The Art of Graining
For his next trick: master refinisher John Dee transforms MDF into wood.
- saboteamos.info TV: Charlestown house project
"That's an interesting color." From "interesting," to "@!!# ugly!" no
one passing through the foyer of - saboteamos.info's Charlestown project
was without an opinion about the freshly-applied orange paint on the
newly-added pair of medium density fiberboard (MDF) doors, or the
willingness to express that opinion. "Did someone actually choose that
color?" These supposed arbiters of good taste ranged from the diplomatic
to the cruel in their comments on the ghastly color. But what this
circuit court of proper decor didn't know is that they were observing
just the first step in the miraculous metamorphosis of ordinary paint
into beautiful wood grain. The process of graining (or faux bois, "fake
wood") begins with a plain painted surface, over which one or more
layers of glaze are applied and skillfully manipulated to simulate the
visual elements of a wood grain. Just as the ugly (and often strangely
colored) caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly, so the grainer's art
transforms an ordinary surface into a rich and (almost) real wood grain.
The background color for the Charlestown doors is called
"jack-o-lantern". While you'd likely never select it as a finish color,
it is, in fact, a slightly intensified version of the color that lurks
glowingly beneath the red tones and the deep brown grains of the
existing mahogany trim. Seemingly caterpillar colors like jack-o-lantern
are often the starting points for the grainer's magic.
Spinning a Cocoon
The paint medium used to render wood grain over the base coat is called
a glaze, which is simply a thin paint film that enables a substrate
color to pass through it. Glazing mediums are available in oil or water
base. Typically, the grainer will thin the glazing medium and tint it to
grain colors reflected in the target wood sample. The tints can be
universal tinting colors, artist tube oils, or the settled pigments from
non-penetrating stains. The important characteristic of the finished
glaze is a viscosity that is thin enough to be translucent, while having
enough body to respond and submit to the control of the artist's tools.
Of all the tools of the painting trade, graining tools are the most
bizarre! Long-bristled floggers, badger hair softeners, mottlers, steel
and rubber combs, check rollers, and, would you believe, plastic
scouring pads? Yes, even the kitchen sink! But all have specific
purposes and effects, and when the tools meet the medium on a work
surface, magic happens and paint becomes wood. Guided by a trained eye
and in the hands of a skilled artisan there is literally not a wood
species on earth that cannot be rendered. And lest the artisan get too
cocky, there exists this humbling irony: the eyes of the beholders of
the grainer's art won't know or appreciate that metamorphic skill.
They'll think they're looking at real wood!