Antiquing new pine... or Conan Dillinger strikes again.

Earlier this year a friend of mine brought me this really neat old pine blanket chest. I'm guessing it is from the 1870s, give or take 10 years. Old red oxide paint finish, lots of character to the surface. Splitting, dings, dents, etc. This is the kind of look I try to achieve with my new pieces of furniture (to the consternation of many in the woodworking family). See the comments on this Popular Woodworking Magazine blog post for evidence...

Anyway, there is a method to my madness. I enjoy replicating old looking surfaces. So when my friend asked me to replace the long-missing side trim on this piece, I jumped at the chance.

Cool old surface
I used a piece of old growth pine, then re-sawed it by hand with my Disston D-8 rip saw, as the trim on this piece is only about 1/2" thick. I planed the resulting stock square and true.

 The molding profile on the baseboard is a simple astragal. In my immense collection of wooden planes, I just so happened to have a plane that exactly matched the size / location of the astragal and fillets, so that was used to make the profile.  I planed in the molding, as you have seen me do a hundred times, by starting at the far end of the profile, establishing the cut, then making longer and longer cuts by pulling the plane further back each time. Within two minutes (or less), I had a full 40" of molding cut.

The molding was then mitered, leaving the back ends long for trimming flush with the chest. Given the age on the piece, the miters on the original front trim are very worn, so I scribed the profile onto the new piece, then simulated wear on the miter of the new piece with a rasp, followed by a file.  This left a surface that closely matched the old miter end. I then took a chunk of hard maple and used it to round over the crisp edges and to introduce some surface dents and distressing scratches to the wood (read, I pretty much went Conan on the piece... thanks Megan for the nickname!).

Once the woodworking was complete, I took the pieces into my finishing room.  The first step was to dry brush dark brown oxide pigment into the surface to age the wood. This step alone adds 100 years to fresh pine.

As you can see, in this photo, some of the old original red paint was still clinging to the fillet below the astragal and to the flat surface.I made a red oxide and stand oil paint to brush into the fillet and to lightly smear about the surface. Then I took a dab of stand oil and a tiny bit of black iron oxide pigment to make a greyish, somewhat translucent paint. This was sparingly brushed into the top fillet and onto the top of the molding. This simulates the dirt and dust that accumulated in this areas over the years (look at the first photo to see how black this area is).

Once this was finished, I brushed a very light (less than a pound cut) coat of blonde shellac with a small amount of light brown ochre pigment mixed into it. This gave the surface the right golden color while minimally adding to the sheen, a perfect match for the original surface.

On top of the shellac, I daubed some small areas of green paint, as this chest features green drops sprinkled throughout the surface (this must have been in someone's room while the room was being painted). The green paint was made with stand oil and green pigment.

This completed the final finishing step. I used five cut nails on each side, then aged the nail holes with a tiny bit of india ink. The finished result is shown below.

I'd say the surface is very convincing and will only get better as the piece ages.

This is the type of work I love to do, telling stories with the surfaces of furniture.  This is why I find new-looking furniture so boring to look at. Sure, it is shiny and pretty, but where is the heart?


Shop made tools

While preparing for the annual Old Tools gift exchange known as Galootaclaus, I was brainstorming of what to make for my chosen "victim".  It occurred to me that I've never really done a "shop made tools" post here, so I decided to rectify that.

Some of these have been seen on this space, others have not.

Visible in this photo are:.

- the case sides for my Fall Project. They are still a little rough, as I prefer to surface my stock in stages.

- my 30" maple jointer plane with silver and pink ivory (wood, not tusk) inlay. This was based on a 18th century plane in my collection, although I lack a proper round-topped iron to complete the look. Soon, hopefully...

- my heavy hard maple mallet that I call Mjolnir. White oak handle with walnut pegs to hold the head on. It surely is the Mallet of the Gods. Mortising chisels tremble at the mere mention of Mjolnir.

- Walnut and copper plow plane. You've seen this before.

- Beech low angle plane. You've also seen this one before.

- A pair of mahogany squares that are replicas of the small squares found in the famous Seaton Chest. I am also working on a full set of three (this size, a medium size, and a much larger full size) for myself.

- A pair of small dovetailed dovetail markers (thats like meta-dovetailing!). These were made with the offcuts of the try square blades.

- My own winding sticks. The curly maple sight on the back stick came from a plank of wood that my now-deceased father gave me. It is very precious to me and I only use it in small doses and for things I use a lot, like my winding sticks.

The color in these photos is quite washed out. The mahogany squares are a deep, dark red in real life; the walnut is a purple green (air dried walnut for the win!)

As you can tell, I really like making tools. So much so, that I am offering my services to make any of the tools you can see here for sale.

I can make the dovetail markers for $15, the small squares for $40 (pricing on the two larger squares in the Seaton set is TBD) and the winding sticks (probably with boxwood inlay, not my precious curly maple) also for $40. If you are interested, please let me know via email at

I am also willing to make the planes you see here, but the pricing would be pretty darn high, especially on the plow. You'd be better off just finding a vintage wooden plane or purchasing from Lie-Nielsen if you are of the metal plane persuasion, but I'd be more than happy to provide you with my services if you just can't live without.