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Traditional JapanningLet me start by getting this off my chest, the phrase “Traditional Japanning” makes me laugh a little because “Japanning” is a European finishing technique that is an imitation of Asian lacquerwork. Snicker. Doesn’t matter, this is a very cool finishing technique. Get the images of dusty boxes on shelves in Chinatown shops out of your head. We’re talking the real deal here and it takes skill and patience.

To achieve the deep luster of a quality lacquer finish takes a good base and many, many thin layers building one on the other. It’s not the time needed to apply the layers that requires patience as much as the drying time between the layers. But if you’re going to do it right, be patient. The payoff is worth the effort. And you’d think a video on repeating the same step over, and over, would get a little slow, but furniture conservator Don Williams never fails to keep you entertained with interesting comments and stories while you watch him work. 

And I saved the best for last. To give the already impressive finish a kick, Don adds some gold leaf. I love watching those incredibly thin layers of gold (really, it’s gold!) gently form to the shape underneath. In this case it’s a swan that gracefully adorns the lacquer finish.

Whether you’ve always secretly wanted to try Japanning, or you just want to be entertained by a very skilled artisan, “Traditional Japanning Techniques” will give you exactly what you need. 

Check out the preview below and purchase the DVD or video download at

— David Thiel

Traditional JapanningJapanning is a deep lacquer finish that originated as a European imitation of Asian lacquerwork. This video covers the steps to create a Japanned finish and goes a step further by adding a gesso and gold flake decorative accent.

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