How to: SpecialistFinishes – Blonde Mahogany


Blonde Mahogany

Cait is decorative painter working throughout UK and teaching from her studio in Perth, Scotland. You can see her work and connect with her on social media; Twitter and Instagram or Facebook.

Mahogany comes in so many different colours and often the tone is not the traditional red that many grainers were taught to create. Often it is quite golden so in this article I have chosen to demonstrate a blonde mahogany starting with a light base.

The basecoat is Benjamin Moore AF325 (similar to BS 08C31)

Materials were – beer glaze and oil glaze. The beer glaze was made from a stout allowed to go flat and thinned 1:3 with water. The oil glaze is a mix – first make a traditional oil gilp from 1 part raw linseed oil to 3 parts white spirit and add 10% terebine driers. Then take this mix and add 50% Osmo Polyx Oil Varnish to it. This feels not dissimilar to the old Ratcliffe’s oil glaze that many of us still mourn.

Tools used were – Flogger, mottler, camel cutter, overgrainer and softener

Step 1
The first stage is carried out in beer glaze flogged and also spattered. Mix the glaze with Vandyke Brown gouache or powder, apply and flog. The middle I left a little open and for this area dip a spatter brush (a small stencil brush works well too) into the very bottom of the pot where the colour had settled and spatter drops of colour onto the panel, softening these up and down to give slightly longer darker pores. Varying the very base layer gives interest in the final piece – subtle but nice.

Step 2
Once dry, apply clear oil glaze all over the panel – then sketch in your shape using artists oil colours. I used Burnt Umber, Vandyke Brown and Black. Using the mottler, work through the darker sketched-in colour to create the mahogany movement. Hold your mottler at an angle as if the top edge of the brush was at 1 o’clock on a clock and the bottom of the brush at 7 o’clock on a clock and keep that angle moving the hand from the shoulder and not from the wrist will help avoid “hoop” shapes that look somewhat unnatural.

Step 3
Then start to wipe out sections using 2 key tools – the camel hair cutter and pad of cloth. Looking at veneers helps you to recognise exactly where to wipe away. Create the distinctive slightly stripey side grain at the sides by pressing your fingers into the mottler and drawing it through the glaze. Using a softener soften away from the heart, in this case up and out. Once this has set up nicely you can create some grain through the figure using an overgrainer. Dip the overgrainer in clear glaze and dab off the excess, open the bristles with a brush comb and draw it across the crotch figure evenly. Now soften, don’t worry if some of this is lost in the softening as it can be done again at the final stage.

Step 4
The final stage is to overgrain. Once dry apply clear oil glaze all over and tone the panel using colours Burnt Umber, Vandyke Brown and Burnt Sienna, I also added a touch of Venetian Red. Using the mottler shape the glaze so it follows your previous work and adds depth. Lift out some areas in the darkest part of the wood to give highlights, fine lines that draw down into the heart of the wood can be created with the cutter or you can use a piece of card wrapped in cloth. Soften and allow it to set up well and use the overgrainer in the same was as before, this time take care not to over-soften and lose the definition. Complete the work with a semi gloss varnish.

Reproduced from The Professional Painter and Decorator Summer 2018 issue

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