Mahogany Faux Wood Paint: Swedish Tall Clock Restoration

The Clients for this Mahogany faux wood paint project

When it comes to client experiences, I’ve been very fortunate. Most of the people I’ve worked for have been creative, interesting, fun and generous. 

The folks who hired me to apply Mahogany faux wood paint to this antique cloack are no exception. 

Steve got in touch via my services page to inquire about restoring the mahogany faux wood paint on his 18th century Swedish tall clock. 

He (and the clock) were in Arizona, so we discussed shipping the wood clock body to me (near Seattle). After considering the costs and risks of shipping a valuable antique, we decided it made more sense for me to travel to the clock. 

The timing was right for me; a chance to get out of the rainy, cold, Pacific Northwest for a few days.

I considered flying and having my tools and materials shipped to the project, renting a car…

I decided that I could take the time to drive and I’m glad I did as the weather was gorgeous and the change of scenery was restorative. 

The Digs

Steve and his wife put me up in their guest suite, which is more spacious, well appointed and comfortable than any hotel room I could imagine. 

They gave me free reign of the house and kitchen and treated me like family. 

Mahogany Faux Wood Paint Guest Suite
The client graciously allowed me to stay in their guest suite.


Whenever possible, my studios have been located in or very near my homes. Since most of my projects require drying time between multiple complex layers, it just makes sense to have the work nearby. 

So I felt very comfortable being able to get up early, bust out 4 or 5 hours of work and then go relax for awhile until the project was ready for the next layer. 

Mahogany Faux Wood Paint clock project View from the guest suite
The view from the deck of my accommodations. Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.

The Problem

The clock had been painted back in the ’90’s and spent some of its life in the south where it was very humid, then moved to California and eventually landed in Arizona. 

The result of all this environment variation was about 15 vicious cracks like in the image, below. I spent a solid day filling these cracks, priming over the old finish and otherwise prepping for my mahogany faux wood paint work. 

While the faux Cuban Flame Mahogany applied by the previous artist is basic (one brown glaze over a yellow base coat), she did a nice job and it was a shame to see it go.

But there was no saving it, so I got busy right away with my scraper and sanding blocks. 

mahogany faux wood paint Perfect Wood Grain Clock before restoration
The original Mahogany Faux Wood Paint as applied by the previous artist and the cracks, ready to be filled, sanded and primed.


Primed Mahogany Faux Wood Paint Swedish Clock Restoration

Tinted shellac can be difficult to work with, but it blocks oils and stains like nothing else. I went all in with it on this project.

The Mahogany Faux Wood Paint Process

Base coat colors for wood grain needs to be vibrant and high enough in chroma to shine through subsequent layers of grain, tone, figure and other layers. 

Cuban Feather Mahogany, also commonly known as Crotch or Flame Mahogany, does tend to have an orange tone, especially the aged pieces that have been exposed to oxygen for decades or centuries. 

mahogany faux wood paint clock project Orange layer
Orange base coat applied to entire surface of clock case and bonnet, ready for first stage of Mahogany Faux Wood Painting.


The client had many wonderful antiques and artifacts from his world travels. One that stood out was a small wooden box made of, you guessed it, feather Mahogany. Note the vibrant flame and deep orange tones. 

faux wood paint Real FeatherMahogany
A small antique document box in the clients collection made of solid Crotch Mahogany. It may be Cuban or Honduran Mahogany.


Even though the low humidity of the Arizona desert facilitated relatively fast drying of my materials (sometimes too fast), it was still necessary to stagger each stage of graining. 

Furthermore, alternating sections can create a sense of the project having been “assembled” from cut pieces of wood, vs covered in layers of paint and glaze. Stages Mahogany Faux Wood Paint
First graining layer, Burl, Flame and most of the straight grain complete. I managed to do very little masking on this project by “staggering” or not working adjacent to wet sections.

Mahogany faux wood paint real wood model Real Flame Tall Clock Mahogany Faux Wood Paint
Real Crotch Mahogany. Click to see full size.

In my faux woodgrain courses, you’ll use real wood models to learn faux wood graining.

In early planning for this project, I was concerned that the tall, narrow door of this clock would result in an unnatural look, since I’d mostly only seen short, wide pieces of Feather Mahogany. 

I did a Google image search for tall clocks built from Mahogany and found the image at right, which cleared the way for my design.

I love the meandering figure on the door of this clock, so I incorporated it into my design. 




antique clock restoration Crotch or Flame Mahogany Faux Wood Paint
First stage of Flame Mahogany applied to the long, narrow door.


The “bonnet” of the clock is very intricate and took more time to paint than the lower section which is four times bigger.

The gold leaf applied by a previous artisan still looked great, so I just had to keep it clean during my process. 

Mahogany Faux Wood Paint Swedish Tall Clock Bonet in
X marks the original, wavy glass that’s over 250 years old and that the faux finisher SHALL NOT BREAK! In hindsight, I might have covered it in cardboard for a bit of extra safety.


The Finished Product

Overall I’m happy with how this project came out, and the client was very happy with it. The low humidity posed real challenges with regard to working with glazes, open time and drying. 

In hindsight I should have had a humidifier running in the work space to increase work time. It would have made my job much easier.

But it was my first Arizona project, so I was clueless about working in the desert. Oh well. Next time…

Antique Swedish Tall Clock Completed Mahogany Faux Wood Paint on


The previous artist had painted the lower insets of the case in the Mahogany Flame. I felt the sections were too small for that and I wanted to add some variety, so I ran the idea of doing them in Burl by the client.

His response was “You’re the artist” and “Sounds awesome!”. Again great client! Thank you for the trust, Steve. 


perfect wood grain Mahogany Burl Faux Wood Grain Paint
I added a layer of fine grain lines over the entire project for depth and to direct eye-path. Not to make excuses, but this image doesn’t really do it justice.


I’d assumed the three small sections of Feather Mahogany on the bonnet would be a struggle to paint, but it went very smooth and I love how they came out. They’re a focal point at the top of the piece. 


Perfect Wood Grain Flame Mahogany faux wood paint

The Take Aways

I was so fortunate to get this project. I really can’t thank the client enough for the opportunity, for putting me up in style, and for trusting me with this precious antique. 

For those of you who are professional decorators, here are some business related take aways. 

  • I might have sub contracted a furniture refinishing and repair expert to go in ahead of me to fill fix the cracks, prime and sand the project. Not because I’m not capable of that, but so that I could focus on the finish and save wear and tear on my hands.
  • Again, I would rent a great big humidifier to battle that desert dryness, which would have made the grain layers much easier to work with.
  • Though I’ve painted it before, The Faux Wood Workshop currently does not include a Faux Mahogany section. I’m writing, filming and narrating that now, thanks to this project. Workshop students will receive that free of charge (as with all course updates) when it’s done.
  • Most of the available training for Mahogany Faux Wood Paint recommend the orange base color. I’m going to move away from that in my training, since it’s a battle to cover it up throughout the graining process. 

Thanks for reading.

I’m awaiting more images of this project standing in its special spot in the home and with the clock mechanism installed, so please check back. 

What do you think? 

Do you like the finish? Do you have any questions about the project? Please leave me a note in the comment section, below and I’ll get back to you. 




Would you like some help with Faux Woodgrain?

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