Duplicating a Stickley Hand-Rubbed Finish

Advice and speculation about how to mimic the finish on a period Stickley furniture piece. January 18, 2011

I am trying to match a hand-rubbed lacquer finish to a Stickley furniture finish. I will be custom making the side rails and footboard of a Stickley spindle bed and applying them to the existing headboard, so I will need a precise method in matching the sheen. I would greatly appreciate any advice for techniques and finish materials needed to achieve the desired result.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
1. Lacquer was never used.
2. Original finish never used wax.
3. Fuming was done, a very important step to tone the oak.
4. Watco oil or Danish oil is not even close to what was originally used. The application and results will not match.
5. Shellac was not used.

From contributor Z:
I do believe that shellac was used by LJ&G Stickley. In fact I have a rocker sitting right here from around 1912 that was made by LJ&G. Do you know how old the original piece is? New Stickley is completely different from the old stuff.

From contributor D:
Stickley is still being made and it is done with a hand-rubbed lacquer finish. What are you matching? One of those old pieces or something more modern?

One thing about the hand-rubbed Stickley pieces is that they rub with the grain on stiles and stretchers. Use 4F pumice followed by steel wool and water. On curves and small areas, use a rubbing brush (a good quality shoeshine brush works) with the pumice. Call the factory and see if they'll share info. Some manufacturers do and some don't (Henkl-Harris is a closely guarded secret).

From contributor B:
A few years ago I saw a program on the History Channel and it was about the Stickley Furniture Manufacturer. I was particularly interested in the finishing area (wow! what a setup) and they showed a worker rubbing out some tops. They placed a brick on top of a sheet of fine steel wool and rubbed continuously in the direction of the grain in a back and forth motion. The final rubbing out consisted of paste wax and the brick on steel wool technique.

Various stain mediums were used, from water based powders to your basic oil stains to the solvents. The coatings were nitrocellulose lacquers and the finishes looked beautiful.