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Calsomine — Case Study
Benjamin Moore & Co. has produced quality paint since 1883,
when the young Benjamin Moore, a recent Irish immigrant, began
his paint business venture with his brother, William, in a small
building in Brooklyn, NY. The brothers began manufacturing a
product called Calsom Finish, a calsomine coating for walls
and ceilings. The company made a profit the very first year.
William left the organization and Robert Moore, another of Benjamin's
brothers, contributed $2,000 and joined the venture.
Calsomine History and Recipes
Nineteen Ninety Five Paint Questions Answered, New York:
The Painters Magazine, 1923
# 1273 Kalsomine: Its Composition
and Uses, p.463.
What is the meaning of the word calcimine
or kalsomine, as known to the paint trade?
Are kalsomines supposed to be used on
exterior work, cellars, air lofts, etc.? Does the painter
consider cold water kalsomine to be identical with cold
What alkaline or other injurious substance
that would affect ceiling varnish would be found in
cold water kalsomines?
The term kalsomine or calcimine is adopted for a glue,
whiting and water paint that is applied cold, similar to,
but less expensive than, distemper. Whiting, being carbonate
of lime, and calcium, being the chemical term for lime,
has furnished the name for the material. Kalsomine, as prepared
by the painter, is for interior work only and will not stand
exterior exposure. The cold water paints are made up on
a different formula, the binder being casein in place of
glue, and usually a certain percentage of oil is added to
insure additional wear. They also contain more or less white
pigment, such as zinc oxide or lithopone, in addition to
calcium carbonate or calcium sulphate. If kalsomine is made
up as it should be, the whiting known as English Cliffstone
paris white (which is pure chalk) and good sheet glue, there
can be nothing in its composition that would injure or affect
ceiling varnish, although enough alkali might be present
to affect Chinese or Prussian Blue. In such cases a select
grade of bolted English china clay is substituted for the
whiting. Good kalsomine differs from ordinary whitewash
insofar that carbonate of used in place of quicklime and
glue as a binder.
#1277 Preparing First Class Kalsomine, p.459.
A prominent decorator form the far West recommends the
following:- Use good bolted gilders' whiting and a good
gelatin or uncolored glue, free of grease. Soak separately
in water overnight 200 pounds of whiting and 5-1/2 pounds
of the glue, and next morning both are heated to the boiling
point with steam and then mixed.
To keep the glue from souring in hot weather, a preservative,
such as oil of cloves, is used, when the kalsomine will
keep for six weeks in summer in good condition.
Sodium carbonate... 8 parts
Linseed oil........... 32 parts
Hot water............. 8 parts
White glue........... 12 parts
Whiting.............. 160 parts
Dissolve the sodium carbonate in the hot water, add
the oil and saponify by heating and agitation. Cover the
glue, broken into small pieces, with cold water and let
soak overnight. In the morning pour the whole on a stout
piece of stuff and let the residual water drain off, getting
rid of as much as possible by slightly twisting the cloth.
Throw the swelled glue into a capsule, put on the water
bath, and heat gently until it is melted. Add the saponified
oil and mix well; remove from the bath, and stir in the
whiting, a little at a time, adding hot water as it becomes
necessary. When the whiting is all stirred in, continue
adding hot water, until a liquid is obtained that flows
freely from the kalsomining brush.
The addition of a little soluble blue to the mixture increases
the intensity of the white.
#1264 - Removing Whitewash from Ceiling Before
Soften the whitewash by wetting it liberally
and repeatedly with a solution of two pounds potash in five
gallons of water, and when softened, remove with a scraper.
# 1261- Preparing Kalsomine, p.459.
Dissolve one pound white sheet glue in hot water, after
it has been soaked in cold water. Make a saturated solution
of alum in water, then mix 25 pounds of bolted English cliffstone
parts [sic] white in water to a stout paste and
add to this the alum solution, then add the liquid glue
and test the mixture for its binding properties, and if
it does not bind well add more glue and let it stand to
cool. If the kalsomine is to be tinted, use distemper colors.
i.e., colors that have been ground fine in water, but avoid
colors that are affected by lime, such as chrome yellow,
chrome green, Prussian blue, etc., and the tinting colors
should be added to the whiting mixture before the glue is
put in. To determine whether the tint is satisfactory, dip
a piece of paper in the mixture and let it dry. When ready
to apply it thin with cold water to required consistency
and use good kalsomining or wall brushes. Lay your work
off evenly and avoid laps. If an edge dries, stop and wet
it up with a clean brush and clear water and do the same
where you have missed a spot and finish up with kalsomine.
Should your kalsomine dry too fast, slow it up with glycerine,
say one-quarter pound to two gallons kalsomine, for in that
case you have too much glue and alum and your kalsomine
is liable to crack and flake. Practice a little about your
shop or your own house, and you will soon determine the
proper relation between pigment and binder.
#1262 - Kalsomining Old Whitewashed Ceilings, p.459.
Whether it works well or not, it is unsafe to put kalsomine
over old lime whitewash or old kalsomine, because of the
tendency to flake. Kalsomine is stronger in binding properties
than ordinary lime wash, therefore it requires a strong
ground. To remove old lime wash or kalsomine is often difficult
and expensive task, and it is better to bind the old coating
down before beginning to apply the kalsomine. To do this
effectively, proceed as follows: - If the walls or ceiling
have been been whitewashed, and it does not pay to take
it off, wash the surface with strong vinegar and, when dry,
give a good coat of glue size or, better, two thin coats,
applied fairly warm, and have the room as warm as possible.
This makes as good a foundation for kalsomine as can be
had on old lime wash. On old kalsomine that cannot well
be removed, apply one or two good coats of alum and glue
size, which is prepared as follows:-Dissolve one pound of
white rosin soap in hot water; after slicing the soap fine
soak one pound of white sheet glue in cold water until soft,
pour off the surplus water, stir the glue and put in boiling
hot water until the glue is thoroughly dissolved and liquid.
Now dissolve two pounds of alum in hot water, then stir
the liquid glue and soap water together and add the alum
solution. Then thin the mixture with warm water to working
consistency. This makes a safe ground on which kalsomine
will work very well.
Sizing Walls for Kalsomine. - A size to coat over "hot walls"
for the reception of the kalsomine is made by using shellac,
1 part; sal soda, 1/2 part. Put these ingredients in 1/2 gallon
of water and dissolve by steady heat. Another size is made
of glue size prepared to the usual way, and alum. To 1/2 pound
of white glue add 3/4 pound of alum, dissolving the alum in
hot water before adding it to the glue size.
Henley's Formulas for Home and Workshop, edited by Gardner
D. Hiscox, M.E., New York: Avenel Books, 1979. First published
1907, revised edition, 1927, p.436.