Technical Library

DECORATION VI: Case painting

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Hints for a nice paint job…

Choosing the paint…

The eighteen colors of flat oil paint colors shown here come from a small manufacturer in Pennsylvania who continues to produce oil-based paints the way they used to be made, with pigments ground into oil. These rich paints are heavy-bodied, and a joy to work with.

Modern glossy paints or ordinary enamels cover less well, and are much harder to work than the real flat oil paints. And you certainly want to avoid the appearance of a sprayed harpsichord!

Some of these colors were made for the restoration of Old Salem Village in Massachusetts, covering a time span from 1800 to 1840. Most date back to the eighteenth century.

  Colonial White 1K jpeg   Philadelphia Blue 1K jpeg  
  Colonial White   Philadelphia Blue  
  Japan Silk 1K jpeg   Cabinet Maker's Blue 1K jpeg  
  Japan Silk   Cabinet Maker’s Blue  
  Town House Ivory 1K jpeg   Soldier Blue 1K jpeg  
  Town House Ivory   Soldier Blue  
  Old Gold IK jpeg   Tavern Table Blue 1K jpeg  
  Old Gold   Tavern Table Blue  
  Chinese Red 1K jpeg   Colonial Green 1K jpeg  
  Chinese Red   Colonial Green  
  British Red 1K jpeg   Wild Bayberry 1K jpeg  
  British Red   Wild Bayberry  
  Salem Brick 1K jpeg   Sugar Box Green 1K jpeg  
  Salem Brick   Sugar Box Green  
  New England Red 1K jpeg   Forest Green 1K jpeg  
  New England Red   Forest Green  
  Town House Ivory 1K jpeg   Black 1K jpeg  
  Antique Pewter






Application of the paint…

The actual application of the paint is the easiest part of the job—a pleasure that follows your careful preparation. Major imperfections must be removed with a plane or scraper, or sanded off with 120-grit paper. Compression dents must be swelled out with water. Small gaps and holes can then be filled with putty. An application of shellac or rub-on varnish will seal the wood, and you are ready for the undercoat which can be sanded down to a perfectly smooth and even surface.

A nice brush makes painting pleasurable. The first coat of color should be sanded back before the second, somewhat thinner coat is applied. Depending on the sort of finish you are after, and what color you are using, more coats may be required.

After a final, very light sand, you are ready for three or four coats of rub-on varnish at four hour intervals to protect the surface and provide a depth of gloss, then all is done. The rub on varnish is also suitable for bare wood finishes.

You can, of course, purchase many of the items mentioned from us. All the materials are the best we have found for the purpose, and are identical to what we use in our shop to apply the highest standard of finish to our custom instruments. You couldn’t ask for any better recommendation than that.

Movie thumb 2K jpeg Movie 1K gif Painting the harpsichord case — Time-lapse
Time-lapse of Carey Beebe applying the first coat of color to a French Double Harpsichord.
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Movie thumb 3K jpeg Movie 1K gif Brush technique
Carey Beebe demonstrating hand painting on a harpsichord lid flap.
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Movie thumb 3K jpeg Movie 1K gif Priming the harpsichord case
Carey Beebe applying primer to a Ruckers Double Harpsichord case.
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