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topic 6873

Old Japanning Paint Recipe wanted


Q. I am trying to replicate the old japanning paint found on many antique tools. This type of finish was originally baked on, and is often referred to as Japan Black. One of the ingredients was aphaltum. I am looking for either a source of finished product, or a formula and some guidance to acquiring the raw materials and mixing. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Tim S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Walled Lake, Michigan


A. Tim, try these web sites:

[last name deleted for privacy by Editor]> [Ed. note, link no longer works]

Dave D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Pensacola, Florida, USA


A. I restore antique cars as a hobby and have heard of japaning. In fact, 1924 was the last year japaned finishes were used on the Buick. 1925 was the first year they used Proxlin Lacquer. According to the books I've read about those old cars, japaning was a pigmented varnish. The fenders and splash aprons were always dipped with black paint (most likely japaned), but the bodies were sprayed the color for the specific body style and later the body was attached to the chassis which already had the fenders, etc. installed. (By 1928, most manufacturers allowed customers to choose from among 4 color schemes.) This same assembly technique was used by Ford and most other manufacturers at the time up until unibody construction.

Howard Eckstein
- Orem, Utah, USA


Q. I have collected several old Stanley wood planes made of cast iron. I would like to put a new coating of Japan Black on them. I cannot find the lacquer or varnish anywhere. Does anyone have the recipe?

Dick Partin
hobbyist - Valparaiso, Indiana, USA

June 10, 2013

A. 1926 Harvard School of Engineering copy of "Iron Age" from 1915 led me to term Japaning, which led me to info on "Pontypool japan", a process intended to compete with (then) new plating methods for protecting iron.

Here is link for "IRON AGE" book (you'll have to scroll to front to see finishing article.),+ohio&source=bl&ots=aU27niBgNW&sig=0FJn70PDqp3VGmj-09NH4MvKM8k&hl=en&sa=X&ei=AX21UYDYC9H54APa-IG4Dg&ved=0CFEQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=belmont%20casket%20company%20shadyside%2C%20ohio&f=true

Here is the link to the Pontypool Japan article:

Other recipes are out there, I am certain a little more digging might yield additional results or clues.

Please advise if I might be of assistance - always interested to dig around for odds and ends about history.

D.T. Baker

David Baker
- Richmond, Ohio, United States of America

January 14, 2014

A. Imitation japanning finish is
One part part Mahogany varnish stain and Two parts Walnut varnish stain. Coat and dry to get depth of color wanted.
Cold cure Japanning
Recipe of Stephen Shepherd
Use roofing tar (it is asphaltum in USA), let the volatiles evaporate, then mix it up with marine spar varnish (gloss). Put it on wood or metal and it is durable. Prepare the surfaces first with Alcohol to remove grease and oil etc. Surface prep is important. You can cure it at 220 °F for about a 1/2 hour in oven. Do not use your house oven as the vapors are dangerous. If you air dry it will take 8 to 24 hours to dry good and will get harder with time.Gives the black brown color of old days and you can re-coat to get the desired color depth. Good Luck.

Doug Furman
Welding instructor - Waycross, Georgia, USA


June 17, 2014

A. I have found some recipe's in an old book called;

Workshop Receipts for the use of manufacturers, mechanics & scientific amateurs.
By Ernest Spon (London and NewYork) published in 1879.

Page 66-67 deals with black paint for iron. I think this is what you are looking for, good luck finding the book, could try the scribd website also.

Good luck

Dom O [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- South UK

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