This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
(1) Get the wood clean, have some Vandyke brown and burnt sienna ground in water, mix it in strong size, put on with a whitewash or new paint-brush as evenly as you can. "When dry, give 2 coats of copal or oak varnish.
(2) If the floor is a new one, have the border well washed. Polish with glass-paper, rubbing always with the grain of the wood. Varnish with good oak varnish, put colouring matter into the varnish to suit your taste, but umber is best; if the floor is old and blackened, paint it.
(3) If old floors, you will not make much of staining anything but black. The floor is to be well washed (lime and soda is best - no soap), the dye painted on, and, when dry, sized over and varnished with elastic oak varnish.
(4) Take 1/2 lb. logwood chips, boil them briskly for 1/2 hour in about 5 qt. rain-water, and strain through muslin. To this liquor add 6 oz. annatto (in the form of cake - not the roll); add also 1 lb. of yellow wax cut up in very small pieces. Place these over the fire, and let the wax melt gently, stirring it all the while. When melted, take the mixture off the fire; do not let it boil. Then with a paint-brush lay it on the floor as hot as possible, brushing it always the way of the grain. Next day polish with a hard flat brush made of hair, which may have a strap nailed to the back of it in which to insert the foot. The floor is afterwards kept bright with beeswax alone, a little of which is melted and put on the brush. Take care that the floor is thoroughly dry before commencing operations.
(5) Melt some glue size in a bottle; next get a piece of rag, roll it into a ball so that it will fit the hand nicely, cover this with a bit of old calico to make a smooth face; dip this into the size, and rub in a bit of brown umber; then go ahead with your floors, working the stuff light or dark as required. Keep the motion with the grain of wood; when dry, stiffen with polishers' glaze.
(6) Take Judson's dyes of the colour required, mix according to the instructions given with each bottle, and apply with a piece of rag, previously trying it on a piece of wood to see if colour would suit; rub with sandpaper to get off any roughness that may be raised with the damp, and varnish with fine pale hard varnish, then slightly sandpaper and varnish again. Another method is to boil 1 lb. logwood in an old boiler, then apply with a piece of rag where the stain is required; when thoroughly dry, sandpaper as before, and well rub with beeswax to polish. This last process looks best when finished, but it requires a lot of elbow grease for a few months, and is extremely durable. To prevent the stain running where you do not want it, paste some stout paper.
(7) As a general rule, 1 qt. of the staining liquid will be found sufficient to cover about 16 sq. yd. of flooring; but different kinds of woods absorb in different proportions, soft woods requiring more for the same space than hard woods. The colours of the stains are various, so that one may either choose ebony, walnut, mahogany, rosewood, satinwood, oak, medium oak, or maple, according to the paleness or depth of colour desired. Besides this, 4 lb. of size and 2 1/2 pints of the best varnish are required to finish the 16 yd. above mentioned. The necessary purchases are completed by a good-sized painters' brush and a smaller one. The work can then be commenced. If the wood is uneven, it must be planed, and rubbed down to a smooth surface; whilst the cracks and spaces between the boards, if very wide, may be disposed of by a process called "slipping," by which pieces of wood are fitted in. The floor must next be carefully washed, and allowed to dry thoroughly. The actual staining may now be proceeded with. The liquid is poured out into a basin, and spread all over the floor with the aid of the large brush, the small one being used to do the corners and along the wainscoting, so that it may not be smeared.
It is always best to begin staining at the farthest corner from the doorway, and so work round so that one's exit may not. be impeded. It is also a good plan to work with the window open, if there is no danger of much dust flying in, as the staining dries so much quicker. After the floor is quite covered, the stainer may rest for about an hour whilst the drying is going on, during which there is only one thing relative to the work in hand which need be attended to. This is the size, which should be put in a large basin with 1/2 pint of cold water to each pound, and then stood in a warm place to dissolve. Before re-commencing work also the brushes must be washed, and this is no great trouble, as a little lukewarm water will take out all trace of the stain and clean them quite sufficiently. The sizing is then laid on in exactly the same manner as the staining, always being careful to pass the brush lengthwise down the boards. If the size froths or sticks unpleasantly, it must be a little more diluted with warm water, and sometimes, if the sediment from it is very thick, it is all the better for being strained through a coarse muslin. The sizing takes rather longer than the varnish to dry, 2 or more hours being necessary, even on a warm, dry day.
Not until it is quite dry, however, can the last finish be put to the work with the varnish. For this it is always safest to get the very best, and to lay it on rather liberally, though very evenly, and over every single inch, as the staining will soon rub off when not protected by it. The best way to ascertain whether it is varnished all over is to kneel down and look at the floor sideways, with one's eyes almost on a level with it.