Gessoed Door Panels

Over the past week, the white oak panels  for the painting cabinet were gessoed using a traditional cooked recipe of rabbit skin glue, and ground calcium carbonate.

The panels dry fitted in the doors.

The panels with the  masking removed.

Gessoing the panels.

The thickness of about 12 coats of gesso.

White Oak Painting Cabinet

A dovetailed painting cabinet  in quarter-sawn white oak.  The tree grew along the Van Horn Branch just south of Boaz, Kansas, until it’s bank gave way.  The panels will be gessoed and receive an oil painting.  The cabinet is only dry fitted.  It will not be glued up until the panels are fully prepared.  In order to eliminate the center stiles of the frame and panel doors, the inside inch and 1/2 is a full tenon into the rail, while the rest of the panel will float in the customary grooves.

Poplar Panel (a painting support)

This is a poplar panel for painting on.  A small panel, only 12 x 15″, it is braced with two pine battens joined to the panel with a sliding dovetail joint.  This joint, which requires no glue, allows the battens to support the panel across the grain while still allowing the wood to expand and contract with the seasons.

I am no great historian, but I enjoy doing certain aspects of my work by traditional techniquies.  Supporting a panel in this way has some historical precedent, with the added benefit that it is effective and simple.  

The panel has just been “sized” with a thin solution of rabbit skin glue, to isolate the fibers of the wood from the effects of the oil of the paint.  The next step will be, however, to apply many coats of gesso.  The recipe I use is also simple and of a traditional nature, consisting of powdered calcium carbonate (from marble dust and chalk) cooked with a solution of rabbit skin glue.  Marble dust, chalk, gypsum, and talc (and most likely many other ingredients) have all been used in the past to make various qualities of cooked gesso.

With variations, this is the basic method that I use for almost all of the paintings I do, which are painted on wooden panels.