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 Post subject: Graining steel
PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 4:43 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:40 pm
Posts: 163
Location: San Francisco, CA
Many of the heavyweight steel Pullmans were originally finished with a faux wood finish called graining.

I saw some of it in a Pullman sleeping car I rode in Mexico. Later the cars were simply painted and many of the museums have painted their interiors.

Has any museum used this old time finish on steel surfaces?

Ted Miles


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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:32 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:14 am
Posts: 203
A few weeks ago I was on the ex GTW car ferry City of Milwaukee. I noticed that in many of the crew areas and a few of the less formal passenger areas this same technique was used to supplement the beautiful woodwork. I was surprised how well it looked. I probably would not have noticed except for the rivet heads. This vessel was launched in 1930 I believe. This is the only place I have seen this technique used.


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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:47 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 12, 2007 8:09 pm
Posts: 343
Graining was very, very common in the marine world. Several companies grained entire tugs. And boy, was it nice. The last company to do it had one gentleman they used, and when he retired, they stopped painting the tugs like that.

Lots of online tutorials on how to do it, and a few one off companies doing it. Its labor intensive, but when done right is downright amazing.

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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 12:50 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2009 4:30 pm
Posts: 137
Nevada State Railroad Museum applied graining in the restoration of the McKeen Car, 2010. Not difficult to learn, reasonably easy to apply. Don't be afraid of it. Graining tools are readily available from several sources.


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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 1:37 am 

Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2015 1:28 am
Posts: 250
Location: Suffolk, UK
Here in the UK, the London & North Eastern Railway painted the exteriors of their post WW2 steel panelled cars in a faux-teak, painted, finish to match their pre-war wooden cars. The technique is known as Scumbling here.
A few of these cars have been preserved and turned out in those colours.....
http://www.srpsmuseum.org.uk/10077.htm

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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:19 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2004 1:33 pm
Posts: 301
Location: Oroville, CA
It's not a difficult task to learn, depending on the level of graining detail desired, some grains are easier than others, for instance birds eye maple is pretty simple to do nicely. There are various ways of doing the graining; originally most of the work was done with graining rollers, but one can do amazing things with just cheesecloth.
Graining was used on automobile trim quite heavily between the early '30s to the late 50s, there are probably U-tube videos on the process under that classification.

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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 10:50 am 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
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Location: Northern Illinois
It was not uncommon years ago to build residential doors and trim out of common woods, then grain them to look like exotics. I worked gentrifying an old city house yearsago, stripping the doors, which were pine but had been grained to look like walnut, with the panels painted to look line walnut burl veneer. Unfortunately, while one could see the original effect, it was too beat up and worn to save.

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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:48 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2004 1:33 pm
Posts: 301
Location: Oroville, CA
Yes, I hadn't thought about that, but in original homes you can see the variations of graining; typically the most public areas received the most complex graining, while less-public areas would have a simpler graining, for example the walnut & walnut burl in, say, the parlor, but plain oak in the kitchen area.
The graining on car trim is often buried under dirt and the Sun's UV erodes the clear coat, obscuring the graining even more. However, careful cleaning of the surface, and some very light sanding of the clear coat followed by a new application of clear coat (on car trim, this is usually clear lacquer) can often bring back the graining without refinishing the piece. In thinking of your house situation, it is too bad a good conservator didn't look over the situation as burl is easily "touched up"--the randomness of the grain hides many flaws--and much of the finish probably could have been saved. I used to curate an historic home where the woodgrained staircase railing is mostly original, but the large ball tops have been redone, matching the rest of the railing (the finish was worn completely off the balls from a century of use). Very few people notice the slight difference of finish--they are a little glossier than the rest of the railing; and that is being worn off by visitors so in a few years no one will know except by documentation!

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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:17 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
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Location: Northern Illinois
Unfortunately, this wasn't a house restoration, but rather a gentrification of an 1890's mansion on the near west side of Chicago that had fallen to slum status, with each floor of the original two story house having been illegally subdivided into two apartments. The owner, Leonard J. Currie, was Dean of Architecture at Chicago Circle in the late sixties, and this was a personal project funded with personal money. He turned the former two story house into two apartments (one per floor) with separate entrances, plus a garden apartment in the basement, plus an apartment in the coach house on the property. He felt he was leading the way on urban revitalization, and I suppose he was. While he was sensitive to the original architectural details where they still existed, his final decor was really quite minimalist and modern, as was the style at that time.

You mention restoring a grained finish in a railroad car, and I'm really at loss to think of any car where the graining survived, unless it is a business car. Pullman sleepers were all grained originally, for when they went to all steel construction, they were still trying to copy the interior finish that had been the style for the previous twenty years at least. But, by the WWII era this was dated, and new cars were being finished in solid light pastels. Any traditional Pullman sleeper still in service after the war was repainted to match the trend. I'm sure there is graining under the tan Pullman applied paint in the 1910 INGLEHOME at IRM, but I doubt the paint could be stripped and successfully save the graining.

Someone mentioned a graining roller, but I think these date to the DIY home decorator market from late in the century. From what I've read of traditional graining, the tinted clear coats were applied to the ground with a brush, and detailed using feathers. Feathers, with their single row of bristles, are easy to modify by clipping out a pattern that mimics the wood grain, and easy to manipulate to produce the smoothly flowing curves typical of real wood grain.

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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:52 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:40 pm
Posts: 163
Location: San Francisco, CA
folks,
Graining did get used a lot on ships. The first time I saw graining was aboard the ship Balclutha. The steel chart house was grained in bird's-eye maple to match the paneling down below it. There was an electrical fire which had to be repaired and it got done so you would never know about the fire.

Since I asked the question, I found that the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel has restored the graining in steel passenger and sleeping cars at Cranbrook, BC.

I hope osme day one of these Pullman sleeping cars gets that graining treatment restored.

Ted Miles


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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 10:39 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:29 pm
Posts: 337
I have done some graining for an old home we owned with pretty good results. Visitors thought it was real wood grain...which is what mattered.

There are a number of factors that make or break the effect. You need to carefully pick the 2 colors that you use...the under coat is typically lighter they you might think. Pink for mahogany, dark gold for oak, violet for walnut. Then the grain color is the color that the real wood typically is...dark red for mahogany, medium brown for oak...dark brown for walnut. Then you have to figure out what type of paint can be used for the graining without either dripping, dissolving the base coat or balling up. It's also good if it is slow to dry. Don't try to do too much with the graining...keep it simple. When dry clear coat it in something appropriate. Do a lot of test pieces first.

It's amazing to think that at one time ALL of the steel Pullman cars were entirely grained inside. Look at some old pictures sometimes and notice how they faked burls, ribbon stripe, quarter-sawn grain...all by hand. Sadly all of these paints have lost their grip and fallen off...I do not think any are left.

T7


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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:04 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:18 am
Posts: 117
Location: B'more MD
Back in the late 60s and early 70s, I was teaching school in Cleveland, and working one summer teaching summer school. During that time, the building was being painted by a Board of Education paint crew. It turned out that the foreman of the crew had worked for the Pullman Company, in Buffalo, I believe. At any rate, one day, the talk turned to wood graining steel cars, and he said he had done it for Pullman and still had his tools. One day, he brought his tools in and proceeded to paint and then wood grain the back of my room's closet door. He hadn't lost his touch. It sure looked like a wood door, to me, when he got done. That building has been torn down now and replaced by a shiny new one, but I bet there were a few questions about how the back of a closet door came to that appearance, while the rest of the room was an institutional beige. Thanks Ted, for reminding me of this.

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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:02 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
Posts: 2034
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
You use a graining comb to get the effect. I remember articles about how to do this in 1990s Old House Journal issues.


https://www.google.dk/search?q=graining+comb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiyu7TMy5TcAhWPbZoKHZecDUUQsAQI4gI&biw=1920&bih=947

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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 12:57 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:29 pm
Posts: 337
Yes...BUT...keep in mind that those rubber combs are craft-kit items and are actually harder to use on long pieces. I have used some and I own some but they are pretty awkwad...very small and limiting.
The combs Pullman used were likely steel and looked like nit combs...some much wider then these little rubber deals.
Some people have good success by cutting wide paint brushes into a castleated patterns. Shorten the bristles and then cut out wide sections. I have seen these used to great success and are easy to clean (which matters).
They say that people used to use big feathers...but I suspect they were disposable and used on only one section...then tossed out. If you had a peacock farm...might try it.
I saw a pine faux graining job one time that had actual thumbprints of the painter used to represent knots...very effective.
Beyond that you have a big brush with very long bristles that is used to "slap" the grain and soften the hard edges. It you don't do that you have a series of fine lines...blurr them together slightly and it looks more natural. Clean brushes after each use. There is a LOT of brush cleaning involved in this process by the way.
T7


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 Post subject: Re: Graining steel
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:27 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
Posts: 2034
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
That was just a quick Google search, not an endorsement of any size or material of comb.

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