How to Brush Grain Your Doors and Furniture

Inexpensive wood materials that have been used in doors, wall cladding, and furnishings are not all that pleasing to the eye and painting them with a single flat color will not enhance the appearance either. To replace all these items with good timber it is certainly not a cheap way to go – there is an alternative, to brighten the visual appearance of these items and that is by using the technique of “Brush Graining”.

Graining is an interesting alternative to using flat colors and is a comparatively inexpensive way of suggesting a more expensive finish. It requires the use of a paint brush to achieve the finishes that the name implies; not particularly difficult to achieve. The aim is to create a pleasant finish with a subtle texture, not imitate real timber. Base coat colors must be chosen carefully as they can clash with the topcoat; try to create a more traditional timber effect. Example paint the base color the same color as the lightest shade of the timber you are imitating – this can be off-white for pine, cream or tan for oak to a pink for mahogany.

Brush graining principal; this is where a wood grain is created by applying a fairly light base coat followed by a slightly darker topcoat. Before the topcoat dries you draw the brush across, creating lines of which reveal the lighter base-coat. You can create various effects by changing the basecoat or by the way you draw the brush over the topcoat.

Surface preparation, is as you do normally, fill indentations and sand; apply an oil based color when the filler and primer are dry. Try achieving the smoothest finish possible for your base coat.

Applying the topcoat or commonly called “scumble” coat preferably oil based, you will find a fairly wide range of colors available. The scumble should be thinner and more transparent than normal paint as its purpose is not to obliterate but compliment the base coat; it only requires an addition of thinners to bring it to the correct consistency.

When applying the scumble, paint one complete section at a time so that the grain effect along a single panel is continuous. Apply evenly making sure the brush marks run in one direction only; do not obliterate the base coat. Where you would like to have lighter areas in the final effect, simply draw the edge of the brush through the scumble in a scrubbing action – if you want a darker effect simply add more top coat.

The grain effect finish; do not use a normal paint brush as this will tend to soak up too much of your topcoat, use a open-bristle brush like a wall papering brush or you can make/cut combs of various fineness out rubber, plastic leather, experiment to see which you are more comfortable with. Then draw the brush/comb through the topcoat before it dries keeping your graining nearly parallel to the edge of the panel. If the panel is wide and requires say three strokes/runs make sure they all run parallel and you keep a consistent pressure on the brush or comb. You can if you want soften the grain slightly by gently brushing across it with a soft brush.

If you make a mistake while graining the scumble/topcoat do not try to touch it up, because once it is dry the mistake will show even more so, better idea is to brush out the grain and start again from the beginning. Protection; lacquer the timber with one or two coats (lightly rub down between coats) once your topcoat is dry to protect it.

Trust this will help brighten up that dull furniture.

Cheers Darryl.