Arts & Crafts Finish Without the Fumes
At Mountain Springs Woodcraft, aniline dye and lacquer replace turn-of-the-century fuming and shellac for the mission look.
Arts & Crafts Finish
Gustav Stickley's original Arts and Crafts, or mission, furniture of quartersawn white oak was fumed to a dark brown. That's a process which involves ammonia fumes reacting with the wood's high tannic acid content in a sealed chamber. "This process is the only one known that acts upon the glassy pith rays as well as the softer parts of the wood, coloring all together in an even tone so that the figure is marked only by its difference in texture," Stickley wrote.
The fuming process, however, proves extremely dangerous -- ammonia is harmful if its fumes are inhaled or it comes in contact with the skin. And the shellac used as a final finish on Stickley's mission furniture, while it added warmth to the wood's tone, won't hold up like today's finishes.
To capture the dark look of Gustav Stickley's furniture without the danger, Michael Schmitt and his family turn to water-soluble aniline dyes. And the mission pieces they create on their Arkansas mountaintop would turn Stickley's head -- each with a deep, warm clarity of color that highlights the rays and flecks of the wood. Careful applications of toned lacquer contribute protection and smoothness. But the Schmitts' success also comes from dedication in preparation and an in-depth knowledge of materials.