Techniques > Systems > Finishes > NPS Preservation Brief 28 Painting Historic Interiors > Pre-1875 Paints >

Brush Marks




Early paints did not dry out to a flat level surface. Leveling, in fact, was a property of paint that was much sought after later, but until well into the 19th century, oil paints and whitewashes showed the signs of brush marks. Application therefore was a matter of stroking the brush in the right direction for the best appearance. The rule of thumb was to draw the brush in its final stokes in the direction of the grain of the wood.

Raised field paneling, then, required that the painter first cover the surface with paint and afterward draw the brush carefully along the vertical areas from bottom to top and along the top and bottom bevels of the panel horizontally from one side to the other.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, for very fine finishes, several coats were applied with each coat being rubbed down with rotten stone or pumice after drying. A four to five coat application was typical; however nine coats were not uncommon at the end of the century for finishes in some of the grand mansions. Generally, they were given a final glaze finish. Though expensive, this type of finish would last for decades and give a rich, smooth appearance.

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