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.
The various styles of graining differ according to the kind of wood which it is intended to imitate. These may be considered in alphabetic order, premising that as oak is the wood most commonly copied, the fullest details will be found under that head.
Ash graining differs from light oak almost solely in the absence of the dapples found in the commoner wood. The ground colour is prepared in the same way, and the same system of combing and wiping is followed. Excellent ash-graining colour can generally be purchased to greater advantage than it can be made up.
It is difficult to get the ground colour for chestnut sufficiently yellow: the best composition is white-lead, yellow ochre, and orange chrome. The graining colour is composed of burnt umber with small quantities of burnt sienna and Vandyke brown. The operations followed resemble those with oak, a coarse comb being used.
This wood demands a bright ground colour, which may be obtained by using deep orange chrome yellow and royal red, or vermilion, or orange mineral. Burnt sienna with a little Vandyke brown constitute the graining colour. The style of grain varies. Generally in panels "crotching" is resorted to. The cutter is used to take out the lights; and the fine lines are put in with the overgrainer,used almost in its normal condition, without being broken up into teeth, the lines running in a wavy pattern across the panel, like an inverted letter V. On the stiles and rails of the door, the blender is drawn over the fresh graining colour in a series of jerky strokes 3 or 1 in. long. When the first distemper colour is dry, a very thin coat of " quick rubbing " varnish is put on; this should be dry in a day or so, when a glazing colour of the same composition as the original graining coat is rubbed in, and stippled with the blender. A finishing coat of hard-drying coach-body varnish is flowed on with a thick badger brush.
This is imitated in water-colours or distemper on a very smooth ground, using a white containing the smallest possible addition of raw sienna for the ground colour, and raw sienna mixed with a little Vandyke brown and burnt sienna for the graining colour. Fine sandpaper is employed for smoothing the ground, and the graining colour is applied in very small quantity to a patch at a time. The best way of taking out the lights is by means of the cutter already mentioned, drawn lengthwise over the work; blending follows in a crosswise direction. The overgrain colour is applied by a piped tool in which the pencils are separated, this being drawn longitudinally in an undulating manner. Putting in the birds' eyes may be done by patting the wet work with the finger-tips, or by a piece of cloth rolled into a point.
The best ground colour is white-lead tinted with raw sienna or golden ochre. This is preserved in a covered vessel, and sufficient only taken out to cover the area immediately wanted. This need be but a very small quantity; it is thinned before use by adding oil and turpentine and just enough boiled oil to delay the drying, so that the glazing coat can be applied on the following day. To hasten the drying, a little Japan size or drier is added. Instead of completing small sections of work, it is better to prepare a large surface with ground colour, so that it may commence to set before "wiping out." This wiping out must precede the combing on veins and sap-wood, but follow it on dapples.
The complete mode of procedure for light oak graining a panel door is as follows. Apply the ground colour; when dry, smooth the surface with fine sandpaper. Rub in the graining colour uniformly with a medium stiff sash-brush; and stipple the beads, corners, and mouldings with a dry brush. Commence on the panels, and make opposite ones correspond; wipe out in streaks lengthwise with a cotton cloth, and then go over with combs of progressive fineness. Take out the lights to show the dapples, either by the veining horn or by a cotton cloth wrapped around the thumb. Next comb the mouldings plainly. The most work is usually put on the rails and stiles; begin with the middle stiles, and finish them before proceeding to the rails, which may be done all together. On the sap-wood or veined work, use the coarse comb as much as possible, and the wiping rag as little, remembering that here the wiping out precedes the combing. Allow the work to dry, rub down slightly with fine worn sandpaper, and apply the glazing coat.
This is best ground up in water, the colours being a combination of raw and burnt sienna and Vandyke brown, mixed very thin, and used in very small quantity.
The tone may be varied to correct the appearance of the under coat; and it-parts of the work will require it thinner than others, it is well to have the colour on a palette, and thin it to requirements by wetting the brush, hub in the glazing colour with a stiff brush, and remove any streaks by softening with a blender. Deal with only one panel at a time, or the glazing will dry ahead of you. Put in the top grain with an overgrainer dipped into thin colour and then parted into a series of pencils by passing a comb through it; draw it lengthwise with a light hand, and soften down the result with a blender. Remember that the panels should be the lightest coloured portion of the door, and the mouldings the darkest, while the rails and stiles occupy an intermediate place in this respect.