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 for this project 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Mahogany Faux Wood Paint Process
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
I’d assumed the three small sections of Feather Mahogany on the bonnet would be a struggle to paint, but they went very smooth and I love how they came out, and they’re a focal point at the top of the piece.
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.