Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A brown study

Right. The worms are back in the can and it's time to get back to work. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

I spend a lot of time making things (usually stone things) look like they have been there forever. Now it looks as though I am going to be asked to make an oak staircase look Elizabethan, because it is going into an Elizabethan house. I like this sort of thing, which is just as well.

I am off in a minute to make some stone things look Georgian, because they are surrounded by Georgian counterparts. How's it done? Wire brushes and paint.

I will find out how it's done with wood soon, but I already have some starters. For instance, did you know that if you want oak to go dark without stain, you wash it with caustic soda and leave it out in the sun (if there is any sun)? It is all to do with tannin, the same stuff which turns your teeth brown when you drink tea. Same with those creatures which cause galls on oak leaves. Noticed how, when they fall to the ground and get wet, a really rich, dark stain appears around it?

I was once involved in the restoration of a £100,000, 18th century, white marble fire surround (now installed at Harewood House, above) which was covered in figurative carving - really elaborate.

When the restoration was complete, I left it to be packed into crates ready for shipment up North, but happened to pop into the workshop just before they put the last lid on.

One intricately carved leg was packed safely against damage in a pile of oak shavings from a nearby woodwork shop. I asked if they were all packed like this, and they said that they were. Those oak shavings were so conveniently close.

I suggested that they unpack the lot and get rid of the oak shavings before the whole thing was covered in dark brown stains which would never disappear, destroying the surround forever.

I saved them quite a bit of money by turning up to watch them packing it. Lord Harewood would have been livid...


  1. Interesting Tom. Perhaps you could produce an on-line booklet of things not to do with stone and wood.

  2. When Chestnut leaves fall into a pool of water it soon turns brown. Chestnut wood is still used as a source of tannin out here.

  3. I have some lovely photos of the silhouettes of oak leaves on sidewalks, after they have lain there wet then blown away.