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The look and feel of the painted bookcase surface replicates that found on antique furniture. Like older traditional finishes, the milk paint used on this bookcase consists of milk protein, clay, earth pigments and lime. Where conventional paint can chip and scratch, milk paint penetrates into the grain; polishing as it wears. For this piece I used three layers of color: lexington green, barn red, and pitch black in that order. The subtle complexities will improve as the furniture wears, creating a tortoiseshell appearance. In addition, I added small tear-outs and other “hand tool marks” to create the authentic look of a genuine antique piece of furniture, along with custom wood drawer slides and full mortise solid brass hardware.
To create the rich tones on the walnut and Carpathian elm burl book matched veneer top I used Kusmi #1 button shellac imported directly from India. The shellac is applied over a preliminary coat of boiled linseed oil. The oil penetrates the wood giving a maximum illumination to the fibers. Because there’s no purity standard for ethanol labeled “Denatured Alcohol” for dissolving the shellac, I use high-test, 190 proof Everclear (95% pure ethanol) as my preferred shellac solvent. No other finish can compare when it comes to the illumination of the natural beauty inherent in the wood.
It’s not only what’s visible that makes this piece unique, but rather what goes unseen. Built into the bookcase is a hidden drawer. To access the drawer, you have to pull each of the visible drawers open to a certain point before the latches they control slide out of the way, similar to how the pins in a regular lock work. That allows a length of wooden dowel to slide out – hidden as a knot in the wood itself – to trigger the opening of the secret compartment built into what looks like a normal molding.