Red Oil, Black Magic

The goal is to make the little post and rung high chair look old, well cared for, but old. Here’s what’s happened so far…

First, the chair in the “white”,


Next, a wash coat of Barn Red (Original) Milk Paint, the real stuff, milk cassein, lime and pigment:


Then a second coat:


After a good “rub down” with abrasive pads, a seal coat was applied over the milk paint. I used a “concoction” that I had been experimenting with.  The ingredients were Venice Turpentine, BLO, Turpentine and Japan Drier.  This is to seal the surface before the application of glazes.  BLO and turpentine (gum) would have been more than sufficient (but I had this stuff…)



The “seal coat” was allowed to dry for twenty-four hours.  Then I mixed a glaze of burnt umber artist color and BLO (dry burnt umber pigment would be fine, but I had this tube…).  The glaze was brushed on and the excess removed immediately.  This deepened the color considerably and, of course, “popped” the details.


Again the “red oil” was allowed to dry for twenty-four hours.  The next step was the application of “black oil.”  Black oil is simply BLO and black pigment.  Carbon black, Ivory black (may be hard to find) and asphaltum are all possible pigments.  But, I had some vine black that was very finely ground.  “Black oil” provides a look that one would see on furniture that had been through many years of exposure to soot and grease; in other words, wood or coal fired heating.  Frequently burnt umber or some other dark earth pigment is combined with the black pigment.  But as I had already done a “red oil” (dark earth tone-burnt umber) glaze, I used only the black pigment.


I first learned of “black oil” from a project that Jack Plane did several years ago.  Take a look at Jack’s “Mulberry” corner cabinet.  Take the time and read the posts associated with the gallery.  There’s an incredible amount of information.

Another coat, or two, of BLO then I’m off to weaving the seat, eureka!

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4 Comments on “Red Oil, Black Magic”

  1. rondennis303 Says:

    For those of us who are unaware, what is the difference between Venice Turpentine and Turpentine?

    • D.B. Laney Says:

      I don’t claim to be an expert in the field of turpentine refining. But there are a number of products made from those old turpentine pines. Venice Turpentine is pulled out of the refining process somewhere between Pine Tar and Solvent Turpentine. It’s main use today is as an equine antiseptic and hoof dressing. For many years varying combinations of Turpentine products were used as rudimentary varnishes. As varnishes, these products tend to be very glossy and flexible, making them excellent for marine use but not great for fine furniture making. I have some reason to believe that “thinned” Venice Turpentine was used regularly in the maintenance of tool handles, wooden planes, etc. In some parts of the world, Pine Tar is used for that type of task. Here’s a link to a post on the subject and I would encourage you to take the link to my friend, Roald’s site. Lots of information there.

      • rondennis303 Says:

        Thank you. I know your time is valuable and I deeply appreciate the information.

  2. Very nice. The finish adds a lot of dimension. I really like that a lot of the grain still shows through. I will definitely be adding this to my bag of tricks…don’t tell anyone my secret. 😉

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