Simple red japanning method for a diningroom table

I have a rather plain, but very comfortable, veneered diningroom table. I'd like to japan it in red. I've looked at the past discussions on this here and they seem to be more involved with japanning enamel, which apparently involves ovens.
My version of Encarta describes japanning (at least the Western immiatation of the oriental art which involves a hundred odd coats of laquer) quite simply:
- Put down gesso - Brush over with shellac + pigment dissolved in spirit.
This seems fairly straightforward to me, I've used gesso in preparing boards for egg tempera painting, for a table I might use commercial plaster and a good strong glue rather than rabbit skin glue and tempera powder, but it sounds much the same process.
Applying the shellac sounds like something best done outdoors, but, apart from that, it doesn't sound very different from simply putting on pigmented varnish.
Has anybody produced a good result with a matt varnish mixed with red tempera pigment (or other pigment)?
Is there some difficulty that only emerges when you are half way through the process?
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On Sun, 12 Oct 2003 19:20:30 +0200, "Peter H.M. Brooks"

I've recently been working on Japanese-style mounts for small knives. Some of these are finished in a red lacquer. http://codesmiths.com/shed/things/knives/#aikuchi
It's red ochre pigment in blonde shellac. The ochre is mined in the Forest of Dean, so it's local (sic) for both of us.
Dead easy process to use - buy some liquid shellac (try to buy fresh and reputable), tip in enough ochre to colour it deeply and shake the jar as you go. Apply by brush (artist's synthetic watercolour brush).
You may like to prime the surface with a half-diluted sealing coat of plain shellac, diluted with methylated spirit.
Wipe the brush clean, then store it dirty. Soak in meths for a minute or two before re-using.
Of all my many shellac brews, brushed red-ochre shellac is about the easiest to handle. Read www.shellac.net for lots more information, but pigmented red is well behaved. You can polish it with rottenstone or tripoli, and you can provide a deeper shine by finish-coating it with plain shellac. With care, you could even apply this coat by french polishing techniques.
As always, experiment on similar scrap first. The surface colour depends on the ochre content.

"Japanning" literally means "faking Western products to look like that Oriental lacquer we don't understand, can't get the tree sap for, and can't reproduce". "Japan" is a common term for various paints and finishes, but it has no real meaning, as to specific types or processes.
"Stove enamel" like this has a long pedigree. One of the first usable paints for metal was an 18th century stoved asphalt-based black finish for ironware, known as Pontypool-ware. These days (after the '60s) it's much less necessary.
There's an excellent (albeit expensive) book on the subject "Lacquer: Technology and Conservation" Marianne Webb (Amazon.com product link shortened)

Gesso has no part in japanning. Don't believe everything you read in Encarta - it's often wildly inaccurate.

Shellac dissolves in alcohol. You cleaner your alcohol, the more pleasant it is to work with. English "meths" contains pyridine as a distasteful smell, and that can be unpleasant in a small space, but there's no major reason to work outdoors.

What's "varnish" ? That's nearly as broad a term as "japan". Some wil work, some won't. I'd look for an ochre pigment rather than tempera though.
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wrote:

than I thought - I know that getting gesso smooth is a little bit of a pain, so, with no gesso, the process sounds pretty straight forward!
I have moved from Bristol to Cape Town, so the Forest of Dean is a little less local to me than it used to be, but I'm sure that I can find a supplier or red-ochre pigment here.
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