My first attempt at woodgraining

I've been wanting to give woodgraining a go for quite some time. I think that this type of work and other decorative techniques (Japanning, tortoiseshelling, etc.) are severely underrepresented in current period woodworking. We all want to make a Newport secretary in mahogany, or a W&M high chest in walnut, but I think its important to recognize that those pieces are the stunning exceptions to the mundane every day rule. There was an awful lot of furniture made in the 18th century that didn't necessarily make it to museums... but that doesn't make it any less worthy of reproduction.

I've built a couple of this size / style pine chests of drawers in the last year or so. Some have had ball feet, others (like this one) bracket feet. This feature alone would highlight this piece as a slightly later style, perhaps leading into Queen Anne.

I wanted to broaden my skillset, so I built another one of these pieces and grain painted it.  I had aimed for walnut, but in reality I think I achieved more of a mahogany-like surface. It looks pretty good from about 6 feet away, perhaps good enough to fool someone into believing it is real. Close up, the little details that make wood, well, wood, are missing. But that is exactly what this technique should produce.

My chosen method was a couple of coats of chocolate brown milk paint, followed by numerous coats of a dark brown oil-based glaze. This glaze was brushed around to simulate the grain.  After that, I selectively applied a black oil-based glaze to darken areas (making the finish coloration less uniform). Once I was happy with the look, I applied five coats of blonde shellac, which was then rubbed out with dark brown paste wax and 0000 steel wool..

I learned a lot from trying this and will definitely try this technique again.

On other fronts, I'm in the home stretch of completing the woodworking on a Hepplewhite huntboard. The last major thing I have yet to start is the veneering of the top. I am aiming to have this piece done in time for SAPFM's period furniture show at the Detroit Institute of Art in March.


  1. I think it looks great for a first effort. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks Bill! It was my first effort, but certainly won't be my last try with this technique.

  2. Hmmmm. I have concluded that the labor required for me to build furniture is significant enough that I would rather spend a little more on the materials to have "the real thing."


  3. Jeff, that is certainly understandable. This was an attempt at a long-used and very common technique for making furniture and architectural woodwork. This little pine dresser isn't all that challenging, otherwise. There isn't much to it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so ruining a little piece that takes less than two days to make isn't a huge loss when compared to learning a new technique.

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