18th century finish

Hello! I have a question about the original finishes on 18th century high-style furniture. It was my impression that most furniture from this era was finished with several coats of linseed oil and then varnish. Much of the dark, rich color we see on antiques today is the result of natural oxidation. However, someone recently told me that the use of wood stain was fairly common, especially on wood such as cherry with its greater color variances. Anyone out there know how common the use of stain was, what it was made from or anything else about finishing techniques of the 1700s?
Thanks for the help.
MJ
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finishes will have darkened. Some old woods will have darkened too, but then some pieces get bleached in the sun. not a simple answer. Re the finish, not generally varnish but a shellac and spirit mixture - french polish if you like, of varying colour, proportions, purity and ingredients.
If the answer is important to you will need to consult a more reliable authority than rec.woodworking. Talk is cheap, and here it is even free.
Tim W
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. Anyone out there know how

Check out George Frank's book on finishing. He gives several formulas for the repair and restoration work he did.
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quibuslibet wrote...

MJ:
Wood finishers had access to all the various tints and dyes that were in use in other trades, such as picture painting and fabric-making. Stains (as well as veneer, inlay, marquetry, and gilding) were used on furniture and boxes found in Egyptian tombs. Humans figured out pigments pretty early on; neanderthals used pigments for burial rituals, and cave dwellers used them for painting, so we have a long history of figuring out how to color things up.
I don't have any finishing books from the 18th cent., but books on hardwood finishing from around the turn of the last century have myriad recipes for stains using just about anything one could imagine; nutgalls, walnut shells, aspaltum, potash, madder root, nitric acid, burnt sienna, fustic chips(?), iodine, and on and on. Linseed oil is also mentioned for use as a stain.
As for finishes, French polish (shellac) of course was used, as was varnish. There are even more recipes for varnish than for stains (in the books that I have), using every conceivable combination of resins, waxes and oils available in every concoction of solvents available. Including some real simple recipes like beeswax disolved in linseed oil.
Jappaning (lacquer) was also known, and I've seen pictures of Wm. & Mary pieces that had a jappaned finish.
Country makers often employed painted finishes (including some pretty fanciful graining).
IMO, stain and varnish would have been the typical finish for high end furniture, with a great deal of experimentation, innovation, secret recipes, and variety among individual finishers. I imagine a typical maker would have experimented with various formulations he'd heard about, and if he discovered something pleasing, would use it to entice customers to buy, exactly as we do today. Case in point: yesterday I stained a birdseye maple scrap with mauve RIT dye, just to see what would happen. Now, what if I sprayed it with just a hint of transparent pink lacquer? Hmmm...
-- Timothy Juvenal www.tjwoodworking.com
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Tue, Nov 28, 2006, 2:56am (EST+5) snipped-for-privacy@tjwoodworkingnospamming.com (Juvenal) doth sayeth: <snip> I don't have any finishing books from the 18th cent., but bookson hardwood finishing from around the turn of the last century have myriad recipes for stains using just about anything one could imagine; nutgalls, walnut shells, aspaltum, potash, madder root, nitric acid, burnt sienna, fustic chips(?), iodine, and on and on. Linseed oil is also mentioned for use as a stain. <snip>
You don't need any books, there's plenty of stuff on-line. But books are always more enjoyable. Your local library would probably have something, but I prefer used bookstores, because they're more likely to have something older, and you get to buy the book inexpensively. An early 1900s or earlier encyclopedia will probably have something . I've tred a tea stain that I'm quite happy with. I've tried a coffee stain too, that really looks good, but it takes a "lot" longer to dry.
JOAT Democratic justice. One man, one rock.
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J T wrote:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fustic http://www.tablerockllamas.com/instructions/fustic.html Joe
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I don't have any finishing books from the 18th cent., but books on hardwood finishing from around the turn of the last century have myriad recipes for stains using just about anything one could imagine; nutgalls, walnut shells, aspaltum, potash, madder root, nitric acid, burnt sienna, fustic chips(?), iodine, and on and on. Linseed oil is also mentioned for use as a stain.
Thanks for all the info. What are the titles of some of the more helpful books? I suspect that many of the recipes would have been familiar to 18th century cabinetmakers. It would be a good place for me to start.
MJ
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quibuslibet wrote...

Biblio, Alibris, and ebay are good sources for used books on-line.
Here are some that I have & like:
Hodgson's New Hardwood Finishing, Including Wood Manipulation, Staining, and Polishing by Fred T Hodgson, 1904
The Expert Wood Finisher by A Ashmun Kelly, 1921
Wood Finishing Plain and Decorative by F N Vanderwalker, 1944
Easy Methods in Wood Finishing by F Maire, 1911 (a trade school textbook)
I like Hodgson's the best, but they are all packed with info that I imagine used to be passed from master to apprentice for generations.
-- Timothy Juvenal www.tjwoodworking.com
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Sun, Dec 3, 2006, 2:11am (EST+5) snipped-for-privacy@tjwoodworkingnospamming.com (Juvenal) doth sayeth: Biblio, Alibris, and ebay are good sources for used books on-line. <snip>
While I do on occassion use eBay to shop for used book, it's normally my last resort. I check eBay when I can't find a book anywhere else, or the price is higher everywhere else then I want to pay. Sometimes eBay is the only place you can find a specific book, and often the price starts out low - which doesn't mean the price will stay low. But on eBay you've GOT to check the shipping cost. Way too often the shipping turns a decent deal into a lousy deal - it does NOT cost $10-15 to ship a book, but a lot of people whill charge it anyway. If the shipping cost isn't listed anywhere, ask the seller before you bid.. Fortunately I've not got burnt on it, but only because I was very careful.
JOAT I am, therefore I think.
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