Tag Archives: Design


Kopie van DSC_0385



When Belgian woodcarver Patrick Damiaens was a child, his parents took him to the castles and museums of Europe where he encountered and began his love-affair with ornate, hand carved furniture.  The intricate centuries old craftwork inspired young Patrick and he took the first steps towards his goal of being able to imitate the old craftsmen of previous generations and to be able to produce unique and breath-taking wood carvings for bespoke furniture in the Liège style that he adores.

Kopie van 9

Patrick studied ornamental carving for three years at the prestigious Don Bosco Institute in Liège.  But first the dedicated student undertook six years of instruction in furniture making at the Sint-Jansberg College in Masseik followed by one year of training in woodcarving.

Now Patrick Damiaens’ Liège style woodcarvings are highly sought after ever since he began working for himself in 1992 and he is the only full-time ornamental wood carver and sculptor in Flanders, Belgium.

A dying craft, Patrick may soon be as unique as the exceptional carvings and sculptures he produces.  It is a privilege therefore to have access to the methods and imagery of the outstanding wood carvings of Patrick Damiaens.


When you commission a piece of furniture from Patrick Damiaens, you are guaranteed three things – remarkable work, a unique item in a definitive style and the knowledge that there is no one producing work quite like him.

Although trained in furniture making himself, Patrick has such a dedication to his craft that he works in conjunction with cabinet makers, a furniture restorer and stair maker, in order that he can give his undivided attention to his exquisite wood carving.

Patrick’s work is in the Liège style, where the finest quality wood panels are painstakingly carved in an elaborate and ornate style dating back to the 17th Century.

A Patrick Damiaens original is identifiable by his signature dragonfly, carved into every piece of work.


The first thing to note in Patrick’s process, is that there is no design to pick from the shelf.  All of Patrick’s designs are tailored to each client from scratch.  As a result each piece takes time and patience and this is reflected in his waiting lists, costs and production times.

Technical drawings are produced with meticulous attention to detail.  Dependent on the level of intricacy, these preliminary designs can take up to a month to produce.

Patrick Damiaens

Patrick Damiaens

An initial pattern is made up which can be based on a Patrick Damiaens Liege-style original or an alternative piece selected by the client.

Once the client has examined the preliminary design, any changes are made as necessary and a final draft is produced on tracing paper, ready to be transferred to the piece of furniture in question.



Although almost every aspect of Patrick’s work is carried out painstakingly by hand, the start off process for any piece involves the use of machinery.

The finalised design is transferred onto the item of furniture and then an electric milling machine is used to eliminate a large proportion of the excess wood from the project.

Once this has been done, Patrick removes any rough edges and remaining surplus wood with his own custom scraper.


Patrick uses his prized collection of Swiss and German chisels to delicately begin the process of carving intricate and exquisite detail into his subject.









Once the lengthy process is completed to Patrick’s high standards, the piece is handed back to the cabinetmaker to treat the wood and integrate the carved panel into the final item of furniture.



As well as producing extraordinary furniture, Patrick teaches his craft and writes a blog detailing his work and accomplishments, as well as inspiring future generations of wood carvers.

In honour of his exceptional craftsmanship, the Belgian Federal Government awarded Patrick with The Golden Badge of Honour – “The Elites of Labour”.

Patrick tells us more about the award and what it means.

“Every year hundreds of Belgians from various industries are given the badge of honour for the “Eliten van de Arbeid” (Elites of Labour), to praise them for their professional efforts and merits. This nomination is awarded by royal decree and is published in the Belgian Bulletin of Acts, Orders and Decrees.

On the one hand, a badge of honour is awarded during an official event, and on the other hand, a certificate is traditionally presented by the mayor of your municipality.

For 25 years now, my activities as a woodcarver have been a constant source of pleasure and satisfaction, and I even consider my work to be a personal quest, wherein my goal consists of bringing quality work to my environment, as an ambassador of sorts, who wishes to introduce the next generations to the complexity of my profession

This passion and attitude towards my profession has not gone by unnoticed by a number of technical committees, experts and jury members of the “Elites of Labour”(Eliten van de Arbeid) from the wood industry.”

Golden Medal of the Elites of Labour.

Golden Medal of the Elites of Labour.

Patrick  also restores pieces, creates unique panels and specialises in heraldry.  Here are some more examples of his incredible work.

Custom made family coat of arms

Custom made family coat of arms


P1050327patrick damiaens 1

PD 005 ok   architectural woodcarving

More information about Patrick and details of his work can be found here:





As someone who has created their own murals for clients, I often look for inspiration and guidance from respected peers.  I was delighted therefore that renowned muralist Jeff Raum has agreed to give us a mini-tutorial on ‘Atmospheric Perspective’ despite his hectic schedule.


Venus and Adonis (detail) 11' diameter ceiling medallion.

Venus and Adonis (detail) 11′ diameter ceiling medallion by Jeff Raum

” When Jeff Raum’s kindergarten teacher wrote a note to his mom saying that he had talent and should be encouraged, he knew that he had found his calling. He won a national poster competition in first grade and three of his paintings were displayed at the Baltimore Museum of Art that same year. In eighth grade, he became the youngest person ever to win the National Plastercraft Competition.

Jeff’s long string of charmed art achievements came to an abrupt end when he was exposed to the college art arena. He was unhappy with how the professors looked down their noses at realism. He formed a professional fraternity, Alpha Gamma Tao and started student meetings to discuss what was needed for a satisfactory commercial design program. Jeff presented his findings to the dean and facility, and in his senior year, the new program was implemented. After he graduated with a B.F.A. in commercial design, the entire art faculty was fired.

Jeff Raum

Jeff Raum

In 1983, Jeff began his career as a medical illustrator for hospitals. He soon tired of creating images of diseased organs and moved to Manhattan to work as a scenic artist for 3-D animated TV commercials, eventually being promoted to art director. When creating art to sell product grew tiring as well, he moved on to Broadway, spending three years as a make-up designer for the productions of I’m Not Rappaport and Into The Woods.

Wanting to leave the frantic energy of New York behind, Jeff moved to Los Angeles. Unable to get into the scenic artists union, he began his own decorative painting business, Jeff Raum Studios. His clients include Gucci, the Las Vegas Hilton, the Luxor, and Macy’s.

In 1998, Jeff began his stencil line, Jeff Raum Stencils, after the overwhelming response of SALI members to an article in the Artistic Stenciler. Jan Dressler became familiar with Jeff’s work and recommended him to appear on “The Christopher Lowell Show” and Jeff went on to appear in eight episodes.

Jeff was a part-time instructor of Interior Design at Moorpark College for nine years. His work has been published in Better Homes and Gardens and Traditional Home magazines as well as an Italian book on stenciling. Jeff is featured in the book Mural Painting Secrets for Success by Gary Lord.”

How to create atmospheric perspective in a Tuscan Mural.

This demo is showing only the middle ground of the finished piece and as I paint, I always keep in mind where this is in relation to the viewer. I start at the top of the mural and work my way down for a couple of reasons –  a) Keeps me from dripping on finished work and b) allows me to slowly change my palette as I go. In atmospheric perspective, objects are cooler, have less contrast, and the intensity, or chroma of the color is less as the objects recede. I try to keep my work sedate in the back and middle grounds so that I can “pull out all the stops” in the foreground and make it pop.

Step 1.  Layout and Background

Step 1

Step 1

The background in atmospheric perspective should be very blue (or cool), so the distant hills are done in grey-blues and blue-greens. Very simply and quickly. To push them back more, I put a wash of my sky color over them. I pencil in the layout of the buildings next.

Step 2.  Laying in the village

Step 2

I lay in my village, always keeping in mind the light source and keeping the colors cool and low key. Just to get rid of all the white, I base in the ground, making the distant ground cooler and lighter.

Step 3. Adding detail


Step 3

Step 3

 I Add detail to my buildings, but keeping it simple to imply detail. I’m painting for humans, not hawks! Then I add detail to the ground and lay out my rows of grape vines by painting the shadows they cast first.

Step 4 Enhancing detail

Step 4

Step 4

Now I block in the foliage, using a darker, but still cool, color around the village to make the light buildings pop a bit and help focus the viewer’s attention on the focal point. Using “ratty” brushes, I scumble in the distant trees and as I move forward darken the green. The foreground trees are based-in a darker, warmer shade of green

Step 5. Highlighting

Step 5

Step 5

Now I go in and add highlights to all the foliage, keeping it concentrated on the left side of the forms. In the foreground, I add a lighter highlight to create more contrast and make them pop more than the background trees. In creating the rows of grapevines, I have to keep in mind my perspective. They get larger as the come nearer and as the vine go up the hill, the view of them changes from looking down on them to seeing them from the side. Last thing is to add some occasional posts to support the vines.

Completed Mural

Completed Mural

Below are a few more examples of Jeff’s extraordinary work and more information can be found at:


Italian Arch

Italian Arch

Tuscany Dining

Tuscany Dining

Statue with Fruit

Statue with Fruit



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.


Below are the tools required to complete the panel.



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.


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.


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.


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.


Progress of the silver grain.


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


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


Joining of the two saps.


More heart grain progress.


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


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.


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.


Creating the Trompe L’oeil moulding

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


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


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


Progression of profiles.


More progress.


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


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


Highlights are added with the base glaze mixed with white.


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


Close up of marked out Trompe.


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.


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


Finished Panel.

Finished panel

Finished panel

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



Winning entry for the Pierre Finkelstein Oak Contest.

Winning entry for the Pierre Finkelstein Oak Contest.


Fanlight commission for Grade I listed Gatehouse, Buckinghamshire.

David R Agnew, respected Craftsman Decorator from Newport Pagnell in the UK is back to tell us about the history of the fanlight and the work involved when he was commissioned to restore one in a Listed Gatehouse.

Introduction by Client/Architect

Tyringham Gateway was built in 1794 to the design of the eminent architect Sir John Soane and despite its small size it is acclaimed worldwide as a monument of European importance.  Indeed, the late poet and renowned architectural historian Sir John Betjeman considered the Gateway and its close neighbour Tyringham Bridge as “the most perfect small buildings I know in England” Unsurprisingly they are both Grade I listed buildings.

By the mid/late 19th century – less than 100 years after its completion – the Gateway stood uninhabited and unloved with its sash windows and entrance doorways blocked up with stonework.  Fortunately in 1909 the building underwent general repairs and improvements when the original late Georgian entrance doors and fanlights were removed and replaced with new.  Sadly no photographs of the originals have been discovered however it can be safely assumed that the semicircular fanlights would have had very narrow astragals or glazing-bars, which were fashionable in the late Georgian and Regency eras.  Regrettably the Edwardian replacements were crude and heavy-handed, totally alien to Soane’s refined joinery detailing.

Precedent studies of other Soane buildings show that he frequently created metal (rather than wood) fanlights.  These involved the workshop fabrication of compound glazing-bars or astragals, in which narrow moulded ribs of malleable cast iron or lead were crimped onto thin webs of flat iron or brass, resulting in a very fine and delicate appearance.  One manufacturer of these astragals in the late 18th century was the Eldorado Company in London.

Knowing that David Agnew was an experienced craftsman accomplished at creating present-day leaded lights, I asked him whether he would consider making three fanlights based upon the Eldorado pattern for me, assuming that (as the Eldorado Company was no longer in existence) we could source the essential malleable iron or lead ribs.  Soane frequently used pale yellow or amber stained glass in his fanlights and rooflights and a joint decision was taken to do the same in order to increase “authenticity”. 

Barry Clayton,

Retired conservation Architect.


Fanlight commission for Grade I listed Gatehouse, Buckinghamshire.

Fanlights are not particularly unusual, even leaded glass panels – each displays a certain uniqueness.  The thing most unusual about these fanlights is the system employed.  For craftspeople working on old buildings, this system was only employed for a generation and was left to obscurity some two hundred years ago!  I feel it is important that fellow craftspeople will be able to identify surviving fanlights and afford the recognition and respect they deserve through passing on this knowledge.

The following project is by no means the protocol in the manufacture of these special windows, I merely wanted to document the way I went about making these ones, to achieve the desired results and would hope it is helpful to anyone else taking on something similar.

Further reading & information can be found within this excellent book – Fanlights – an architectural History by Alexander Stuart Grey & John Sambrook. ISBN 07136430779


Fanlights have nearly always been a feature above front doors, never more so, during the Georgian and Victorian period. They were designed particularly to allow natural light into narrow entrances.

The early examples, had very thick glazing bars, but during the late mid and late Georgian periods 1760 – 1810, there was almost a competition between designers and architects, on who could come up with the most elaborate designs & with the thinnest glazing bars.

Timber, having limitations as to the elaborate patterns that could be achieved within a curved aperture for example, persuaded innovation to dictate manufacture, from a malleable material, a thin profile from lead. These are sometimes known as ‘Eldorado’ glazing bars.

The profile is an ‘Astragal’ and is just 10mm at it’s widest point, the webs, which are inserted into the back are brass in a lot of cases, as this is malleable and can follow intricate shapes. It is not uncommon to find steel ones, but this is mainly confined to straight bars or pre-formed shapes.

Something else worthy of note, is on some really elaborate and decorative fanlights, you can see garlands of wreaths and ‘Adam’ stile urns etc. one famous fanlight, would be 10 Downing Street, London. If you look carefully, you can see in the middle, some curved leaves, these are made of cast lead.

Anyway, a potted & brief history.

Here is quite an elaborate example, featuring garlands and floral motifs. Circa 1780. Before and after restoration.

Here is quite an elaborate example, featuring garlands and floral motifs. Circa 1780. Before and after restoration.

Another example in for repair and again showing floral motifs

Another example in for repair and again showing floral motifs

I was commissioned to produce three fanlight windows for a grade one listed Gatehouse, Buckinghamshire, England. Built in 1794 and designed by Sir John Soane. One of the fanlights commissioned is an internal feature, dividing a bedroom and ensuite above a mahogany door. The glass consists of two different shades of amber, with blue slips around the perimeter – which is a typical Soane feature. The other two fanlights are above external entrance doors where I had to make alterations to the frame, more on that later.

Having being briefed & then commissioned with this project, I then had to source the material, as lead glazing bars are not commonly available. Stumped on how to find the obscure materials needed, I thought I would explore the idea of making my own and to see if I could. I first of all would need a mould, I used my router and suitable profile bits to rout grooves in a peace of maple wood – I had read somewhere that maple is quite resilient to heat, which would be ideal for a mould.

Router bits  and the resulting astragal cast lead profile in maple wood mould.

Router bits and the resulting astragal cast lead profile in
maple wood mould.

Router bits and  the resulting astragal cast lead profile in maple wood mould.  The results of the casting were reasonably okay. However, I had a problem with trying to work out how I could get a groove in the back for the brass webs. Whilst I was casting and having a dabble with lead, I thought I would try my hand at some of the ornaments which are found on fanlights. I did not have any elaborate moulds made from maple, so I used air drying clay to make my moulds because it is unaffected by the molten material. I simply found various applique ornaments kicking around the workshop, some were wood and some were plaster, I just pressed them into the clay and allowed the clay to dry over several days. It is important that the clay is not damp because the lead can explode. I used a propane gas torch, normally used for burning paint off, wedged between bricks and rested the iron ladle on top to heat and cut small pieces of lead until I filled the ladle and melted enough to fill the moulds. I have in the past, also used fine sand to cast ornament.

Should a new ornament be needed to repair a missing or damaged one on a fanlight in situ, then my method would be to take a latex mould from the existing pattern. I would then fill the latex and make a plaster proto type, then use this either press in sand or a clay mould prior to casting in lead.

However, I believe there are other moulding materials, which could be explored, such as resin. But for me, lead would be the honest route in order to restore.

Practice cast lead and clay moulds together with the iron ladle for melting the lead.

Practice cast lead and clay moulds together with the iron
ladle for melting the lead.

Anyway, apart from all the experimenting, amusing as it was, Indeed to get on with the project in hand  to execute it as professionally as possible. So………….we move on to the task.

I had the beads extruded by special order and to my specifications by a company specializing in the manufacture of lead came for the ‘stained glass’ industry – to which I also dabble.


Photo 1


Photo 2

The lead arrived in 1000mm lengths all coiled up. The brass is 0.9mm thick and 18mm width, which I managed to source from a trade stall dealing with scrap metal at a country show and steam rally. I think it might have been used for the decorative banding used to go round the boilers on the steam engines!!

Photo 2 shows the brass inserted into the groove, in the back of the lead bar. The lead itself, shown coiled up in photo 1, is 10mm in width. However, once it is uncoiled from manufacture, I hold one end in a vice and then pull the lead to straighten it. This also stiffens and as a consequence reduces its width to 8mm.

We now move on to making the window to fit its intended aperture. This starts with a full size working drawing, which has been checked for fitment.  The lead, after having been uncoiled and stiffened, is manipulated and placed over the lines of the drawing. It is held temporarily with horseshoe nails – because these have a flat side – until the whole lead skeleton of the window bars are laid out.


Photo 3


Photo 4


Photo 5


Photo 6

To fix the lead joints, I cleaned the joints with a wire brush and rubbed a tallow candle over the joints as a flux prior to soldering.  Once this procedure is complete, the whole window is turned over so that the brass strips can be inserted into the groove to form the webs for the rebate. I use plumbers acid flux at each joint prior to soldering with lead/tin solder. This really does stiffen the whole window panel considerably. All the joints are then cleaned up; a certain amount of delicate cutting back is needed in order to maintain the lead profile – Photo 7. The glazing bars and the brass webs are then thoroughly degreased prior to the application of cellulose primer.

Photo 7

Photo 7

We now move on to prepare for the glazing of our new window. The glass needs to be cut accurately as there is little margin for error, with the rebates being so very narrow, plus, cutting concave sections can have its risks too, as this has to be done by hand and not against a straight edge.

Turning over the window and working from the back, I lay the glass over for each section. I am able to see through the glass and proceed to run the cutter just inside the web line, making a ‘score’. A consistent score is required for the glass to then be taken aside, where pressure is placed on the score to which it will break – hopefully! I cut all the glass for each individual section, and then number each piece.

Photo 8

Photo 8

Photo 9

Photo 9

We are now able to proceed with fitting the already cut glass. Using ordinary linseed oil putty, the rebates are run with a bead to bed the glass in. photo 8 & 9.

Photo 10

Photo 10

Photo 11

Photo 11

Having bed all the glass in each aperture, we proceed with running a bead to create a face putty. This wedge shaped fillet will hold the glass in position. The rebate each side of the brass web is less than 3.5mm. When facing the putty it is extremely important that the putty line next to the glass, is kept back from the rebate by about 1mm, or it will be seen when viewed from the front, which is unsightly and undesirable.

The whole panel has been designed to fit in a ply sub frame or a kind of sash, which will fit snugly into the rebate of the main doorframe. Photo 12 may demonstrate this, by showing the outer perimeter from the inside, where it has been fitted to the sub frame by the use of escutcheon nails through the outer brass webbing and into the sub frame.

Photo 12

Photo 12

After installation, I applied mid brown eggshell finish to both sides, followed by a translucent dark brown eggshell to simulate the colour of the door and to achieve a ‘woody’ effect.

Photo 13

Photo 13

Photo 14

Photo 14

The finished window now installed as an internal feature to divide two rooms.  We now move on to the other two fanlights, which will be above two external doors. Built in exactly the same way as the internal fanlight previously. The only difference is that the main door frame had to have subtle alterations to accommodate the fanlight panel.

Previously, there was an existing fanlight, which had four divisions and was installed during the Edwardian period.   Inappropriately thick glazing bars and completely out of kilter with the refined design details of the building. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this, but I altered the head of the frame above the door to incorporate a nameplate for each Gatehouse Lodge. A design detail by way of applied reeded moulding, which is contemporary for the building as there is evidence on other buildings designed by the same architect. Here is a clearer picture of the sub frame, mentioned earlier. Photo 15

Photo 15

Photo 15

Photo 16

Photo 16

Photo 17

Photo 17

Photos 16 & 17 show the fanlights in their external position, facing all the weather can throw at them.  They have been protected with several coats of Sikkens Cetol BL, a water-based hybrid satin finish  BS 12, B29.  The signs are of course, gold leaf.

Photo 18

Photo 18

A shot from inside looking out.  Amber glass, this time in monochrome with no varying shades or blue perimeter slips.

Here is the overall picture, complete with door and masonry to frame the effect.

Here is the overall picture, complete
with door and masonry
to frame the effect.


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.


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

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


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.
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.

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.
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.

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


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
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.

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!!!
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.

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.

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.
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.

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.
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.

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.
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.
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.


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.
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’



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







The process of enamelling slate to resemble marble was patented in 1840 by George Eugene Magnus who had spent a portion of his youth in the potteries area of Staffordshire and indeed married an earthenware manufacturer’s daughter, Mary Boyle.


As a result Magnus would have been familiar with decorating, glazing and firing pottery. In 1838 Magnus acquired an interest in a slate quarry in North Wales and another on Valentia Island, off the west coast of Ireland, with a view to obtaining slate for billiard tables.

Soon after he perfected and patented the enamelling process and set up ‘The Pimlico Slate Company’ where he produced not only billiard tables but all manner of household items. Baths, clocks, chimney pieces, wall panels and doors were just a selection of what was on offer in all types of enamelled imitation marbles and inlays.

For this article we will focus on the enamel slate chimney pieces, which were available in a myriad of styles and colours – indeed in over twenty years of restoring and reproducing the finishes I have yet to come across two the same.

The slate chimney piece or fire surround as it is now more commonly known, was an immediate sensation, being more durable, less expensive and thus more accessible to discerning architects and clients. Catalogues began to spring up from different companies which illustrations of the various designs available.

slate catalogue


The process patented by George Eugene Magnus was this:

A mixture of linseed oil, ground umber, spirit of tar and asphaltum was painted onto the slate, this was then fired in a kiln at two hundred degrees Fahrenheit for up to forty eight hours, creating a tough enamel layer on the slate. This was then hand polished into a rich lustre with pumice and rottenstone.

Different colours could be overlaid and with skilled application a variety of marbles could be replicated. A less expensive method and one I have come across most was to enamel in plain black, then dip the pieces into a water bath on which the craftsman floated a combination of oil colours. This was then hand veined and finished with a French polish.



The restoration of these chimney pieces has several stages.

For a fitted surround in fair condition it can be as simple as identifying the finish, whether it is enamel or French polish. This can be done by testing an inconspicuous area with alcohol which will dissolve French polish.

If enamelled then careful colour matching with artist’s oil colours can be used to touch up the original finish. When dry a coat of protective varnish is applied to the whole piece.

French polish can darken over time, dulling the colours of the marbling. This can be completely removed with alcohol without damaging the underlying colours and the piece can be repolished.

Unfortunately most of the surrounds that arrive at my workshop are in a sorry state of disrepair, having been painted over, left outside or broken.

The only option available in this instance is to remove all of the paint or enamel, repair and start again. Major structural repairs are carried out by the fire place company, resetting the returns on the uprights and the corbels and filling cracks and chips with a two part epoxy filler.


The pieces are then sent to me for cosmetic restoration.


The first stage is removing the old paint or enamelled finish, a process made more difficult by the banning of the active ingredient in most paint strippers, dichloromethane. Once the paint is off and the surface has been cleaned, any incised linework is cleaned out with a sharp awl. The slate is then lightly sanded.

I tend to finish them in a sprayed cellulous paint as it mimics the original enamel finish. A clear sealer is sprayed onto the slate, then two coats of black satin cellulose paint are applied.



For a grain effect, I use a tan coloured base (Dulux Heritage Gold Colour) for oak and a Burmese Ruby colour as a base for mahogany/rosewood grain. All graining is carried out in traditional oil scumbles. Grain surrounds are usually a straight brush grain, flogged to create pores. Sometimes a burl effect is employed using torn card and artist’s fan brushes.


Marble effects are done in artist’s oil colours mixed with a bit of homemade glaze (gilp) and a proprietary clear scumble. This are invariably fantasy marbles, going on a colour brief from the client.

The panels are taped off, colour glaze is applied either by brush and removed by various means or by sponge and softened with a badger softener. A flick of white spirit opens up the glaze to give a more organic appearance.



Veining is added when dry with a squirrel hair dagger brush or a feather. Any incised linework is then picked out in gold enamel paint. The finish is two to three coats of matt varnish, hand buffed with beeswax and 0000 grade wire wool to a deep lustre.


A further blog post will cover the reproduction of waterslide transfers found on most of the grained surrounds in the form of imitation inlays.


By Michael O’Regan