tutelage of Michel Nadai, the respected French decorative painting artist.

For the past five years, Donal has found himself focusing on wall panelling systems due to their growing popularity in Ireland.

WHAT IS PITCH PINE?

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Indigenous to the United States and the eastern seaboard in particular, the Pitch Pine can grow upwards of 60 feet and has a lifespan of some 200 years.  A hardy species, not even fire or severe trauma can destroy it.

The reason for its centuries old popularity is due to its high resin content.  Indeed, as well as being used for woodwork, the pitch pine is a source for turpentine and tar, otherwise known as pitch!

These days it has a less glamorous purpose, being used for fuel, pulping and making crates.  In the past however, it was used to create anything from railroads and wooden ships to church pews, panels and flooring.

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Pitch pine is not a strong wood and has a rough texture to the grain, however the high resin content leaves it resistant to decay, hence its popularity.  The resinous nature of the wood has its down side however, as it makes it difficult to machine and sand.

Previously pitch pine was sought after due to the vibrant shades and figuring of the grain, however since the boom of railroads and mass planting and forced early foresting of the trees, the quality of the grain began to suffer which is why it is currently used for less elegant tasks.

As a result, the only way to obtain finer specimens is through reclamation, which means in turn that demand has outweighed supply causing a worldwide shortage and rising prices.

This has led to a resurgence in demand for painted reproductions to match already present architectural elements.

DONAL’S PROCESS

Materials and Tools

Colours Used: Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber

Water Based System:

Base colour B.S. 06.C.33.

Johnstone’s pine woodstain.  

Floetrol paint conditioner

Tint with powder colour.  

Work into a paste and thin as required with water.

Tools required

tools

To start brush on a wash  of the above and obliterate all brush marks to leave a translucent effect.   Allow to dry.

  1. Use a S.1210L. Duck Signwriter’s brush to pencil in figure.

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  1. Begin to form the figure.

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  1. Join the sap and continue up.

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  1. Main figure is now formed.  It is important to soften after each line is drawn to avoid smudging into the next line.

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  1. Now using some burlap begin to do the side grain.

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  1. Glaze the other side.

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  1. Then burlap to form tight side grain effect.

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  1. Finished central panel.

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  1. Next tape off top rail.

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  1. Pencil in figure and soften as you go.

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  1. Finish rail.

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  1. Repeat process on lower rail.

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  1. Last two styles to do.  These can be plain straight grain if you prefer.

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  1. Same process, pencil in grain and burlap side.

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  1. And same on other side.

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  1. Allow to dry.

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  1. Add a thin line of colour to emphasise the joints.

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  1. Overglaze with same colour, adding some Vandyke brown to create      highlights and moirés.  Then badger lightly.

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  1. Panel overglazed.

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  1. Finished panel varnished.

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For more examples of his work and to contact Donal, please click the following Facebook link: Donal Quigley Painting and Decorating

 

 

 

 

OAK WOODGRAINING WITH TROMPE L’OEIL MOLDINGS

OAK WOOD GRAINING WITH JEREMY TAYLOR

Wood has been imitated with paint and pigments for at least 3000 years, indeed the grainers of ancient Egypt were among the higher classes of artisans. Wood is imitated for several reasons, whether it is to make a cheaper wood look like an expensive wood, to paint a substance that is not wood to resemble wood or to match new work to existing wood. Oak is very often imitated, in particular quarter sawn oak as it is expensive and has a very distinctive grain pattern.

Jeremy Taylor

Jeremy Taylor

About Jeremy Taylor

Jeremy started a Painting and Decorating apprenticeship in 1983 under the tutelage of Robert Black who was a highly regarded local decorator and a part time enthusiastic artist.  After 4 years he then moved on to a local decorating firm until 1991 at which point he moved to the South West of England and worked for a decorating firm.  Whilst living in Devon, he first learned of the late Bill Hollgate from Clithero who ran graining and marbling courses.  Jeremy attended his first course in 1991, going on to attend four more classes, the last one being in 1999.  Bill was totally inspiring, a true master of the craft of graining and marbling and he was a proud member of the salon.  Jeremy was hooked.

3 years after moving to England Jeremy returned to his native Scotland to start up his own business.  In 2002 he went back to college to pursue another passion of his which is Traditional Signwriting.  He attended Edinburgh’s Telford College one day a week for 2 years and gained qualifications in Signwork at HNC level.  Jeremy‘s diversity and extreme attention to detail have allowed him over the years to build up a wonderful client base.  He also carries out work on a contract basis for Historic Scotland since 2002 which has meant working at many of their castles and monuments in the Grampian Region.

In the summer of 2012 Jeremy travelled to Sweden Palm Fine Arts to attend a one week Wood Graining and Trompe L’oeil course ran by Mats Carlson.  Jeremy was hugely impressed by Mats’ talent at decorative painting thinking him to be one of the very finest in his field.  It was an amazing week and it allowed him to learn new skills to develop and grow as a decorative painter.

More recently Jeremy has trained with Michel Nadia, Gert- Jan Nijsse and Patrick Laheyne, who are all world class decorative painters!

Real Quarter Sawn Oak

A Brief note on Quarter Sawn Oak

Labelled either “Quarter Sawn Oak”, or simply “Quartered Oak” this wood is oak lumber that is riven or sawn along a radius of the annual rings or at an angle less than 45 degrees so that the radius is edge-grained. The slower growing hardwoods may require 75 years to yield good saw timber and 100 or more years to produce quartered lumber or high grade. What is known as quarter-sawn lumber is the best for pattern-work and all wood-work, because it is not so likely to warp as is the regular, or bastard-sawn. Quarter-sawn lumber is wood that is sawn approximately parallel with the medullary ray. The trunk of a tree is made up of concentric cylindrical layers, bound together with radial fibres, which are known as medullary rays. It is the exposure of these rays that gives to quartered oak the beauty that is so much prized.

Quartering is a very wasteful way of sawing lumber, and involves an extra cost, however for pattern work that must be made thin, it pays to use quarter-sawn lumber, even if it does cost more. The grades in quartered oak are “Clear”, “Sap Clear”, and “Select”. In contrast, the grades in plain-sawn oak are “Clear”, “Select”, and “No. 1”. The shrinkage or swelling in the width of a flat-grained board is nearly twice that of a quartered or edge-grained board of the same dimensions. As a rule, it takes quartered oak two years longer to dry in the shade than it takes plain oak, walnut, chestnut, and the like. Quartered oak veneer is usually obtained by sawing, not slicing, for the latter procedure destroys the effectiveness of the ray fleck. Quartered wood dries more slowly than plain-sawn.

 

Sawn Oak Diagram 1

Sawn Oak Diagram 1

Sawn Oak Diagram 2

Sawn Oak Diagram 2

Jeremy’s Process

Colours used for this panel are: Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Black, White and Proceed Low Viscosity Glaze.

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Below are the tools required to complete the panel.

Tools

Tools

Mix raw sienna, raw umber and black with low viscosity glaze.  Brush on the panel and use a hog hair brush to create the grain, pulling from top of panel, sometimes in a wavy motion to the bottom.

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With a fine tooth steel comb, start at the bottom of the panel and crosshatch the grain at a 45 degree angle – this produces the pore marks in the oak.

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To wipe out the silver grain, I use an old plastic credit card shaped to resemble your thumb nail.  A lint free cloth is wrapped over the graining horn as it is known.

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Starting at the top, begin to wipe out the silver grain, it is very important to keep moving the cloth so you keep the figuring nice and crisp.  The bigger markings, known as dapples, are generally found at the centre of the panel with fine supporting grain at the sides, which just fades away.

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Progress of the silver grain.

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Using a folded cloth, create half tones under the big dapples – these often take on the same shape.

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Using the graining horn with the cloth, start to wipe out the annual rings, known as heart grain.

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Joining of the two saps.

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More heart grain progress.

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The heart grain is completed using steel or rubber combs to carefully finish the sides.

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Once the initial figuring is completed and dry, mix up the same colours and brush over the panel, creating mottles with the mottler brush  and wiping out highlights around knots – the knots were created with a small sable brush.

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When overglazing the silver grain a flogging brush can be used by dragging down the panel to create streaks over the silver grain and can then be broken up using the crosshatch method with a one inch steel comb.

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Creating the Trompe L’oeil moulding

Mitre the corners using low tack tape for a sharp finish.

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Complete the next stage of the moulding in the same manner and let dry.

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Using a striping brush and a mahl stick, start creating the profiles of the moulding by adding black to the base glaze.

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Progression of profiles.

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More progress.

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The profiles are blended by stippling them, softening with a badger brush.

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Progression of the mouldings; note the chosen light source is from the top left.

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Highlights are added with the base glaze mixed with white.

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The centre raised panel and the round ornaments are marked out with a stabilo water based crayon.

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Close up of marked out Trompe.

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When shading the panel and ornaments remember all the time that the light source is from the top left.  For highlights add white to the base glaze and for shadows add black.

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Once the panel is dry, overglaze with burnt umber for depth of colour and soften with a badger brush.

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Finished Panel.

Finished panel

Finished panel

Jeremy Taylor and some examples of his completed work, including his Pierre Finkelstein Oak Contest winning piece.

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Winning entry for the Pierre Finkelstein Oak Contest.

Winning entry for the Pierre Finkelstein Oak Contest.

Mahogany – Top 10 Graining Tips!

Cait Whitson is a self confessed paintgeek who has run her own company since the age of 20 and now based in Perth, Scotland happily working at producing and teaching great decorative paint finishes all over the country (and the world if given half a chance).  Here she gives her insights into the history and techniques of Mahogany wood graining.

I have always loved Mahogany and it is my favourite wood to imitate. The variety of tones and patterns are somewhat incredible. These enormous trees sometimes reaching 150 feet in height and 10-12 feet in diameter have been favoured by furniture makers and construction woodworkers since its introduction to Europe and North America and although good quality mahogany becomes rarer each year, the prized beautiful veneer and solid wood is still highly sought after.

While most of us think of mahogany being used in fine furniture, here you can see it used in construction in a house built on Petra Island to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original designs:

 

Mahogany used extensively in this house that was built using original drawings by Frank Lloyd Wright (credit http://www.privateislandsonline.com)

 

Mahogany has been a favourite of woodworkers and cabinet makers partly because of the freedom from waste. It is possible to supply figured timber from the mahogany tree in substantial quantities and at only a nominally more expensive rate than the plain timber; superiority in lengths and widths with fewer defects than other timbers mean that mahogany offers large clear cuttings that are free from sap and these are comparatively easy to finish to a smooth surface make it a much loved quality material. Alongside that Mahogany has a rare and permanent beauty and stability.
History

The Golden Age of Mahogany was during the 18th Century and the first quarter of the 19th Century as master craftsmen Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton and the brothers Adam shaped the furniture that most of us admire today and still live with.

Typical Georgian mahogany piece (credit http://www.wilkinsonantiques.co.uk)

None of us would find the Georgian room unfashionable today (credit http://theredlist.com)

Prior to that European furniture was heavier as a rule and made principally from native wood. Until about 1725 the cost of importing foreign lumber for furniture was a prohibitive luxury. Before that of course came the discovery of the timber and its introduction. The first recorded use of the timber outside of the forests in which it grew was near to its native home during the 16th Century and it was one of the New World treasures brought back to Europe and into North America by early explorers, pirates and buccaneers. When Cortez saw ships being made from mahogany in Santo Dominico he immediately commissioned his own and likewise Sir Walter Raleigh adopted it for his ships. There is a rather romantic tale of Raleigh returning to England with the first examples of the timber and because Queen Elizabeth admired it so much he, in his customary fashion, immediately commissioned the ships carpenters to fashion a table in the timber for her. If this is true it is the first example of the timber being used in England
 

 

 

Crotch Mahogany graining by Cait Whitson credit – Cait Whitson

Graining for me is always about looking at the real thing. Marble you can often have a bit of artists licence with but with woods you need to capture the character of the timber well and most often I find I am matching to something existing, so you need to get practice at some of the characteristics of the wood. Mahogany has a fleck in the background, usually quite regular,

Flat Cut Mahogany Credit – The Hobbit House Inc

and the heart wood of the flat cut tends to be regular and even unlike say walnut which has a much more wayward nature.

Flat Cut Heartwood Credit – The Hobbit House Inc

A great place to check out images of any timber is Hobbit House. (http://hobbithouseinc.com/personal/woodpics/)  There you will see all the different cuts displayed in untreated form. The common solid wood cuts used in construction are mainly plain flat cut with a narrow heart or wide heart and plain stripe cut quartered. Veneers used for decorative furniture and panels will be broken stripe, wide broken stripe, swirl and crotch cut as well as the flat cut heart wood. Occasionally you might see some plum pudding or blister figure. For instruments like violins and guitars the fiddle back and mottle and fiddle back are used. The Mahogany Association plates from their book “The Mahogany Book” are a great reference to the different types of figure http://thompsonmahogany.com/the-mahogany-book-plates/ It is worth getting this book as a handy reference.

One of the plates from the Mahogany Book Credit – (http://thompsonmahogany.com)

Mahogany comes from all over the tropical world and so colours and variations are many, likewise the methods of imitating mahogany in paint are numerous. I remember being told when I first started in the decorative painting world that the base coat colour for mahogany was British Standard 04D44 as if this was an immutable fact. This is a very red colour and I don’t believe I have used that colour again in all my days of imitating the timber. There is no “definitive” for any timber, it is all about what you are trying to imitate.

TIP #1 Finding the right tone for the base coat colour is dependent on how much work you are going to do – i.e. how many layers the budget can afford. If you are only doing one layer then choose a colour just slightly lighter than the finish you are matching, 2 layers look for the paler colours in the timber and choose one of those…3 layers go for the palest colour you can see or a little paler. I tend to start with golden brown and nutty peach colours and I tend to add red into the glaze rather than start with a red base if I want a redder. I use acrylic eggshell these days as a ground for my graining as a rule but oil based is fine, just remember to degrease with Fullers Earth or similar

TIP #2 My system of choice for mahogany has always been a beer or gouache glaze combined with an oil based glaze. The beer glaze is made with thinned “ale” and pigment; alternatively gouache or UK “poster colour” can be used. The same term in USA is not a suitable medium. You could also use a quick drying acrylic medium – even a thinned varnish to work the quicker layers in. These latter mediums can be tinted with powders, acrylic artists paints and Universal Stainers. The oil glaze that I make is a mix of 1 part raw linseed oil; 3 parts white (mineral) spirits; plus about 10% terebine driers (or Japan driers in USA) Your mixes will behave differently depending on your environment – I might make a very different mix should I live and work in Arizona, than the one I make in sunny Scotland. So play with what works for you and your area. There are many variations of these 2 recipes, it is worth hunting around to find what works for you best.
TIP#3 The graining colour added to the oil is usually made from Vandyke Brown, Black, Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber; other colours that may be considered are Raw Umber, Venetian Red, and Crimson and I use a high quality artists oil colour – my preferred brand is Mussini Schminke.

TIP#4 Tools are as below – this is a selection of tools that would enable you to achieve most woods. The main ones you use in mahogany are – flogger, mottle, overgrainer, writer, softener (most usually a badger but a hogs hair I use too), along with some rubbing in brushes and a varnish brush (I prefer a glider for this to finish.

Tools for Graining and Marbling

Tools for Graining and Marbling

The layers of water and oil based material work and are efficient because the oil doesn’t work up the water based and vice versa, whereas working extensively oil over oil, may soften the layer below and results in an extended dry time making the project less commercial. The way you combine the layers is really down to the look desired and the budget. I will show you a few methods I have done in the past.

TIP #5 First of all flogging – flogging is what creates the open pore flecks that are characteristic of this type of wood. You use a flogging brush. Paint on the medium of your choice and then hold the flogger loosely as shown below. Do not grip it

Holding a flogging brush – this is a nifty little one useful for door edges and narrow areas

Rock the brush and firmly flap the bristle onto the surface to make the bristles imprint into the medium. Sometimes you need to let a medium ‘set up’ which means dry a little till it is less wet, and that way the medium will hold the imprint. Work in the direction that the bristle is pointing. So if you have the brush in the position that it is in the photograph you work bottom to top…which doesn’t feel intuitive I find for the beginner.

Here is a flogged surface in oil on hand rails and the finished product. The oil allows me to blend 2 colours together more easily and as seen on the LSs rail and the next two images show the water based layer over the top, finished and varnished. I degreased the oil surface with Fullers Earth to allow the oil layer to accept the gouache/beer layer and then I just varnished with a solvent borne gloss varnish

Oil flogged surface with gouache/beer overgraining

Oil flogged surface with gouache/beer overgraining

TIP#6 My next trick is to use flecks of paint rather than flogging – spatter the surface with a water based medium (water based for speed of drying – you could use anything that will not be reactivated by your next layer).

Flecks being softened

TIP #7 Soften with the badger in the direction of the grain. I find that holding the brush perpendicular to the surface allows huge control of any medium…try it. Keep the handle perpendicular to your surface and allow the bristles to do the work, you can be quite rough but if you maintain that perpendicular status of the handle, you will be able to manipulate the work with extreme skill.

TIP #8 Graining over the top – to create the figure. Whichever medium you use to create the heartwood the tool used is usually a mottler to create the fine heartwood lines. I find that holding the tool so the bristles lie at an angle that on a clock would be 1 o’clock and 7 o’clock and to keep it there from the start of the movement to the end. Move from the heart out through the figure and then soften from the heart out. This gives you  the foundation for the cathedral grain and you can tweak it and pick out individual lines to empahisise, soften some more than others.

Creating the figure graining

Creating the figure graining

Figuring after initial softening

Examples of figuring in real mahogany

Examples of figuring in real mahogany

TIP #9 When it comes to having one piece of wood cross another, try this little trick. Take some P80 grit sandpaper and lay it across the completed work, the grit side down. Then use this as a mask. You will get clean and realistic timber joints without leaving one to dry and doing the next at another time

Use P80 sandpaper as a mask

TIP #10 Keep it simple, not every piece of architectural mahogany has to have a heavy and complex figure to it. This tends to be the work on furniture or key pieces like doors, don’t overcomplicate the job, you need to make some money!!!

Example of Graining by Cait Whitson

Example of Graining by Cait Whitson

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Example of Graining by Cait Whitson

But when you get the opportunity to go for it……..

Book-matched grained panel in a department store by Cait Whitson

Book-matched grained panel in a department store by Cait Whitson

Happy Painting!!!
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DECORATIVE SANDBLASTED AND REVERSE PAINTED MIRRORS

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Mike O’Regan fitting the reverse painted pub mirror!

 

As a natural progression from the traditional sign writing side of my business, I developed an interest in reverse painted and gilded glasswork and have been honing techniques and styles ever since.

Here is a brief introduction into some of the work I have been commissioned to produce and an insight into the skills and methods I am learning and developing while doing so.

SANDBLASTED AND REVERSE PAINTED MIRROR

I was commissioned by a local public house to produce a vintage style oval mirror featuring the name of the establishment.  As I had produced many pieces for them previously, I was given a free reign with the design, the only condition being that it featured green and gold.

The first step was to come up with the design, ensuring that it both kept to the client brief and was a workable design using the method I had selected.

Initial Concept

Initial Concept

Approved Design

Approved Design

 

Once approved, the design was vectorized and produced on my plotter to cut a vinyl mask in reverse for the back of the mirror.

Stencil being applied

Stencil being applied

Fully applied stencil

Fully applied stencil

The mirror itself was then completely masked for protection so that only the cut away parts of my design were visible.  I then sandblasted the design into the mirror using a standard glass etching abrasive and fortunately I have the use of an industrial sandblasting cabinet for good measure!

The masking was then removed and the mirror cleaned with methylated spirits before painting.

Removal of stencil

Removal of stencil

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Clean and ready for painting!

Clean and ready for painting!

At this point, the mirror could be framed and reverse lit if one so wished, however this one was for painting so I decided to use metallic gold paint sparingly on the shadows of the lettering and some of the minor details.  Hammerite was used in this case as it is has a thick consistency so a single application gives the required coverage.

A golden tone of gloss paint was used on the acanthus design and of course the required green was applied – ordinary oil based gloss paints are fine for this. My trusty mahl stick came in handy for the detailed picking out process, both to steady my hand and to keep it out of the wet paint.

Painting in progress

Painting in progress

Once completely dry, the painting was backed up with an oil based undercoat and the mirror framed and fitted onsite.

 

Finished!

Finished!

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STRIPPED PAINT AND CHEMICALLY REMOVED SILVERING

This is a slightly more tedious process due to modern strippers taking on average two days to remove the backing paint from the mirror in order for you to work directly on the silvering.

It does however, open up a whole new choice of techniques as you can oxidize, antique or completely remove the silvering once you have it exposed. An added bonus is that Gold leaf can be applied to stripped areas without losing any of its lustre as it would with a sandblasted piece.

Here is an early experimental project that was distressed a bit more than I would have liked, however you can see how sharp the graphics look and the effect of the gold leaf.

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For this example I produced a ‘sea shanty’ mirror using a graphic that I liked the look of so I just vectorized in a sign program to make it useable.  I wanted this piece to have an antique rustic appearance about it, and was very pleased at how it came out.

The backing paint was removed from the mirror using paint stripper – it is important to let it soften completely, then carefully scrape it off using a plastic scraper to prevent the silvering underneath becoming damaged.

Once the paint is off and the glass is cleaned with methylated spirits, a cut vinyl stencil is applied as in the previous project.  All other exposed areas are masked off for protection.

Stencil on glass

Stencil on glass

I removed the silvering through the stencil using household bleach at full strength.  This is best done with a cotton bud and wearing gloves of course!  In a matter of seconds, the silver dissolves.

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Once the area has been de-silvered the glass is thoroughly rinsed under cold running water to remove all traces of bleach. The stencil can then be removed.

Removal of stencil

Removal of stencil

I decided to antique the piece at the edges and this was accomplished by gently dabbing wrinkled newspaper in bleach then applying to the silvering.  Again, rinse immediately in cold water.

The glass was then backed up with a chestnut brown spray paint (Painters Touch) to add colour to the clear areas and protect the remaining silvering.  I then made my own frame as detailed below.

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A BRIEF NOTE ON ANTIQUING THE FRAME

The frame for this piece was made of pine which was then whacked about and beaten and bruised with a wire brush and other implements.  A rough coat of black satin was lashed on and force dried with a heat gun to make it blister.

Crackle glaze was then applied and dried before top coating in powder blue. The heat gun was then applied immediately which caused the dramatic cracking effect.

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A wash of walnut wood stain was then applied and sanded when dry.  The wash reactivated the crackle glaze and some of the powder blue flaked off to reveal the black.

When completely dry I applied a coat of oil based matt varnish to strap down the layers.

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As an afterthought I added patinated corner brackets to give the look of an aged frame that had been reinforced.

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I hope you enjoyed following these processes, more to come!

MIKE

 

Clock Dial Restoration – St Firmin’s Church, North Crawley

David R Agnew is a respected Craftsman Decorator from Newport Pagnell in the UK and in this article he gives a step by step account of the methods and techniques involved in the complicated and delicate restoration process of the Clock Dial at St. Firmin’s Church in North Crawley.

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Clock Dial prior to restoration

 

A diary slice of the Clock Dial restoration.
David R Agnew LCGI
Craftsman Decorator
Newport Pagnell

Just started this today, should have been six weeks ago, but have been waiting for
the faculty from the diocese to arrive.

So…arrived this morning to instruct the scaffolders’ of my requirements. So thought,
while I was waiting for them to erect it, I would start having a poke around, taking
pictures & documenting the job.
Clock 2
Scaffold being erected

The job consists of three items, the clock dial, the leaded window underneath the
dial & the gilding of the weathercock -which has already been completed.

Clock 3

So, poking around I went into the church & found the door leading to the tower, as
for me, this would be the route to access the scaffold. Up a winding stone staircase
which is only 2′ width & terminating at the clock room, where there is a door in the
far corner which takes you to the back of the dial.
Clock 4

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The movement is ‘J Bennett of 65 Cheapside London’ I believe this was installed in
the Victorian era.

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First thing I notice is that where I need to work, it is completely filthy, covered in cobwebs and
years of dust etc, this was going to be my first job -clean up. I can’t stand working in a mess
before the work even starts! I do this, because I want to get absorbed in my environment,
working in old buildings takes on a different pace for me & it helps you to take in & notice
tiny details when not rushed or jumping straight in.
However, I knew that the first day would be about thinking the job through and formulating the
work plan in my head -time spent thinking is never wasted.
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I decided to investigate the window, and discovered that I could take this out from the inside,
fortunately, it is in it’s own wooden frame which is in pretty good condition, so will refurbish
the frame. The leaded window itself has not faired well, and I have decided that I will just make
a new one, the lead cames are very thin and with so much glass missing, it isn’t really
economical to repair. The window is approximately 120 years old and I would guess it was
installed the same time as the original clock movement and dial etc. The iron tie bars, which
are there to help support the window, are unusual to me, they are thin at one end. This is
because the thin end has been driven onto the frame and then secured with a clout nail in the
flange at the other side. All the ones I have seen in the past have just been the same
thickness and built into the frame, or a fixing flange at each end -so, just a little detail I picked
up on. The whole window, will be taken back to the workshop, where I will take a rubbing and
make a new one based on that.

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After doing the rubbing I take the old panel apart, soak all the reusable glass in ‘Krud Kutter’
–a sugar soap type cleaner. I have been fortunate in the past, as I have always saved old
glass from when I have had to do repairs on box windows and the like, so I have plenty of
spare bits to make this window complete with all old crown or muff glass.
9
Second morning, I am still missing the tarps to keep the weather out, so the
scaffolders’ have to come back for that. Anyway, thought I would have a close look
at the dial. Firstly, I wanted to establish what material it was,and yes, it did turn out
to be copper. The previous paint job was very rough, not to our usual painting
standards. Although the gilding seems fairly bright & in reasonable condition, the last
job is not entirely honest, as you can make out, that who ever did it, didn’t paint the
whole dial with a system, then sign write and gild in the proper manner, because you
can see where the numerals have been gone round and where it is grey in between over
all, is not a very tidy job. When it is viewed whilst 40 feet in the air and from a
distance, it isn’t noticeable.

10
Nevertheless, I proceeded to take measurements of the numerals and make notes. I
then covered the whole dial with drafting film and took accurate tracings of the existing
layout, when I get the latter back to the workshop, I will lay it out on the drawing
board to make the final adjustments to accuracy and then prick it to convert the draft
into the working drawing for later transfer.
With all the note taking done, I then started to prepare the copper dial. I abraded
the existing coating with 60 grit, using mechanical sanding with extraction, because
of the dangers with possible lead paint being present. The whole Is in very sound
condition, so washed down, after sanding with ‘Krud Kutter’ and then applied a first
coat of Rustoleum Alkythane, a satin finish industrial coating which weathers by
erosion. Colour RAL 5009

11

Now I turn my attention to the dial back boarding. Most of the moulding has
decayed, so I need to sort some new out. The existing mould consists of three parts,
I didn’t think it was particularly special, but the fact that it is made up from three
different components lends itself to fail on the moisture ingress front. After removing
the lower five sections around the base board, It was quickly becoming apparent,
that the base boarding itself had decayed in several places. This lead me to ask
questions about the integrity of it fixings. Should I just patch up, with new hardwood
mouldings and just screw the copper dial back on? No was the answer. The effort for
the scaffold, the cost of doing all the signwriting, painting and gilding would just be
wasted.
A date on the board was 1957 signed ‘EB’ the style of mouldings and the whole feel of
this dial ties in with the date. We think ‘EB’ is a local builder called Eddie Brandon. I
felt nothing was going to be lost, or no architectural feature of any note would be
destroyed by deciding that this boarding had seen its life and if I was going to do
things with integrity, then I needed to make a new one. Thinking about it, this board
had served 60 years, so maybe the one before this, had lasted about the same, if it
was installed the same time as the movement. The copper dial itself certainly ties in
with the movement, as it bears the same maker’s name.

12
I would make a new one from English oak and do it in the same way as the last one two
layers, horizontal boards overlaid with vertical boards, each board
thickness15mm making a total of 30mm. I commission the local joinery shop to
machine up my requirements. In the meantime, I apply another coat of Alkythane to
the copper dial and head back to the workshop to make a start on the window.
Having had a phone call to say my oak was now machined up, I went to collect this and
start with earnest. Laying the boards out, I start to screw them together, using
stainless steel screws of course, as the tanning in oak will corrode steel ones. I first
make a square with the boards, then find the centre by marking diagonal. Using a
compass I mark out 1240mm, being the diameter of the dished copper dial. I can
now determine where to mark out the mouldings and cut the board to the octagonal
shape. Lovely to return back to the technical drawing days and summon the rules of
geometry, It’s been so long, I thought I’d forgotten!!!
13
There is a space between the back of the clock dial bottom and the top front of the
window beneath. This little board, takes up this space and the window splay. The other
one as you can see from the picture, is riddled with woodworm and decay. So….made
a new oak one, but thought I would include a quatrefoil for ventilation, which I later
covered with pierced aluminium mesh.

14a
With all the glass cleaned, I cut some new quarries from old glass, so that it is ready
for assembly with new lead came. Whilst I am at it, I did measure up for some very
small slit windows which are in the access turret. Currently, one has a pane of float
glass in and two more have a wood frame covered in decayed chicken wire, it won’t
take me long, so may as well make these three and I can finish it all off together, as I
loathe making up and using lead light cement, which is worked into the leaded panels in order to weather proof them and stiffen them up.

The slit windows will need a little frame, so I machine some simple frames from oak,
they are only very slim -about 6″ in width, so I just butt join them with glue and
mechanically fix them with brass screws. I added stop chamfers to the inside of the
frames just for a bit of detail. Luckily, they seem to fit in their new home, so just pointed them in lime with mortar of course.

15
When joining the mitres, I decided to use Repair Care, Dry Flex 4 hour, flexible
epoxy resin as my secondary fixing, used in conjunction with Repair Care, Dry Fix
stabiliser which is applied before the resin. I used stainless steel screws as my
primary fixing, which were screwed in from the back, about five screws in each
moulding section. It is my hope that this will stand the test of time, if the mitres do
open up, at least the end grain will be completely sealed with the stabiliser, to thwart
moisture ingress which had claimed the last moulding design.
16
I wanted to do something creative with the mitres, I had in my mind about flattening
off the mitres with an infill piece, possibly protruding into the spandrels to fill that
space. I thought I would cast some lead detail such as small Tudor roses, or just
domed buttons to place on the flat areas. Anyway, another time perhaps, but in the
end, I decided I would terminate the inner bead of the moulding into a protruding
18mm hardwood ball, as this would not be vulnerable as a moisture trap at the lower
part of the dial & when the rest of the frame is blue, I would gild these to accentuate
this tiny detail. After drilling a shallow hole & countersinking the bottom, I stuck
them in with Repair Care Dry Flex SF.

17
I thought I would do something else creative with the centre, rather than just drill a
hole for the shaft for the hands, I decided to do a quatrefoil & routed a V groove for
the vertical and horizontal registration lines. A bit bizarre & over the top for something
that isn’t seen, but I thought it would be fun & appropriately ecclesiastical.,
somebody will see it one day. After abrading everything with 80 grit, I then apply one
coat of low build stain to penetrate the timber and afford some first coat protection.
18
The old dial back boarding, it is completely shot, so am pleased I made the decision
to remove it. The old dial fixings, were through some rusty straps at the back, I do
not intend to re-use these as the primary fixing, although I will at least drill two
more holes and bolt it, to lock all the old and new together, thus leaving them there.
I then coated them up with ‘Owatrol’, to inhibit further corrosion. At the same time,
whilst it is accessible, I coated the back of the motion works board with Sadolin
quick drying preserver.

19
I used four stainless steel 6″ studs which are resin fixed to the stone wall. In
addition, to support the weight, I drove in two stainless steel spikes 300mm x 15mm
x 10mm thick at the lower angles of the octagonal board for extra security in
supporting the weight.
20
Hauling the dial up fourteen meters was no easy task, I rigged up a gantry gallows
bracket on the scaffold and used a block & tackle to half the weight. Luckily, I did not
have to do this on my own, helped by my brother, Richard Agnew and North Crawley
resident and friend of the church, John Plummer.
21
The juncture between the back of the clock dial boarding and the stone wall, was fairly
tight on one side, but on the other there was a gap of around 1″ -enough for small
birds to get in behind. Previously, this was taken up with mortar. When I took down
the old dial, it was very damp behind, so felt it would be better to maintain that air
gap, but stop moisture getting in. I used the existing lead flashing and dressed this
over the top and two angles. Then, I thought I would dress some lead down the
vertical sides, to seal this juncture. I used code 4 flashing and fixed it using copper
nails, after trimming to shape I then applied patination oil to improve its appearance.
The return flash was pointed using lime mortar for elasticity.

22

Bringing back into play the draft tracing taken earlier, now made into a working
drawing, I start to transfer the original layout using chalk. I used 20 hour gold size and
proceeded to gild the next day using extra thick pure 24 carat gold leaf. Conditions
were very windy and fairly cool, I managed to lose a couple of leaves and the size was
gluey to apply. I double gilded the hands and the faults the rest of the gilding, before
applying one last coat of Sadolin Superdec opaque satin finish -six in total and five
coats of Alkythane for the copper dish.
23
The oak infill piece with the quatrefoil vent mentioned earlier, I think this picture
explains its function more clearly. I left this finished in Sadolin Classic low build
‘Catalina grey’

BEFORE AND AFTER

BEFORE AND AFTER

The job is finished now, with the scaffold down, here are the overall pictures.

27

 

 

ST. FIRMIN'S CHURCH COMPLETED CLOCK DIAL RESTORATION

ST. FIRMIN’S CHURCH COMPLETED CLOCK DIAL RESTORATION