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Oak graining a small staircase

Graining new pine staircase

Martin used to run a kitchen-making firm around here, but is now retired and creating a new sitting room in his cottage. This required installing a new staircase linking the sitting room with the upstairs landing

The staircase and parts were readily available from the builders merchants in pine, and Martin added some tongue and groove planking to create the under stairs cupboard.

Finishing the pine could have involved straight painting in a flat colour, or staining with a Sikkens-type varnish. Both of which would be the normal route for a job like this, but Martin wanted something a bit more special.

Cottages and houses of this age (Victorian/Edwardian) would have often had the pine joinery surfaces “grained” to make them look like a more expensive hardwood like Oak or Mahogany. Therefore Martin thought it would suit the property to have a bit of graining here.

Like a lot of decorative paint finishes, graining is done by first painting a solid colour onto the surface, and then when dry, painting and manipulating a thin and translucent  paint on top. It requires many coats of paint: a primer and at least two coats of normal eggshell paint, two coats of the graining colours, and at least two coats of varnish. This can make it expensive, especially when paying for an expensive prima-donna painter. Martin suggested he do the “prep” work to save money. I don’t often allow this. It’s funny how you take your own standards of workmanship very much for granted, until you see what most home-owners do under their own steam. Never mind, he is forgiven.

It was easiest to specify a standard graining ground colour of BS 08 C 35

Graining proceeds with a mixed glaze I had made for another job. The glaze is painted on and manipulated with brushes, steel combs, and rags to achieve the main part of the oak pattern.


When finished, I painted a first protective coat of extra pale varnish, and then left Martin to do the second…….. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

When the carpet is down and walls painted I will post a final picture.

Published by: Colin Taylor on: June 26th 2016

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