Dark finish on trim in older homes?

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Forum topic by bonobo posted 04-27-2013 06:17 AM 1059 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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297 posts in 2056 days

04-27-2013 06:17 AM

I’ve found some discussion on replicating old trim finishes but wondered if anyone knew what the exact formulation is for the dark finish found on older softwood.

Our house, like a lot of Toronto homes from the early part of the 1900s, has Douglas Fir trim with a dark coating that appears to be shellac. The thing about it is that it looks like it was applied as a single thick coat and acts more like a glaze rather than a stain. i’ve tried staining new Douglas fir and can get the colour close but can’t avoid the grain reversal that happens with softwoods.

I suppose I could get close with enough coats of garnet shellac but I’m curious as to how the old timers managed to achieve such a dark finish in a fast, efficient way.

-- “The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” ― Mark Twain

3 replies so far

View sprucegum's profile


324 posts in 1997 days

#1 posted 04-27-2013 10:53 AM

I have seen a lot of doug fir trim like yours and have tried to match it without a lot of success. I feel most of the dark coloring comes from age. I think they used varnish as a finish. Before the advent of poly finishes you could buy varnish in any hardware store but I have not seen it on the shelf for years. I remember using the stuff, it seems like it took for ever to dry, ran easily, and collected dust like a magnet. I don’t even see spar varnish in the stores anymore the last time I asked for some to coat my snowshoes with they sold me spar poly. Oh and by the way I have worked with some of those old timers 40 years ago they did not do much in a fast efficient way. I expect people say that about me now. I tell them not only am I slow I am also very inefficient.

-- A tube of calk and a gallon of paint will make a carpenter what he ain't

View sgv's profile


266 posts in 1892 days

#2 posted 04-27-2013 11:07 AM

THere is a product made by Structures that is 100% acrylic for log cabins,(Nature one)it is for external use but can be used indoors,(Water based) It comes in different stain colors, it goes on like a glaze, We have used it before at work to match old trim work, hope it helps

-- Tite Lines, May the wind be at your back

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297 posts in 2056 days

#3 posted 04-29-2013 03:10 AM

Thanks guys. It seems like the technique died out with the guys who came up with it.

-- “The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” ― Mark Twain

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