I'm getting ready to embark on a major project down in the basement. I'm
going to create an "English Pub". I want to create the "English Pub Oak"
look on the walls using raised panels and the bar area. Does anyone have a
recipe for finishing red or white oak to simulate this old look?
If we're talking the dark oak I've seen in English Pubs, then General
Finishes "Java" gel stain, with repeated applications, would likely get you
very close for an off the shelf product.
Try it on some scrap.
How old is your "English pub" ? Do you mean Victorian interior trim,
or an older timber-framed building with visible framing?
Victorian interior trim was usually mahogany, but there's some in oak.
Treat it as general USA 1900 Arts & Crafts or non-conformist church
trimming and you won't go far wrong. Use more mouldings and lots of
bevelled, frosted and engraved glass and mirrors though.
If you're after Ye Olde World Tudor Looke, then go easy on it! There's
a lot about and it looks awfully fake, even discounting the true
horrors that appeared in the '70s.
Use any timber you like, it doesn't need to be oak and you can't tell
that it's oak. If any of the timber figure is visible and not just
solid black, then use ash. (OTOH, I think decent white oak is probably
easier and cheaper to get in the USA than decent ash, comparable to
European f. excelsior).
Don't finish it with a chainsaw, adze or steam shovel. We've all seen
this, it never looks other than rubbish. If you want it to look like
adze-finished boards, then use a scrub plane with a deeply crowned iron
and take short strokes. If you want to learn to use an adze as well as
a medieval carpenter could, expect several years' apprenticeship. Don't
use a broad axe to finish it either -- might look good for Colonial US
repro, but here in England we finished our timbers along the grain, not
Joinery should be pretty authentic, which means mortice and tenons. Peg
them with oak treenails. It's important to use these, even if they're
non-functional and don't reach as far as the biscuits.
Joinery in period was highly competent, but lazy. It was well done
where it mattered, often not done at all where it didn't. In really old
buildings you'll see lots of secondary timber supporting a plastered
wall that's far from straight and was worked flat on only one or two
surfaces. Frames were never "built around a tree", but plenty of
unshaped trunks found their way into frames and they've still got the
bark on them today.
Pubs weren't built as pubs, but evolved into them. Small rooms in a
timber framed building had non-structural dividing walls (if it's
framed, they're nearly all non-structural) removed to make large rooms.
It's fairly common to see a beam or plate in the middle of a ceiling
that now contains a row of small mortices where a row of small vertical
timbers previously marked out a now-removed wall (I'm not going to
claim if they're girts, bents or whatver in a trans-atlantic ng). Nice
touch to reproduce, if done well.
Chamfer the edges with a spokeshave. Use stopped chamfers, but only
rarely would a lambs tongue stopped end appear on work of this type.
Don't use a plane as it's hard to do the stopped ends and it takes
longer than a spokeshave.Don't use a drawknife unless you're already
very good with it, and the timber is up to it.
Don't tar it and feather it. Don't paint it. Ammonia fuming is still
the best (on oak), or even ammonia washing if you want it really black.
If it's not oak, then use a dark brown dye stain, then maybe a thinned
grey stain afterwards. The brown should be consistent, the
Finish it with Danish oil, which is a reasonably authentic compromise
that still wears tolerable well.
Consider hiring a wide brush sander (I use a 4" Makita that's $500 too
much for me to buy outright) and patinating the crap out of it
afterwards with abrasive plastic filament brushes, oils or wax. Use a
back-and-forth towelling motion with a length of denim or canvas with
pumice on it to put wear-polishing onto the corners of the bar. If you
have a lot to do, find a pair of old wooden ring handbag handles and
sew them on - your fingers will thank you.
The infill between should be rough plastered and painted with white
emulsion. A limewash plaster is best, for the right texture. Whitewash
is authentic rather than paint, but this rubs off onto customers.
Fireplace design is crucial. It's not a real pub (an old one anyway)
without an open fireplace. Fake and non-functional (i.e. looks perfect
but isn't lightable) is better than working gas or missing.
Real pubs in England serve uncarbonated beer at cellar temperature,
through a handpump and into a straight glass that's big enough to hold
a pint and its necessary head. Anything else, especially the use of
tankards of heavy faceted glass with handles on, is a matter for a
religious war. Pewter tankards _especially_ are only used by the sort
of chaps who'd call you "Squire" and would be played by Graham Chapman
in Monty Python sketches.
Wow! Thanks for the info. Actually, I'm thinking more along the Victorian
lines than Tudor. There's some wonderful examples of the Tudor style in
Stratford upon Avon as well as many, many other wonderful small villages.
I recently cut down three black walnut trees on my property and was thinking
about using that for the work. I agree that the main thing is to go dark.
Walnut may be better used for another project. Oak is quite plentiful here
and I thought that fuming may be the way to go. I'll look into all the
suggestions giving here.
I lived over there (in the Black Country) for 3 years in the late 80's and
made it an ambition to try to visit every pub in the country. My local was
the Crown in Stourbridge. I had a wonderful time and made many friends. I
still stay in contact with many of them. My wife and I still get over there
every other year or so. I became quite a "real ale" fan so I know exactly
what you're talking about regarding the Pewter tankards. I want to at least
simulate the hand pump tap so I can "pull" myself a beer. BTW, I already
have the flue set up for the fireplace. The last time we were there, we
photographed every pub we were in in preparation for this project. I'm
really looking forward to this project.
Thanks again for the info.
Thermwood/Valspar has some new finishing schedules that are fairly
nice. They are all inclusive, that is, they include stains, toners,
shading agents, sealers, and final finishes. They sell them as a set.
I think one of them was distressed antique oak that might be
Each schedule has a corresponding DVD that gives a step by step,
including the aging and distressing steps. You might want to check it
On the Thermwood site:
I haven't used them yet, saw them at the Atlanta show late last
summer, picked up some of the DVD's and have watched them. At the
show, they had some furniture pieces that had been finished with
several of the schedules. They looked very good.
I can find no other supplier of these products and
I know that can't be right.
The Valspar site shows "nothing" when searching on
Thermwood and Thermwood doesn't show up on any
google search as a finishing company.
Frank Boettcher wrote:
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