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Thursday, May 31 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Wooden Artifacts) Thomas Sheraton's "Red Oil"

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Thomas Sheraton in The Cabinet Dictionary (1794) published a recipe for “red oil” that he recommended for use on mahogany. In 1996 the furniture lab at Peebles Island Conservation Center recreated red oil for use on a reproduction mahogany table. The table was a copy of the original and was placed in the same room with the same light exposure as the original table. This project was reported out to WAG in 1997 and again in 2011 as an example of how original finishes might have changed in appearance during the lifetime of the first owners.
In 2017 it was noticed that the cleaned surfaces of some 18th c. English chairs were remarkably like the available red oil sample boards from the 1996 project. With UV light and UV microscopy the similarity was also strong. Could the cleaned surfaces on the chairs be intact examples from the 18th c. of the use of Sheraton’s red oil?
As it worked out, new chairs were commissioned to round out the set of older English chairs. Since the evidence suggested that red oil was used as the original finish, Sheraton’s recipe was used on the new chairs. The result made it possible to compare the lurid appearance of brand new 18th c. chairs to their appearance after 250 years. More intriguing is that the red oil formula may contain a UV fluorescent ingredient that might make it possible to identify this finish in other situations.

avatar for David Bayne

David Bayne

Conservator, NY State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Since 1992 David Bayne has been the Furniture Conservator for the New York State Bureau of Historic Sites located at the Peebles Island Resource Center in Waterford New York. David graduated from Reed College with a degree in Biology in 1976. For the next 10 years he worked as a timber... Read More →

Thursday May 31, 2018 3:00pm - 3:30pm MDT
Kingwood Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston