So Much For Small and Simple


This week I finished building a pine slant-lidded chest over two drawers for Popular Woodworking Magazine. But they don’t care about the chest. They’re looking at the grain painting.

A while back, Megan asked if I’d be write an article about grain painting for an upcoming issue. She told me I could just whip up a small pine box to use as a canvas for the article. “Seems simple enough”, I thought. It was… until I asked my wife if there was any use for a new chest in our house. We both brought our ideas to the table and ended up with the slanted lid to showcase the graining and make accessing the contents inviting and two drawers because drawers are handy. Oh, and the size grew to 25.5” tall x 14” deep x 34” long. So much for small and simple.

It was fun building this piece because often my woodworking is so heavily documented that I end up spending twice as long to finish anything because I’m fiddling with the camera and note taking. This time, I could just build. Because I work without “power” tools, I decided to keep time for curiosity’s sake. From rough cut weathered lumber to ready for paint took 38 hours. I would say that’s not too bad considering I was somewhat designing as I went along.

The painting took longer than usual because of all the article photography but, boy, was it fun. I mixed up my own tung-oil paint, made my own pencil grainer brush, made beer paint glazing medium (you read that right), and then shellacked it and set it on fire (you read that right, again). The goal was to reproduce the patina of a couple hundred years.

All in all, I am very pleased with how it turned out. It has just the balance of vernacular whimsy and class that I was after. And I think the article (due out in the October issue) will be like nothing you’ve ever read. It’s got a handful of new techniques presented in an accessible way (I hope) for newbies to the grain painting world. Enough words. Here is a gallery of images: