Appearances can be deceiving. Capitalizing on this notion, early-19th-century cabinet makers in Great Britain developed techniques that allowed them to paint wooden furniture to look like bamboo. The method was simple. In fact, you can do it yourself! Here's how.
Before: Plain and Plastic
An inexpensive plastic cafe chair has a hard, flat seat, and an unassuming appearance.
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With just a few touches of paint (manufactured to resemble bamboo), the chair becomes a sophisticated accent piece. The hard seat was also upholstered.
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On small pieces, such as a diminutive table or a picture frame, paint fine lines so the bamboo joints match the scale of the object. On larger furniture, use wider lines to suggest more prominent joints.
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If a rusty old headboard needs a new coat of paint. Why not change its very nature? Use faux bamboo to play up the piece's rungs and shapely curves.
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When painted, a metal garden table can come indoors as a stately faux-bamboo end table. To soften the appearance of the bolts holding the legs together, strips of wood veneer were added underneath them.
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An antique marble-topped metal washstand is renewed as a bedroom table. Its legs, crosspieces, and bottom shelf's edges now resemble bamboo.
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Readily available frames are the starting point for this triptych. Paint half-round molding to resemble bamboo, then glue it in place to trim. Attach frames to one another with hinges.
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First prepare the surface of your piece. Sand it lightly with medium-fine-grit paper. Depending on material, apply oil-based wood primer, or acrylic-based primer (for plastic). Let dry. Sand and repeat. Coat entire piece with oil or latex pale-yellow paint (oil is a bit more durable; latex cleans up easily with soap and water); let dry. Sand with fine-grit sandpaper, apply second coat, and let dry.
Use a metal ruler and a pencil to mark placement of bamboo joints.
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In a small container, mix 1/4 cup each of oil-based glazing liquid and mineral spirits. Using the 1 1/2-inch brush, lightly apply this mixture to cover an area extending above and below pencil marks by 1 or 2 inches.
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Squeeze nickel-sized amount of raw umber and burnt umber onto palette. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon glazing mixture on top of paints; use liner brush to mix small amounts of paint together until it is preferred shade of brown, adjusting to fit your decor. The finer you want the stripe to be, the thinner the consistency should be. To paint a joint, use liner brush to apply a thin stripe at one pencil mark.
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While stripe is still wet, lightly sweep back and forth over it with the softening brush to blend paint with glaze. Repeat, varying joints in width and density. Let dry overnight; store leftover glazing mixture in an airtight container.
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Squeeze nickel-sized amounts of raw umber and raw sienna onto a palette. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon glazing mixture over them; mix with 1/2-inch paintbrush to thin paint and create a mixture resembling the bamboo's yellow and brown streaks. Use the same brush to paint between a pair of joints, getting as close to them as possible.
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Drag 1/2-inch brush in one motion through wet paint again to create striations. Repeat with remaining pairs of joints. Let dry overnight. To finish, apply two or three coats of polyurethane, following manufacturer's instructions.
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