Reprint from THE "HOW-TO-DO-IT" BOOKS

By J. S. ZERBE, M.E.
Copyright, 1914, by

A book which treats, in a most practical and fascinating manner all subjects pertaining to the "King of Trades"; showing the care and use of tools; drawing; designing, and the laying out of work; the principles involved in the building of various kinds of structures, and the rudiments of architecture. It contains over two hundred and fifty illustrations made especially for this work, and includes also a complete glossary of the technical terms used in the art. The most comprehensive volume on this subject ever published for boys.

I - II - III - IV - V - VI - VII - VIII - IX - X - XI - XII - XIII - XIV - XV - XVI - XVII - XVIII - XIX - XX - XXI



As this subject properly belongs to the painter and decorator, it is not necessary to go into details concerning the methods used to finish off your work. As you may not be able to afford the luxury of having your productions painted or stained, enough information will be given to enable you, if the character of the wood justifies it, to do the work yourself to a limited extent.

Soft Wood.—As, presumably, most of your first work will be done with pine, poplar, or other light-colored material, and, as many people prefer the furniture to be dark in color, you should be prepared to accommodate them.

Use of Stains.—Our subject has nothing to do with the technique of staining, but has reference, solely, to the use of stains. I recommend, therefore, that, since all kinds of stains are now kept in stock, and for sale everywhere, you would better rely upon the manufactured goods rather than to endeavor to mix up the paints yourself.

Stains as Imitations.—It will be well to remember one thing as to stains. Never attempt to stain anything unless that stain is intended to produce an imitation of some real wood. There are stains made up which, when applied, do not imitate any known wood. This is bad taste and should be avoided. Again you should know that the same stain tint will not produce like effects on the different light-colored woods. Try the cherry stain on pieces of pine, poplar, and birch, and you will readily see that while pine gives a brilliant red, comparatively speaking, pine or birch will be much darker, and the effect on poplar will be that of a muddy color. In fact, poplar does not stain cherry to good advantage; and for birch the ordinary stain should have a small addition of vermilion.

By making trials of your stains before applying them to the furniture, you will readily see the value of this suggestion.

Good Taste in Staining.—Oak, mahogany, cherry, black walnut, and like imitations are always good in an artistic sense, but imitations of unfamiliar woods mean nothing to the average person. The too common mistake is to try to imitate oak by staining pine or poplar or birch. It may, with good effect, be stained to imitate cherry.

Oregon pine, or some light-colored wood, with a strong contrasting grain may be used for staining in imitation of oak.

Great Contrasts Bad.—Violent contrasts in furniture staining have the effect of cheapness, unless the contrasting outlines are artistically distributed throughout the article, from base to top finish.

Staining Contrasting Woods.—Then, again, do not stain a piece of furniture so that one part represents a cheap, soft wood, and the other part a dark or costly wood. Imagine, for instance, a cabinet with the stiles, rails and mullions of mahogany, and the panels of pine or poplar, or the reverse, and you can understand how incongruous would be the result produced.

On the other hand, it would not be a very artistic job to make the panels of cherry and the mullions and stiles of mahogany, because the two woods do not harmonize, although frequently wrongly combined.

Hard Wood Imitations.—It would be better to use, for instance, ash or oak for one portion of the work, and a dark wood, like cherry or walnut, for the other part; but usually a cherry cabinet should be made of cherry throughout; while a curly maple chiffonier could not be improved by having the legs of some other material.

These considerations should determine for you whether or not you can safely use stains to represent different woods in the same article.

Natural Effects.—If effects are wanted, the skilled workman will properly rely upon the natural grain of the wood; hence, in staining, you should try to imitate nature, because in staining you will depend for contrast on the natural grain of the wood to help you out in producing pleasing effects.

Natural Wood Stains.—It should be said, in general, however, that a stain is, at best, a poor makeshift. There is nothing so pleasing as the natural wood. It always has an appearance of cleanliness and openness. To stain the wood shows an attempt to cover up cheapness by a cheap contrivance. The exception to this rule is mahogany, which is generally enriched by the application of a ruby tint which serves principally to emphasize the beautiful markings of the wood.

Polishing Stained Surfaces.—If, on the other hand, you wish to go to the labor of polishing the furniture to a high degree, staining becomes an art, and will add to the beauty and durability of any soft or cheap wood, excepting poplar.

When the article is highly polished, so a good, smooth surface is provided, staining does not cheapen, but, on the other hand, serves to embellish the article.

As a rule, therefore, it is well to inculcate this lesson: Do not stain unless you polish; otherwise, it is far better to preserve the natural color of the wood. One of the most beautiful sideboards I ever saw was made of Oregon pine, and the natural wood, well filled and highly polished. That finish gave it an effect which enhanced its value to a price which equaled any cherry or mahogany product.

Chapter 16, The Carpenter and the Architect

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