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.
To grain light work in distemper, which is not often done, proceed as follows. Lay on a coat of size and whiting; then a ground colour consisting of white-lead and golden ochre mixed with fine boiled oil; when this has dried (say in 2 days), add the graining colour, consisting of raw and burnt sienna and Vandyke brown, ground in water, and mixed with the same quantity of smooth flour paste; thin this down with water, brush it on, and comb one portion and have the other stippled by the whitewash brush to afford contrast; when all is dry, apply a heavy flowing coat of elastic varnish.
This differs from light oak graining only in the colours. The ground colour may be composed of white-lead, royal red, and golden ochre or chrome orange. The graining colour has the same constituents as for light oak, only in other proportions.
For rosewood graining, the ground is rubbed in with crimson vermilion, then smoothed, and glazed with a coat of crimson lake or rose pink before putting in the grain. This is done with best ivory black, which can be bought ground in quick-drying vehicles, and needs letting down with raw linseed-oil. The graining coat is blended with the badger-hair pencil as fast as it is laid on. When quite dry, a very thin glazing coat of black is added.
The ground colour may consist of white-lead, golden ochre, black, and royal red, without fear of making it too bright. The graining colour should be preceded by a coat of deep black and Vandyke brown ground in water; and before it has set, this is stippled by dabbing with a dry bristle brush. On this is laid the walnut oil-graining colour, procurable at the shops, previously thinned with turpentine and boiled oil. When the graining coat has partially set, the veins and figures are put in, preferably with a fine hair pencil, and softened with the blender. This last having dried, say in a day or two, a glazing coat of deep black and Vandyke brown is put on and finished as in light oak.
To prevent a graining coat from "cissing" at a water-colour overgraining coat, that is repelling the water by antagonism of the oil, rub the grain with a sponge dipped into a thin paste of fullers' earth or whiting, which will prepare an absorbent surface for the water colour.
The two kinds of graining, distinguished as distemper graining and oil graining, differ in the following respects. In distemper graining, the older branch of the art, the colours are thinned with stale beer, size, etc, and the varnishing coat can be added quickly; it is best adapted to hard close-grained woods. In oil graining, the colours are thinned with raw or boiled linseed-oil, turpentine, etc, and are better suited to the soft coarse-grained woods.