Cash Register Faux Wood Paint Restoration

A Gift for Dad

National Cash Register Model 711

The NCR Model 711 before disassembly. A bit rough, to say the least.

In December, 2015 I was contacted by a fellow who’s restoring a 1920, model 711, single counter NCR Cash Register. 

There are many old mechanical cash registers in circulation. National Cash Register was a major manufacturer, and they decorated many steel machines (vs brass) in a Mahogany-like faux grain.

Due to heavy use, these machines tend to end up quite worn and in poor condition. 

The customer was restoring the register as a gift for his father. He found my site via Google and contacted me through my “services” page. He’s also working with a specialist to restore and assemble the mechanical aspects. 

Cost of Restoring an Antique NCR Cash Register

In calculating a bid for this cash register faux wood project, my first instinct was to search for values on line (antique dealers, auction sites, ebay…), I found present value to be below $300 for similar machines. 

I don’t know what the cost of the mechanical work would be, but I’m guessing it’s not inexpensive.

A project like this, due to several small parts, some with multiple sides/angles of view, takes about the same amount of time as a full dash and escutcheon set for an antique car.

I was once asked to grain a plastic Jaguar shift knob. Small projects like that don’t usually work out due to the realities of time and effort: Create a sample for the customers approval, prep the plastic, apply primer, base coat, plus multiple layers of grain technique and clear coats. And by the way, real and faux wood shift knobs are available for most cars, often under $100. 

Point is, on some projects, unless it results in a substantial increase in value of the object being grained, my minimum fees are often too high. 

All That Glitters (some business talk)

I decided to reduce my fees for this project. Here’s why…
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Faux Finishing Business Success: Part 1 of 4

This is part 1 of 4 in a series on Faux Finishing Business Success. Part two is here.


Faux Finishing Business Success: A four part series

“Business? Yuck! I just want to paint”


This is often the song of the artisan when faced with business tasks. It’s rare for people who love working with their hands to also be excited about business.

This issue is so powerful that some artists make the conscious decision to not engage in business at all; working a separate, “steady” job and only making art on the side. Thus avoiding all business related stresses and concerns. I’ve been there, maybe you have, too. 

But for those of us who rely on faux finishing business success, avoidance is not an option.

This Art Gets Used!

If you’re reading this, you’re likely practicing “applied arts” of some sort. This includes faux finishers, car painters, furniture finishers, set painters or the myriad of others who focus on applying decoration to objects used in every day life.

Fine artists can stockpile their canvases, showing them when they wish, or not at all. But applied artists need victims (or… uh… customers) to fulfill our need to decorate walls, cars, doors, tables, floors…

Knowing how, and how much, to charge for our services is as much a part of our craft as the painting techniques we practice. 

Can you afford to be a faux finisher? 

Tools, materials, license, insurance, bond, clothing and shoes, education (skill development), advertising and marketing, studio/shop rent or payment, office equipment and supplies, accounting services or software, vehicle payment, maintenance and repair…Faux Finishing Business Brushes & Tools

And that’s only a partial list of the cost of doing business! It’s crucial that these costs be calculated and used as a base rate for billing new customers.

Here’s a great article on Lifehacker that walks you through how to establish a cost of business base line, and then how to add in profit margin.

Here’s another article that goes a bit deeper. It’s directed at digital freelancers, but applies to you and I, too. 

This process is a great first step, but it’s important to recognize that “cost of business” is only one aspect of growing and sustaining your art business.

“I love what you do!”

When a potential customer says those words, they tend to be well on their way to making an emotional commitment to hiring you.

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Faux Wood Paint Colors: The Ultimate Guide

Note, 3/2017: Here’s a link to Amazon for Cal-Tint UTC’s in all the colors listed below. I’ve used Cal-Tint for years and they work great. 

Searching on line for faux wood paint colors, I see millions of results from multiple industries.

From home improvement to interior decorating to faux finishing to auto painting, theater set design, arts and crafts, blinds and shades, concrete decoration, furniture restoration and woodworking… 

There’s so much interest in the topic of which colors to use to paint faux wood, it’s staggering.

When people think of painting something to look like wood, the first thought is “what colors should I use?” Perfectly logical.

Unfortunately, like so much great art, just looking at it won’t answer the question “what colors were used?”.

Great Art is Magic

Maxfield Parrish is famous for imbuing his paintings with a kind of magical glow. As you peer into the leaves of a Parrish tree, you’re drawn into a gorgeous, glowing green; a natural brightness that makes you feel like you’re standing in the Tuscan country side gazing up into a sunlit tree, backed by a radiant springtime sky.

If you’re like most artists, you’ll find yourself asking “Which color of green did he use to get that incredible glow?”

The confusing, even staggering truth is, Parrish used no green to paint his leaves. At least, not in the form of green paint from tubes.

Faux Wood Paint Colors Maxfield Parrish perfect wood grain

As I assume that you’re not here for a formal art education, I won’t go down a rabbit hole of color theory. 

But let’s at least talk about how he created that green without using green paint

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Art and Fear: Get More Faux Paint Work Done

Art and fear go hand in hand

There may be as many different approaches to making art as there are and fear Percolator

For example, some start a painting, a sculpture…, work on it until it’s done, then start the next one. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I’m not a start/finish/next artist. I like to set projects aside and let them percolate.

This, combined with active practice and skill development allows me to keep ideas fresh, and relevant to my long term goals.

It can also mean letting some projects go if I decide they aren’t as worthwhile as I’d originally thought. 

It’s up to you to experiment with, decide on and maximize your own approach. One thing I’ll advise about this: The trick, for me, is understanding when I’m letting a piece percolate, and when I’m avoiding it out of fear

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Gorgeous Faux Wood Paint: The Smart Way to Learn

Oak Faux Wood Paint by Thomas Kershaw

Thomas Kershaw didn’t have color images or the web when he created this Root of Oak faux finish.

Early faux wood paint

Let’s go back in time to 1850. Imagine you’re a professional painter/decorator, and a wealthy clients asks you to make his plaster columns look like Oak. 

– I’ve seen it in France and it looks amazing.

– Okay. Did you shoot some pics w/your Android device?

Do you saddle up your horse and trot down to the local book store for some faux finishing books, hoping they’d include faux wood paint technique? Bad news; the books didn’t exist yet and we barely had electric lighting, let alone the web. 

Read on for more, plus video

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