The Tracing and Transferring of Designs. The design is carefully drawn upon tracing paper or tracing cloth, by means of a medium soft pencil; the more perfect the drawing is made, the more it will lighten the work. If the drawing obtained is perfectly symmetrical, i. e., the right half of the same exactly like the left, it will save much time and labor by transferring it upon the surface by rubbing. If the symmetrical design is accompanied in the center by a monogram, motto, figures or flowers, these are for the present omitted and traced in a manner which will be explained further on.
The tracing of an entirely symmetrical design is reversed, with the drawing turned downward upon the wood and carefully observed that the center of the tracing lies completely in correspondence with the center line of the division line of the surface. The tracing paper is fastened with wax, and held as firmly with the left hand as possible, that it cannot be displaced, and rubbed with a paper folder or the thumb-nail of the right hand over all parts of the design, until the same is plainly transferred upon the wood. For figures, flowers, monograms and all not strictly symmetrical designs, the following manner is applied: The tracing paper is laid upon the surface, design upward, under which a piece of colored transfer paper is placed and the design is retraced with a hard lead pencil. For this somewhat slower and more tedious manner it is advisable to fasten the tracing and transfer paper with thumb-tacks. Those parts of the surface are selected for the thumb-tacks that are afterwards to be painted with black or other ground colors, so that there will be no visible traces left after design has been transferred.
Fixing the Transferred Design. After the design has been transferred, all the straight and intersecting lines are carefully measured and compared with the compass from the center or the dividing middle lines; then with the drawing pen and India ink the entire design is gone over in fine lines. In figures and light ornamental designs, that come upon a dark ground, the India ink line is not put over, but closely to the outside pencil mark, or such figures will become too faint in the beginning, and are lost in the dark ground, whilst it can always be remedied by the subsequent removal of parts that have been drawn too heavily. The entire article is now cleaned from all pencil marks left by tracing, and the coloring begins.
The Coloring. Spread upon the palette, before beginning to paint, all the different colors, in sufficient quantity, that are to be used. A good rule in coloring the design, is not to apply the colors in too dry a state, so that the separate brush strokes may not be visible. The coloring is just that part of the work which cannot be explicitly enough described and taught in written instructions, and can only be thoroughly comprehended through the practical knowledge gamed by experience, and thereby perfected.
Upon the most delicate tinting of entire surfaces the middle tones follow, lastly the dark ground colors, black, and the metals. Allow each color to dry thoroughly before beginning with the next, or going over it. The colors must stand out boldly from each other and should not be too lightly applied; this must be particularly observed in the dark body tints, as the colors lose a little of their depth in the process of polishing.
When the work is completed, the entire drawing is gone over again with a fine brush or pen; all the outlines lost in painting are reproduced with India ink.
Clear white upon light wood is to be avoided as much as possible ; on the other hand, a mixture of white serves to make the light colors stand out more effectively upon gray or black wood.
Retouching. If there are any weak points in the painting, the spots are to be carefully removed with a damp sponge, and the dampened parts scraped clean with a penknife. If visible holes are left by the thumb tacks used in the tracing of the design, a small drop of clear water is applied to them, when they will gradually draw together. Paint in good light, have a steady table, and keep the design constantly before the eyes during the work.
In painting boxes and other high objects, it is necessary to place on the right and left of the same some other objects, such as books, to reach the plane of the surface being painted, in order that the hand and arm may rest with ease.
The Wood Articles. Wooden articles ready for painting are procured from the cabinet makers, or at the art stores.
There are over 900 different articles in wood for decorating, in all shapes and sizes, beautifully and tastily finished, for the artist and amateur to paint upon. A few of them may be mentioned here - tables, panels, workboxes, paper weights, fancy boxes, fans, hat brushes, glove boxes, albums, dust pans and brushes, photo frames, easels, trays and newspaper holders. What canvas is to oil painting, and paper is to color painting, the above articles are to the art of painting upon wood.
Not every ordinary smooth-planed piece of wood is adapted to painting. The wood must be prepared for the purpose it is intended for, or it would cause the color to flow or spread. Lime, maple, chestnut, ash and holly are the woods generally manufactured into articles intended for painting upon. Olive wood is also excellent for this purpose. In the south of France and Italy, painted olive wood, forms quite an article of commerce, being closely allied with the inlaid work.
Polishing. Procure a bottle of the wood varnish (prepared for this purpose); in a warm room, with a soft flat brush, go over the article as rapidly as possible, with a thin coat. Leave this first coating until the next day to dry, in a place entirely free from dust. The varnish is applied twice more in the same manner ; then have at hand a small bottle of white shellac polish and one of linseed oil Make a small ball of flannel; put upon this a few drops of the oil; then cover it with a piece of linen, which is moistened with the polish, and the article is rubbed in a circular manner, without resting upon the article when the rubbing is discontinued. If the linen should adhere during the polishing, put a drop of the oil upon it. It sometimes requires from one to two hours of constant rubbing until the surface is completely smooth and polished.
Designs recommended are those by Minna Laudin, Hermann Schaper, E. Wendt, Emil Zschimmer and Elizabeth Hubler.
They are lithographic color plates, and come in the form of sets.
Minna Laudin's designs are among the newest. The two sets contain over twenty patterns, each fitting exactly in size and shape the wooden articles already mentioned.
Schaper's designs are intended for larger pieces, such as table tops, music holders, lamp trays, etc. His first series (entirely new) is divided into five sheets, with as many sheets upon which the outlines of the designs are clearly printed, to facilitate the transferring of the same upon wood.
E. Wendt's designs are both unique and rich in their way, and contain considerable ornamental work in gold and silver. His designs for table tops are extremely handsome.
Emil Zschimmer's and Elizabeth Hubler's are acknowledged as standard works, and favorites of the artists engaged in painting upon wood.