The "classic" Arts and Crafts finish

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Forum topic by JetJock posted 03-14-2008 07:05 PM 2809 views 1 time favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View JetJock's profile


20 posts in 4332 days

03-14-2008 07:05 PM

Hi everyone.

I was wondering if anyone can help me out with a finishing question. I have been attempting for a few years to develop a good finish for Arts and Crafts style furniture, similar to the finish you would see on a Morris Chair project. I’ve read a few articles about fuming the wood with ammonia, but I’d like to stay away from that if I can (don’t really have a good place to accomplish that task). I’ve seen several examples of good finished projects on this site and would like to duplicate for my own projects.

I mainly use QSWO for all my Arts and Crafts pieces.

I would appreciate some guidance.


-- Todd C, Central Illinois

12 replies so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4595 days

#1 posted 03-14-2008 07:11 PM

I’ve never built or finished an Arts and Crafts piece but I’m sure that you can find your answer here.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4921 days

#2 posted 03-14-2008 07:13 PM

Check out Dustys 12 step process

View Mark Mazzo's profile

Mark Mazzo

352 posts in 4519 days

#3 posted 03-14-2008 09:37 PM


I show a Stickley/Harvey Ellis piece I did here. I noted in the write up what the finish was. If you like the look and have questions, let me know.

-- Mark, Webster New York, Visit my website at

View JetJock's profile


20 posts in 4332 days

#4 posted 03-14-2008 09:49 PM


Very nice piece, I’m sure your son and his kids will take pride in ownership. The finish looks very close to what I am looking for. Can you provide more specifics about the mixes and the layering procedures? If possible, could you also suggest how to darken the tint slightly? I really try to match woodwork in our home.

I like your Asian table also.


-- Todd C, Central Illinois

View Mark Mazzo's profile

Mark Mazzo

352 posts in 4519 days

#5 posted 03-14-2008 10:01 PM


The finish is simple.

I went through my sanding schedule (150, 180, 220) and vacuumed off the piece and then went over it with a rag and Naptha (mineral spirits are fine as well). This just cleans off any residual dust and/or contaminants on the surface of the wood. Then I applied Cherry colored Watco Danish Oil. Let it soak in for 15 minutes and then wipe off any excess. I let that dry for a day or two and then applied Medium Walnut Watco Danish Oil. Same thing…wipe on let soak in and wipe off excess. I let this dry for a week and thn applied several coats of thinned Satin General Finishes Arm-R-Seal as a top coat.

Interestingly, during this project I ran out of the Cherry Danish Oil. When I got another can to finish, I noticed that there was a new formulation and the color was quite a bit more Red in color. I went ahead and applied it and followed with the Medium Walnut and the result is what you see. The Medium Walnut adds a bit of dark pigment to the pores and also a bit more of an amber shade over the Cherry.

I would suggest that you practice on some scrap with your entire finishing schedule before working on your project. To darken it you could use another coat of the Cherry, another coat of the Medium Walnut, or some darker colored wax when you rub out the finish.

Good luck.

-- Mark, Webster New York, Visit my website at

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4351 days

#6 posted 03-14-2008 10:48 PM

Todd, when I want to get a dark finish, similar to the fumed finish, I use Arti Dark Oak aniline wood dye, Available at Highland Hardware. You can dilute it (which is the best way) for a lighter finish and just add coats, after letting each coat dry completely.
Make sure you wipe the wood down with a wet cloth to raise the grain and then sand, before you start the dying. After you get the color you want, then apply the finish coat that you prefer.

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14182 posts in 4589 days

#7 posted 03-15-2008 01:43 AM

I use dark oak anilyne wood dye first, then minwax mahogany oil stain. steel wool to shade and then shellac. followed by dark paste wax.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4481 days

#8 posted 03-15-2008 10:30 AM

A lot of good info I am going to tuck away. Thanks guys.

View Tim Pursell's profile

Tim Pursell

499 posts in 4389 days

#9 posted 03-15-2008 12:35 PM

There are many ways to acheve the fummed look on qswo. to really bring out the ray fleck the best way I have found is to use a light analine dye, followed by a much darker stain. Dyes can be water or alcohol based and can run from bright yellow (don’t laugh till you try it, yellow dye can REALLY make the grain POP) to med brown or red. Follow the dye with a much darker brown, even blended with black. The only way to tell is do test pieces on scrap. Just be sure to do ALL the finish steps, from sanding to (XXX) grit to final finish coat. Keep a notebook handy to record exactly what you did & be sure to take the sample piece into the room or light where the finished piece to to be placed.

Don’t forget to get the final OK from the wife too!


View jerry mayfield's profile

jerry mayfield

36 posts in 4692 days

#10 posted 03-17-2008 07:25 PM

Check Jeff Jewitts site homestead finishing products he has several a&c finishes listed.


-- jerry,mlchigan

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 4413 days

#11 posted 03-18-2008 02:30 AM


I am currently in the process of building a A&C piece too and like Jerry I used one of Jeff Jewitts techniques. This was featured in FWW July/August 2002. I did 3 samples for my client and have sent them off to him for his selection. My piece will be going in a room with authentic Stickley which were all fumed. I should no tomorrwo if one of them was acceptible. I didn’t want to fume due to environmental issues. For the 3 samples I started with a base coat of Water based Transtint Dye Golden Brown. I Use distilled water so that the Tannins in the Oak don’t react to any of the chemicals that can be found in tap water. This gives the wood a great even finish but is void of pronounced grain. Next I used Minwax Oil Pigment Stains. (This is where I changed the color for each sample.) #1 sample I used Dark Walnut which gave dark contrast between the base coat. #2 Special walnut which gave a more subtle contrast. #3 I used Red Mahogany which gave a warm reddish tint to the finish. You could experiment with any Oil stain that is darker then the base dye stain that you use. Wipe on the stain then whip it almost immediately off. The pigment stain will soak into the open pores of the oak but will not penetrate the harder smoother medulary rays (the flake) and the result is a finish that “Pops”. Finish it with the top coat of your choice. I decided to try wipe on Poly (low sheen) and then followed by wax.

View JetJock's profile


20 posts in 4332 days

#12 posted 03-18-2008 08:12 PM

Tim, bfd and Jerry,

All very good information and I’ll try them all until I get what I want.

I will be posting some pics in the coming week. I’ve only made two large furniture pieces (mission coffee table and a cedar chest for my wife). I’ll also post my cross cut sled once I get the extendable stop block, measuring tapes and runners installed.

My next project will be A&C end tables that are very similar in design to yours Tim. Mine will be wider, but the design is relatively the same. I’m going to try my hand at through tenons. I do not have a dedicated mortiser or even a drill press with a morticing attachement. I plan to use a router and a stright edge to make the mortises and use my chisels to square them up. When I made the mission coffee table, I used a hand drill and a drill guide to make the mortises. I made the tenons on the table saw similar to how Norm does them. Once I got the tenons close, I used my shoulder plane to get the fit I wanted.

Any recommendations for making though mortises with limited machines?

-- Todd C, Central Illinois

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