Mission Style Finishes

This information has been reprinted from a 1912 Popular Mechanics publication titled "Mission Furniture And How To Make It".


What is mission oak stain? There are many on the market, with hardly two alike in tone. The true mission oak stain may be said to show a dull gray, the flakes showing a reddish tint, while the grain of the wood will be almost a dead black. To produce such a stain take 1 lb. of drop black in oil and 1/2 oz, of rose pink in oil, adding a gill of best japan drier, thinning with three half-pints of turpentine. This will make about 1 qt. of stain. Use these proportions for a larger quantity of stain. Strain it through cheese cloth. Japan colors will give a quicker drying stain than that made with oil colors, and in this case omit the japan and add a little varnish to bind it.

One of the most popular of all the fancy oaks has been that known as Flemish, and this in spite of its very somber color, says Wood Craft. There are several ways of producing Flemish finish; you can fill the wood with a paste filler strained with raw umber, and when dry apply a stain of transparent flat raw umber, and for the darker shades of finish use drop black with the umber. Varnish and rub down.

According to a foreign technical journal, French workmen mahoganize various kinds of woods by the following method: The surface of the wood to be stained is made perfectly smooth. Then it is given a coating of dilute nitric acid which is rubbed well into the wood fiber. Then it is stained with a mixture made by dissolving 1-1/2 oz. of dragon's blood in a pint of alcohol, this solution being filtered, and then there is added to it one-third of its weight of sodium carbonate. Apply this mixture with a brush, and repeat the coats at intervals until the surface has the appearance of polished mahogany. In case the luster should fail it may be restored by rubbing with a little raw linseed oil. The description of the process is meager, and hence he who would try it will have to experiment a little.

A good cheap mission effect for oak is to mix together equal parts of boiled linseed oil and good asphaltum varnish, and apply this to the wood with a brush; in a minute or so you may rub off surplus with a rag, and when dry give a coat of varnish. A gallon of this stain will cover about 600 sq. ft.

Another appropriate finish is obtained as follows: First thoroughly scrape and sandpaper the various parts, then apply a coat of brown Flemish water stain. Allow this to dry well, then sand it lightly with No. 00 sandpaper to lay the grain. Again apply the Flemish stain, but this time have it weakened by the addition of an equal amount of water. When dry, sand again as on the first coat. Upon the second coat of stain apply a thin coat of shellac. This is to protect the high lights from the stain in the filler which is to follow. Sand lightly, then apply a paste filler of a sufficiently dark shade to make a dark field for the brown Flemish. Clean off the surplus and polish in the usual manner.
Upon the filler, after it has hardened overnight, apply a coat of orange shellac. Successively apply several coats of some good rubbing varnish. Polish the first coats with haircloth or curled hair, and the last with pulverized pumice stone, mixed with raw linseed or crude oil.


A very good hardwood filler for oak, either for a natural or golden effect, may be made from two parts of turpentine and one part of raw linseed oil, with a small amount of good japan to dry in the usual time. To this liquid add bolted gilder's whiting to form a suitable paste, it may be made thin enough for use, if to be used at once, or into a stiff paste for future use, when it can be thinned down for use, says Woodworkers' Review. After applying a coat of filler, let stand until it turns gray, which requires about 20 minutes, depending upon the amount of japan in the filler, when it should be rubbed off with cotton waste or whatever you use for the purpose. A filler must be rubbed well into the wood, the surplus only being removed. The application of a coat of burnt umber stain to the wood before filling is in order, which will darken the wood to the proper depth if you rub off the surplus, showing the grain and giving a golden oak effect. The filling should stand at least a day and night before applying shellac and varnish.


In wax-finishing hardwoods, use a paste filler and shellac varnish to get a good surface. Of course, the wax may also be rubbed into the unfilled wood but that gives you quite a different effect from the regular wax polish, says a correspondent of Wood Craft. With soft woods you first apply a stain, then apply a liquid filler or shellac, according to the quality of work to be done. The former for the cheaper job. The usual proportion of wax and turpentine is two parts of the former to one part of the latter, melting the wax first, then adding the spirits of turpentine. For reviving or polishing furniture you can add three or four times as much turpentine as wax, all these proportions to be by weight. To produce the desired egg-shell gloss, rub vigorously with a brush of stiff bristles or woolen rag.


Darkened oak always has a better appearance when fumed with ammonia. This process is rather a difficult one, as it requires an airtight case, but the description herewith given may be entered into with as large a case as the builder cares to construct.

Oak articles can be treated in a case made from a tin biscuit box, or any other metal receptacle of good proportions, provided it is airtight. The oak to be fumed is arranged in the box so the fumes will entirely surround the piece; the article may be propped up with small sticks, or suspended by a string. The chief point is to see that no part of the wood is covered up and that all surfaces are exposed to the fumes. A saucer of ammonia is placed in the bottom of the box, the lid or cover closed, and all joints sealed up by pasting heavy brown paper over them. Any leakage will be detected if the nose is placed near the tin and farther application of the paper will stop the holes. A hole may be cut in the cover and a piece of glass fitted in, taking care to have all the edges closed. The process may be watched through the glass and the article removed when the oak is fumed to the desired shade. Wood stained in this manner should not be French polished or varnished, but waxed.

The process of waxing is simple: Cut some bees-wax into fine shreds and place them in a small pot or jar. Pour in a little turpentine, and set aside for half a day, giving it an occasional stir. The wax must be thoroughly dissolved and then more turpentine added until the preparation has the consistency of a thick cream. This can be applied to the wood with a rag and afterward brushed up with a stiff brush.


An easy and at the same time a good way to stain oak in imitation of the fumed effect, is to boil catechu in the proportion of 1/4 lb. to 6 lb. of water, after which cool and strain. Apply this to the wood, and when dry treat with a solution of bichromate of potash in the same proportion as with the catechu. Bichromate of potash alone in water will give a good stain. A solution of 2 oz. of pearl ash and 2 oz. of potash mixed in a quart of water makes a good stain. Potash solution darkens the wood, and when applied very strong will produce an almost ebon hue, due to what we might describe as the burning of the wood fiber.


When putting a wax finish on oak or any open-grained wood, the wax will often show white streaks in the pores of the wood. These streaks cannot be removed by rubbing or brushing. Prepared black wax can be purchased, but if you do not have any on hand, ordinary floor wax can be colored black. Melt the floor wax in a can placed in a bucket of hot water. When the wax has become liquid mix thoroughly into it a little drop black or lampblack. Allow the wax to cool and harden. This wax will not streak, but will give a smooth, glossy finish.


There is no fixed standard of color for golden oak. Different manufacturers have set standards in their part of the country, but the prevailing idea of golden oak is usually that of a rich reddish brown.

Proceed as follows: Egg shell gloss:

1.—One coat of golden oak water stain, diluted with water if a light golden is desired.

2.—Allow time to dry, then sandpaper lightly with fine sandpaper. This is to smooth the grain and to bring up the high lights by removing the stain from the wood. Use No. 00 sandpaper and hold it on the finger tips.

3.—Apply a second coat of the stain diluted about one-half with water. This will throw the grain into still higher relief and thus produce a still greater contrast. Apply this coat of stain very sparingly, using a rag. Should this stain raise the grain, again rub lightly with fine worn sandpaper, just enough to smooth.

4.—When this has dried, put on a light coat of thin shellac. Shellac precedes filling that it may prevent the high lights—the solid parts of the wood—from being discolored by the stain in the filler, and thus causing a muddy effect. The shellac being thin does not interfere with the filler's entering the pores of the open grain.

5.—Sand lightly with fine sandpaper.

6.—Fill with paste filler colored to match the stain.

7.—Cover this with a coat of orange shellac. This coat of shellac might be omitted, but another coat of varnish must be added.

8.—Sandpaper lightly.

9.—Apply two or three coats of varnish.

10.—Rub the first coats with hair cloth or curled hair and then with pulverized pumice stone, crude oil or linseed oil.