For most of my life, I thought wood that was grain-painted looked like… an unprintable bad word that rhymes with “bass.”
Many pieces of furniture were grain-painted to make a less-expensive wood look like a nicer wood. During the Arts & Crafts era, pine was painted to look like quartersawn oak. If you go back in time a little further you see plain woods that were painted to look curly or mottled.
While researching auction records on the ubiquitous six-board chest I encountered a bunch of 19th-century examples that were painted by people who were clearly on hallucinogens. Some of these paint jobs looked like cellular structures. Others looked like patterns made in the dirt by drunken earthworms. Or what you might find in a Kleenex after blowing your nose.
I put these photos away in a folder called “ugly chests,” which I hope my wife never clicks on.
Recently, I was sorting through these folders and went looked at the ugly chests again. For some reason, they weren’t as ugly as I remembered. A few of them look kind of cool.
Or perhaps I am the one on hallucinogens.
Below is a gallery of a few of my favorites. Check it out, if you dare.
— Christopher Schwarz
My article on building a six-board chest is in the November 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine.