Experimenting with Ground Coats

bridges with ground testing

I started a series of tests this week, something I’ve always meant to do. I have a lot of scraps of wood with various things painted on them, but never have gone about it in an orderly fashion. Yesterday, I took a bunch of cheap bridges, scraped one side of each, and started putting a different ground coat on each one. Some dried right away, and I have some ideas about which of those I like. Others are going to take weeks or months to dry completely, but this time, when I look at them in a year, I’ll know what they are. (I have one little scrap of wood from about 20 years ago, stuck in a notebook, with nothing written on it, that if I knew what I’d done, that’s the varnish I’d be using.)

So far I’m testing Kusmi shellac, spray shellac, mastic, Ace spar varnish, oxidized turpentine, raw linseed oil, stand oil, propolis, gum arabic, and casein emulsion. As other ideas enter my mind, I’ll try them, too. Eventually I hope to have a sample of everything imaginable.

What started this whole thing was reading Jacques Maroger’s book, The Secret Formulas and Techniques of the Masters. It’s his analysis of the materials of the first Renaissance oil painters, and a couple of the things he mentions in the book made me wonder how they’d work as grounds. Maroger’s work is one contribution to how I originally got the idea for my uncooked mastic/linseed oil varnish (which is not the same as anything in his book), but I’ve never read his book before, because it’s hard to land at a price I could afford.

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