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Paint A Traditional Rich Mahogany Finish On Raw Softwood Or Painted Surfaces

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Materials Used to Create a Painted Faux Mahogany Finish
Faux mahogany finish compared to unfinished softwood and a commercial dolls house mahogany chair

Finished piece of softwood with a faux mahogany finish, shown next to unfinished wood, and compared to the overly red finish of a commercial dolls house chair.

Photo copyright 2009 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

To Create a Faux Mahogany Finish for any Scale of Project You Will Need:

  • Prepared Piece to Finish - a raw wood or painted finish should be sanded with 120 or finer grit sandpaper then thoroughly cleaned to remove all sanding grit using a tackcloth or damp rag. If you are starting with a painted piece, apply a pale apricot undercoat, then use a brush and some mid orange/yellow paint to add jagged grain lines to the painted piece similar to those you find on unfinished softwood. Remember to always sand along the length of the grain, never sand across the grain lines, real or imaginary!.
  • Clear Acrylic Glaze It is easiest to use a glaze made from your finishing coat, so use gloss if you want a gloss finish, or semi gloss if you want a flatter finish. Acrylic glaze is used so you can tint it yourself. If you are finishing large pieces of regular furniture, you can use acrylic 'clearcoat' or a water based Diamond Varathane (do not confuse water based varathane with oil based varathane). If you are trying to match an existing finish for repairs, check to see what type of coating is on your piece, before you use glaze coats. You may have to adjust your choice of materials to blend with existing finishes (traditional shellac, french polish or other coats).
  • Acrylic Paints Tube paints work better than liquid craft acrylics as they are more concentrated, but you can use either type. For my sample I used a flat black, a deep brick red (sometimes called rosewood in craft paints - slightly blue rather than orange) a cadmium (bright) orange, and raw or burnt umber (either works) Depending on the color you want to match you may also need a bluish red and a deep brown.
  • Fine Paint Brushes The size will depend on what size and scale your project is. I use a stiff student art brush for the dry brushed sections of my miniature wood, or a stiff small paint brush for full scale pieces. To apply the orange glaze coat vein lines I use a rounded watercolor brush in an appropriate size (for miniatures) or a large rounded paint brush for full size projects. For overwashed glaze coats I use a soft broad square tipped water color brush for miniatures or a soft bristled standard paint brush for full scale pieces.
  • Fine Sand Paper To sand between coats and keep the grain from raising, I use 120 to 320 grit for miniature pieces
  • Tack Cloth to remove sanded paint and grit after sanding.
  • Fine Beeswax Furniture Polish To put a final realistic glow on the miniature pieces, or to match the finish on larger pieces.

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