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What would be the correct colour of unpainted Wood?


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I have tried a couple of things to realistically simulate unfinished, unpainted wood.  Using an unusual piece of teak, which was sort of grey brown then shaded with Age-it-easy grey and brown gave a weathered look to the exterior planks on a caravel.  I also used a piece of teak which was more the yellowish brown you usually see, shaded with just Age-it-easy brown, which gave a less weathered look, but still quite acceptable, on planks, masts and yards on a nao.   Now, I'm using some myrtle, some of which has very little grain and is sort of grey, which I've been using for oars, blocks and casks/barrels to simulate oak.   On my current build, an 18th century merchantman,  I planked the deck with holly that was then stained with a very thin mixture of brown and black acrylic paint and water brushed on and immediately wiped off with damp paper towel.  It is a pretty dirty look but I'm happy with it.  You can also use an ink eraser to lighten some high traffic areas, like around the helm for example.  To answer your question, I think brownish grey is the best color for a weathered, unfinished look. 

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1 hour ago, clarkt said:

You can also use an ink eraser to lighten some high traffic areas, like around the helm for example.

High traffic areas would much more likely be darker than low traffic areas because the high traffic areas would have a lot more tar tracked over them from the sailors' feet.

 

The color of any unfinished wood depends upon the species of the wood and the degree of weathering. There wasn't ever any unfinished wood on ships and boats, save for teak decks, which came on the scene rather late and were, essentially, "sacrificial," in that they were holystoned (sanded) and washed down with saltwater regularly to keep them "bright" and bleached. Wood was always protected with something to preserve it, be that bitumen, pitch, pine tar, vegetable oils, and paints and varnishes. Most of the earlier coatings were dark and tended to result in a blackish color after a short while in service. 

Edited by Bob Cleek
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Bob's reply is spot on for the real ships.  For models, I believe contemporary models were made mostly with European boxwood which is yellowish at first, but darkens with age.  The main thing for models of course is using a wood that has little to no grain visible if it is not to be painted. Box, Castello, holly, pear and cedar seem to be the best choices regarding grain and hardness although the first three are becoming harder and harder to acquire and pricing is dear when and if you can find it.   

 

Allan

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The following is quoted from an article published in the (US) Naval Institute Proceedings In 1894.  The title of the article is Ships Boats.

 

” In all cases they (gratings) are to be made from seasoned ash and kept bright— shellac, paint, and varnish being objectionable.”

 

Ash is a light yellowish wood so gratings made from Boxwood and not darkened would be correct.  My personal experience with ash is that has poor rot resistance so I don’t know why the navy preferred using ash finished bright.

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Allan's point about the grain is really an excellent one. If the grain is out of scale then its never going to look right.

One of the problems the makers of kits using laser engraved detail finish have to pay attention to - I had   a real issuewith my first MK deck which looked lovely except it had very noticeable totally out of scale grainingg across many of the features

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On 10/23/2019 at 5:08 PM, Roger Pellett said:

The following is quoted from an article published in the (US) Naval Institute Proceedings In 1894.  The title of the article is Ships Boats.

 

” In all cases they (gratings) are to be made from seasoned ash and kept bright— shellac, paint, and varnish being objectionable.”

 

Ash is a light yellowish wood so gratings made from Boxwood and not darkened would be correct.  My personal experience with ash is that has poor rot resistance so I don’t know why the navy preferred using ash finished bright.

I've never heard "bright" used to designate only "bare" unfinished wood.  The term "bright work" today refers to any wood finished or not so that the grain is visible, includes shellac and varnish. Apparently, that is a modern evolution of the term's meaning.  I note they don't include "oil" or "tar" in the old regs cited. I'd expect that they would "oil" the ash with "boat soup," a traditional finish made of pine tar, Japan drier, turpentine, and raw linseed oil. This thin fluid soaks into the wood and protects it, but does not build up a gloss coat. the regulations above list "shellac, paint, and varnish being objectionable" most likely because those finishes can be slippery when wet and should never be used for surfaces that are intended for foot traffic. 

 

I expect that ash was specified for gratings because it wears well and has good strength, allowing for lighter scantlings in the grates' construction. Because gratings are left open to the air on all sides, fungal decay would be less of a concern that would be ash used in other marine construction applications. For the same reason, ash is not uncommonly used for for tillers, block bodies, and belaying pins without any concern about its rotting.

 

"Bright" has a second meaning, particularly in naval nomenclature, in reference to polished metal and particularly "yellow metals" (brasses and bronzes.) "Brightwork" can include polished metals like brass and bronze which is always kept bare and regularly polished, rather than being lacquered, varnished, or shellacked to preserve its shine. "Shellac, paint, and varnish being objectionable" in that application as well.

Edited by Bob Cleek
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