A solution to too much blank space…

first color

So I started painting the lid to my tool chest. It’s part 17th-century English, part 19th-century Pennsylvania. The lid has two flush panels in a frame, so it was easy to break it up into components. Here I have outlined some of the patterns in bone black pigment mixed in linseed oil.

yellow ochre

Next came yellow ochre, to do some of the backgrounds, and some small details on a long rail.

iron oxide

When I started these flower-shapes in red, at first the red ran all the way out to the black background. Then I quickly realized I like a white-ish outline. So I will go over this when the colors dry & outline these in white.

compass work in muntin

This is as far as I got; I hadn’t figured out the patterns for the rest of it yet…




16 thoughts on “A solution to too much blank space…

  1. Peter,

    What a difference that makes. I mean I really like te way Chris finished his but yours…well, it’s real special now.

    Take care,


  2. Peter,

    Your ability to meld styles and periods and make it look so right is inspiring to a lot of us out here in computer land.

    Peter P.

  3. Peter, in these pictures of you doing the work, do you use a second person to take the pictures or do you have another way of taking them.
    Great work as usual.

  4. Hi Peter,

    Beautiful looking top…I can only imagine what the whole chest will look like when done….look forward to seeing it!

    That’s an interesting arm rest you’re using, I assume to keep from smearing the paint already in place. I’ll have to try that some time. Is it very uncomfortable?


    • I, too, am curious about the armrest. To what degree is it functional vs. simply to keep your hand off the existing paint? For example, do you rest your hand on it and pivot the stick for some strokes?



      • I just use it to keep my hand off the painted areas. It stabilizes my painting hand, making the strokes easier. I do not use it to pivot on, just to steady my hand. It’s not uncomfortable at all. Other than standing there in one position is…

      • Peter, You may already know, but for others the stick you use for a rest is called a “mahl stick”. It is an old sign painters tool. I have seen them with leather pads on the end also with a small roller on the end, with the roller they can be used to pull a straight line.

  5. Those colors are vivid! ..ahh a cup of coffee and some fine joinery for a wake up… gives me a boost to brave the cold and get out to the shop to lay out and chop/cut the joinery for my wifes 1/4sawn (tg) oregon oak desk.
    cant wait to see this chest when its finished!

  6. Peter, Is there a particular reason for using a muntin? is it for strength? When I do a chest i have the whole front continous,horizontal planks. Or if i have boards wide enough…a single board panel. I just like that look. I realize you do period work (and its beautiful) I just wanted to know why they had a muntin? Thanks

    • This chest is out of my normal venue – it’s not 17th-century construction in other words.

      The chest itself is a dovetailed case made from single wide pine boards (about 22″).

      the lid is a frame & 2 panels; with one center muntin. I chose that for strength. Could have made one single panel in a frame; but figured the lid to a tool chest gets a lot of use. By having the muntin in there, the frame is a little tougher.

  7. You are simply amazing, Peter! I learn something new from you with every blog posting. I feel like I’ve become well-acquainted with the “vocabulary” and themes of 17th c carving, but seeing some of the same motifs reappear as painted decoration is a revelation. I realize that youa re synthesizing the design from various influences, but…Are there specific sources you are working from that you can tell us about? Thank you!

    Peter Siwek
    Oak Park, IL

  8. I love this chest! My folks have an old sea chest made from riven oak that is reputed to date back to the 1600s. It is dark with age with carved rails and muntins. I got down on my knees with a bright light last night … and sure enough I think I see traces of paint there!

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