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Painters and glaziers


1. The painting which is the subject of this article relates to forming letters and sometimes ornamental and significant figures on signs, as well as to the application of paints to houses and other structures, for the purpose of improving their appearance, and of preserving them from the influence of the atmosphere and other destructive agents.

2. The substances capable of being employed by the house and sign painter, comprise a great variety of articles, derived from the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms; but he ordinarily confines his selection to but few, among which are white lead, litharge, Spanish brown, yellow ochre, chrome yellow,


red ochre, terra di sienna, lampblack, verdigris, linseed-oil, spirits of turpentine, and gold-leaf.

3. White lead and litharge are manufactured in great quantities at chemical works, sometimes established for the express purpose of making these and some other preparations of lead. The substances of which we are now speaking, are produced in the following manner: the lead, in form of a continued sheet, about three feet long, six inches wide, and one line in thickness, is wound spirally up in such a manner, that the coils may stand about half an inch apart.

4. The metal in this form is placed vertically in earthen vessels, at the bottom of which is some strong vinegar. These vessels, being placed in sand, horse manure, or tan, are exposed to a gentle heat, which causes the gradual evaporation of the vinegar. The vapor thus produced, assisted by the oxygen which is present, converts the exposed surface into a carbonate of lead, the substance known as white lead, or ceruse.

5. The corrosion of one of these sheets occupies from three to six weeks, during which time it is repeatedly uncoiled and scraped. Litharge, or flake white, is nothing more than the densest and thickest scales produced in the manner just described. It can be obtained in a pure state from the dealers in paints, whereas the white lead of commerce is most commonly adulterated with chalk.

6. Spanish brown, yellow ochre, and terra di sienna, are earths impregnated with iron in different degrees of oxydation. Red ochre is yellow ochre burned. Chrome yellow is extensively manufactured in Baltimore, from the chromate of iron, found near that city. In chemical phraseology, the manufactured article is the chromate of lead, since the chromate is


separated from the iron by the aid of a solution of the nitrate or acetate of lead.

7. Linseed-oil is obtained from flax-seed by pressure. It is afterwards filtered, and then suffered to remain at rest, to precipitate and clarify. This oil improves in quality by keeping, as it becomes, in a few years, as transparent as water. In this state, it is employed in the finest painting.

8. Before the oil is used, it is commonly boiled with a small quantity of litharge and red lead, to cause it to dry rapidly, after the paint has been applied. During the boiling, the scum is removed as fast as it rises, and this is mixed with inferior paints of a dark color. Linseed-oil, thus prepared, is vended by dealers in paints, under the name of boiled oil.

9. Spirits of turpentine is produced by distilling with water the resinous juice or sap of several species of the pine. The residuum, after distillation, is the turpentine of commerce. Spirits of turpentine is mixed with paints, to cause them to dry with rapidity. Like oil, it improves with age, and it is sold in the same manner by the common wine measure.

10. White lead, and several other principal paints, are purchased in their crude condition, and reduced to a state of minute division in paint-mills. They are afterwards mixed with boiled oil, and put up in kegs of different sizes for sale. Many articles, however, are pulverized, and sold in a dry state. The preparation of paints is commonly a distinct business, and very few painters seem to be acquainted with the mode in which it is performed.

11. In mixing colors for house and sign painting, white lead forms the basis of all the ingredients. This the color preparer, or the painter himself, modifies and changes by the addition of coloring materials, until it is tinged with the proposed hue. The pigments derived from vegetable bodies, produce, when


first applied to surfaces, a brilliant effect; but they cannot long resist the combined influence of air and light, while the mineral colors, in the same exposure, remain unchanged.

12. Painters, in the execution of their work, commonly lay on three coats of paint. In communicating a white, the two first coats are composed of white lead and oil; and in the last, spirits of turpentine is substituted for the oil, for the inside work. For the outside of buildings, especially in warm and dry climates, this liquid is inapplicable, since it causes the paint to crack and flake off. It is, however, frequently used, when the painter is compelled to do his work at too low a rate, or when he is regardless of his reputation.

13. For other colors, the composition for the different coats is the same, except for the two last, in which other coloring substances are added to the materials just mentioned, to give the proposed hue. The tools for painting houses are few in number, and consist chiefly of brushes of different sizes, made of hog's bristles.

14. Graining is understood, among painters, to be the imitation of the different species of scarce woods used for the best articles of furniture. But the manner in which this kind of work is executed can be hardly gathered from a concise description, although it may be easily learned from a practical exhibition of the process by a painter.

15. Ornamental painting embraces the execution of friezes and other decorative parts of architecture on walls and ceilings. The ornaments are drawn in outline with a black-lead pencil, and then painted and shaded, to give the proper effect. Some embellishments of this kind are executed in gold-leaf, in the same manner with gold letters on signs. This kind of work is called gilding in oil.


16. Painting in oil, as applied to the execution of designs, seems to have been invented, or at least to have been brought into notice, in the early part of the fifteenth century, by John Van Eyck, of Flanders. Before this time, house-painting, so far as the exterior was concerned, could have been but little, if at all, practised.

17. One profitable branch of common painting is that of painting and lettering signs. In performing this kind of work, the sign is first covered with two or three uniform coats of paint. The letters are next slightly sketched with chalk or a lead-pencil, and then formed in colors with a camels'-hair brush. When the letters are to be gilt, the process, so far, is precisely the same. The leaf is laid upon the letters, while the paint is in a tenacious state, and is suffered to remain untouched, until the oil has become dry, after which the superfluous gold is removed. The whole is then covered with an oil varnish, which, in plain lettering, completes the operation.


1. Glazing, as practised in this country, consists chiefly in setting panes of glass in window-sashes. In the performance of this operation, the glazier first fits the panes to the sash by cutting away, if necessary, a part of the latter with a chisel; he then fastens the glass slightly with little pieces of tin, which have been cut to a triangular shape; and, lastly, he applies putty at their junction with the sash, and by this means confines them firmly and permanently to their place. The putty is made of linseed-oil and whiting. The latter of these materials is chalk cleared of its grosser impurities, and ground in a color-mill.

2. Plain glazing is so simple, that no person need serve an apprenticeship to learn it; and there are but few who confine their attention to this business exclusively.


It is commonly connected with some other of greater difficulty, such as that of the carpenter and joiner, or house and sign painter, but with the latter more frequently than any other.

3. When the glass, as received from the manufacturer, may not be of the size and shape required for a proposed application, the panes are cut by means of a diamond fixed in lead, and secured by a ferrule of brass, which is fastened to a small cylindrical handle of hard wood. This instrument is used, in conjunction with a straight edge, like a pencil in ruling lines on paper for writing. The glass is afterwards broken in the direction of the fracture, by a slight pressure downwards.

4. Although glass windows seem to us to be indispensable to comfort, yet glass had been manufactured many centuries in considerable perfection, before it was applied to this purpose. The houses in oriental countries had commonly no windows in front, and those on the other sides were provided with curtains, or with a moveable trellis-work in summer, and in winter with oiled paper.

5. In Rome and other cities of the empire, thin leaves of a certain kind of stone called lapis specularis were used. Windows of this material, however, were employed only in the principal apartments of great houses, in gardens, sedans, and the like. Paper made of the Egyptian papyrus, linen cloth, thin plates of marble, agate, and horn, seem likewise to have been used.

6. The first certain information we have of the employment of glass panes in windows, is found in the writings of Gregory of Tours, who flourished in the last quarter of the sixth century. This prelate states that the churches were furnished with windows of colored glass, in the fourth century after Christ. The oldest glass windows now in existence were of


the twelfth century, and are in the Church of St. Denis, the most ancient edifice of this description in France.

7. Æneas Sylvius accounted it one of the most striking instances of splendor which he met with in Vienna, in 1458, that most of the houses had glass windows. In France, all the churches had these conveniences in the sixteenth century, although there were but few in private dwellings. Talc, isinglass, plates of white horn, oiled paper, and thinly shaved leather, were used instead of glass. A similar state of things prevailed in England.

8. The glass used for the windows of churches and other public buildings, after the fourth century, was very commonly intrinsically colored or superficially painted. Painting on glass had its origin in the third century, and at first it consisted in the mere arrangement of small pieces of glass of different colors in some sort of symmetry, and constituted a kind of mosaic-work.

9. Afterwards, when more regular designs came to be attempted, such as the human figure, the whole address of the artist went no farther than drawing the outlines of the objects in black on glass resembling in color the subjects to be represented. The art, in this state of advancement, was spread over a great part of Europe.

10. About the beginning of the fifteenth century, a method of fixing metallic colors in glass by means of heat was discovered, and from this the art derived great advantages. It flourished most during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; but it declined in the following age, and in the eighteenth century it was very little practised in any country. It has, however, been partially revived, of late, in Germany. A very good specimen of this kind of painting, as well as of colored glass, may be seen in St. John's Church, in Philadelphia.

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