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Graining Suggestions

Tools used:

  • Turkey feather - strong wing feather. Soak in vinegar to remove oil
  • Putty (Too soft? Knead in rottenstone or pumice) blot off excess that forms as you work, with a towel. “Walk” it around to form a “shell” or a “fan.”
  • Cardboard - cut irregularly
  • Old brushes - cut irregularly
  • Shingle - notch irregularly
  • Corn cob (cow corn cob) - vacuum off lint before using
  • Sponge
  • Metal graining combs
  • Rubber graining tools

Graining With Acrylics

Jo Sonja™ are the paints I have grained with, and so can give you a formula which was successful for me. You will need the pigments plus three of the mediums and they are: sealer, kleister and retarder.

First mix the mediums together: 1 part sealer to 2 parts kleister to 3-4 parts retarder. Now add the pigment. It should measure 1 + 1/2 the amount of the combined mediums. Apply to the floor, or floorcloth, one side at a time (which you will isolate using 3M™ automotive tape – burnish the edge well and remove while the paint is still wet). Apply with a large brush and “mottle” it with a large, barely damp, sponge. Apply your graining tool to create the desired effect. While still wet, you can soften the effect of the grain using a large, VERY soft brush which is passed back and forth on the diagonal barely “kissing” the grain. Work opposite sides to allow drying time before taping over grain. A hair drier can aid you in this.

I credit Linda Lefko with giving me this formula. She says it will work over oil as well as acrylic.

Graining With Oil Glazes

Several major companies put out glaze coats. Oil glazes give a lovely transparant look which has yet to be achieved with acrylics. This will work over latex or oil base coats. If you try this, follow their guidance.

Vinegar Graining With Powders
(Old Time Method)

This is the historic method, but modern substitutes create the appearance with a greater likelihood of success. This works on a latex or oil base background. Sand the background very smoothly (oil base backgrounds especially), and wipe back with vinegar before attempting to grain.

Graining powders
White vinegar
or stale beer
Karo™ corn syrup
1 cup dry graining powders 
2 cups white vinegar (scant) 
This makes about 1 pint
1 Tablespoon Karo™ corn syrup 

Mix at least 3 hours before using. This lasts well – up to three years, if tightly covered.

Wipe on with a brush sparingly but to cover. Allow a moment to “dull,” and then apply graining tool. If “crawling” or beading, wipe off with vinegar, dry and try again.

Reference Books

  • The Art of Wood Graining, Stuart Spence, Macdonald Orbis, London, 1989
  • Graining Ancient and Modern, William E. Wall, revised by F.N. Vanderwalker, Drake Publishers, Inc. NY. 1972 . Out of print (has been reprinted)
  • Parry’s Graining and Marbling, Brian Rhodes and John Windsor, Collins, London 1987
  • Professional Painted Finishes, Ina Allen and Robert Marx, Watson Guptill, NY. 1991