I finally decided on the paint for my tool chest. Since I’ve wanted more experience with traditional linseed oil paint and to try my hand at decorative grain painting, my options were thankfully narrowed. After searching through a ton of period examples, I decided to focus on Maine pieces. One of my favorites was this chest of drawers with an inscription reading, “Made by E. Morse/Livermore/June 7th 1814”. This is apparently the earliest documented Maine made piece. There are others attributed to Maine makers but this is the earliest signed one I know of.
So I’ve decided to use this paint scheme on the Morse chest for my tool chest. What I like about it is that it’s a good example of early 19th century “mahogany” grain painting of the more conservative and subtle variety. Some of that stuff can get pretty psychedelic. (I just don’t yet have the nerve to ornament my everyday tool chest with such a bold look.)
The first step is to make the raw sienna basecoat paint. I started with a ½ cup of boiled linseed oil and added about 3 or 4 ml japan drier to it. (This works out to 15 drops per half cup.) Then on a glass plate I laid out some raw sienna pigment with some of my linseed oil to begin grinding it into a paste.
To do the grinding I made a simple muller from a piece of a broken mallet: I cut the broken handle off and sanded the bottom surface flat. After I coated that with epoxy, I was able to sand and polish the surface flat and smooth for paint mixing.
After the pigment was ground into some oil I used a squeegee to deliver the thick paint into a dish. Once I had done this a few times, I added more linseed oil to the dish to get the desired opacity. Then it was simple brush work.
So here we have the base coat. My sample board took a few days to dry so with the fan on it and the heat on in my studio I should be able to get to the next layer by Monday or Tuesday. Can’t wait to play around with the graining!