History and common use of real English Brown Oak
English Brown Oak is often referred to as “Pub Oak” in Europe because in the UK, so many old bars (pubs) feature Brown Oak tables, paneling, bar tops, chairs, flooring…
There was a time when a variety of real Oak species were so readily available for harvesting and milling in Europe and North America that it was considered a cheap, sturdy and attractive mainstay for building most things.
Like most slow growing hardwoods, due to over harvesting, supplies are more scarce now so the cost of real English Oak suitable for building furniture is very high.
While not necessary for painting Faux English Oak, understanding some species specifics can be helpful in making decisions of historical placement and other design factors.
If you’d like to learn more about this fascinating species, you can read this Wikipedia article about Quercus robur.
Faux Painted English Brown Oak
Fortunately, like most hardwoods, we can paint English Brown Oak accurately, and its gorgeous visual features can be used liberally in furniture, cabinetry, trim and other design, and at very reasonable cost compared to real wood.
Faux painted English Brown Oak is often referred to as “Antique Brown Oak”.
The attractive elements of aged English Oak can be easily recreated with brush and tool effects and color schemes.
The first stage of this technique is to apply a transparent tone layer over our bright base coat.
This will be the foundation either for basic, straight grain lines applied with woodgrain painting tools, or more detailed brush work created with liner brushes.
Next, the overall look is enhanced with a figure layer that adds depth, complexity and age.
This layer can be detailed with speckles, knots, cracks, pores and other close focus features that further convince the eye.
How I learned to paint Faux English Antique Brown Oak
My first attempts at Antique English Brown Oak were driven by a piece of Antique Oak furniture handed down to me by my Great Aunt. Specifically, a library table from the turn of the 19th century.
I’d used it in my home for many years. The finish was so dark and damaged that the wood species couldn’t be seen through the layers of grime.
After learning that the table wasn’t particularly valuable as an antique (a somewhat common production model), I decided to strip it and see how the wood looked under all the old, chipped finish.
It took several hours, a stack of sandpaper and some serious elbow grease before I got to see what I had.
Since real oak is so hard, and only gets harder with age, there’s little concern about damaging the wood during the stripping and sanding process.
But I did leave some scratches and other wear on the surface to give an indication (beyond the rich colors) of the tables actual age.
When I was developing The Faux Wood Master Course, I became a bit obsessed with the rich Red and Yellow Ochers in this table.
I first started experimenting with mimicking the underlying tone; that rich, glowing, Red/Yellow that the black grain lines intertwine with.
It took many iterations before I got the colors and texture right, but once that background color was doable, the grain lines and other features were a breeze.
I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to apply this technique to several projects, and it’s a big success for my students as well.
In the next section I share some real world applications of my faux painted English brown Oak technique.
Some examples of Faux English Brown Oak
I love the concept of transforming mundane, inexpensive objects with painted woodgrain.
Whenever some item of common use has lost it’s luster and is being considered for the thrift store or even the trash heap, I contemplate if it might be a candidate for a lovely faux hardwood finish.
The old computer speakers in the featured video, below, were rescued from a thrift store run.
Scuffed and outdated (remember when every computer item was beige?), they still sounded great, so into the studio they went for a make over.
Quarter Sawn Faux Painted English Brown Oak
As with any Oak, Quarter Sawn features can be painted with a high level of realism.
Furniture artists, cabinet makers and other craftspeople value Quarter Sawn English Brown Oak very highly and often mix it in with heart and straight grain when designing.
The lovely, curving cross grain patterns prominent in Quarter Sawn Oak are called Medullary Rays by wood specialists.
Recreating these features takes some practice and is best achieved by carefully studying and copying real wood models.
Perfect Woodgrain Courses rely heavily on images of real wood to teach Faux Painted English Brown Oak and all other wood species
I’m planning another blog post that will focus on Faux Painted Quarter Sawn woodgrain.
In the meantime, here’s another image from The Faux Wood Master Course (and others where I teach this wood).
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