The japan ground properly so called consists of the varnish and pigment where the whole surface is to be of one simple colour, or of the varnish, with or without pigment, on which some painting or other form of decoration is afterwards to be applied. It is best to form this ground with the desired pigment incorporated with shellac varnish, except in the case of a white japan ground which requires special treatment, or when great brilliancy is a desideratum and other methods must be adopted. The shellac varnish for the japan ground is best prepared as follows: shellac 11/4 lb., methylated spirits 1 gallon. Dissolve in a well-corked vessel in a warm place and with frequent shaking. After two or three days the shellac will be dissolved. It is then recommended to filter the solution through a flannel bag, and when all that will come through freely has done so the varnish should be run into a proper sized vessel and kept carefully corked for use. The bag may then be squeezed with the hand till the remainder of the fluid varnish is forced through it, and this if fairly clear may be used for rough purposes or added to the next batch. Pigments of any nature whatever may be used with the shellac varnish to give the desired tint to the ground, and where necessary they may be mixed together to form any compound colour, such as blue and yellow to form green. The pigments used for japan grounds should all be previously ground very smooth in spirits of turpentine, so smooth that the paste does not grate between the two thumb nails, and then only are they mixed with the varnish. This mixture of pigment and varnish vehicle should then be spread over the surface to be japanned very carefully and very evenly with a camel-hair brush. As metals do not require a priming coat of size and whiting, the japan ground may be applied to metallic surfaces forthwith without any preliminary treatment except thorough cleansing, except in the cases specially referred to further on. On metallic surfaces three to four coats are applied, and in the interval between each coat the articles must be stoved in an oven heated to from 250° to 300° F.

White Japan Grounds.

The formation of a perfectly white japan ground and of the first degree of hardness has always been difficult to attain in the art of japanning, as there are few or no substances that can be so dissolved as to form a very hard varnish coat without being so darkened in the process as to quite degrade or spoil the whiteness of the colour. The following process, however, is said to give a composition which yields a very near approach to a perfect white ground: Take flake white or white lead washed and ground up with the sixth of its weight of starch and then dried, temper it properly for spreading with mastic varnish made thus: Take 5 oz. of mastic in powder and put it into a proper vessel with 1 lb. of spirits of turpentine; let them boil at a gentle heat till the mastic be dissolved, and, if there appear to be any turbidity, strain off the solution through flannel. Apply this intimate and homogeneous mixture on the body to be japanned, the surface of which has been suitably prepared either with or without the priming, then varnish it over with five or six coats of the following varnish: Provide any quantity of the best seed-lac and pick out of it all the clearest and whitest grains, take of this seed-lac 1/2 lb. and of gum anime 3/4 lb., pulverize the mixture to a coarse powder and dissolve in a gallon of methylated spirits and strain off the clear varnish. The seed-lac will give a slight tint to this varnish, but it cannot be omitted where the japanned surface must be hard, though where a softer surface will serve the purpose the proportion of seed-lac may be diminished and a little turpentine oleo-resin added to the gum anime to take off the brittleness. A very good varnish entirely free from brittleness may, it is said, be formed by dissolving gum anime in old nut or poppy oil, which must be made to boil gently when the gum is put into it. After being diluted with turps the white ground may be applied in this varnish, and then a coat or two of the varnish itself may be applied over it. These coats, however, take a long time to dry, and, owing to its softer nature, this japanned surface is more readily injured than that yielded by the shellac varnish.

According to Mr. Dickson, "the old way of making a cream enamel for stoving (a white was supposed to be impossible) was to mix ordinary tub white lead with the polishing copal varnish and to add a modicum of blue to neutralize the yellow tinge, stove same in about 170°F. and then polish as before described". "This," continues Mr. Dickson, "would at the best produce but a very pale blue enamel or a cream. It was afterwards made with flake white or dry white lead ground in turps only and mixed with the polishing copal varnish with the addition of tints as required, by which means a white of any required character could be produced."

Blue Japan Grounds.

Authorities state that these may be formed from bright Prussian blue or verditer glazed over with Prussian blue or of smalt. By bright Prussian blue possibly a genuine Prussian blue toned down to a sky blue with white lead is meant, and by verditer the variety known as refiners' blue verditer, and as to smalt it must not be forgotten that it changes its colour in artificial light. Be that as it may, the pigment may be mixed with the shellac varnish according to the instructions already given, but as the shellac will somewhat injure the tone of the pigment by imparting a yellow tinge to it where a bright true blue is required, the directions already given as regards white grounds must be carried out.

Scarlet Japan Ground.

Vermilion is the best pigment to use for a scarlet japan ground, and its effect will be greatly enhanced by glazing it over with carmine or fine lake. If, however, the highest degree of brightness be required the white varnish must be used. Vermilion must be stoved at a very gentle heat.

Red Japan Ground.

The basis of this japan ground is made up with madder lake ground in oil of turpentine, this constitutes the first ground; when this is perfectly dry a second coat of lake and white in copal varnish is applied, and the last coat is made up of lake in a mixture of copal varnish and turpentine varnish.

Bright Pale Yellow Grounds.

Orpiment or King's yellow may be used, and the effect is enhanced by dissolving powdered turmeric root in the methylated spirits from which the upper or polishing coat is made, which methylated spirits must be strained from off the dregs before the seed-lac is added to it to form the varnish. The seed-lac varnish is not so injurious to yellow pigments as it is to the tone of some other pigments, because, being tinged a reddish yellow, it does little more than intensify or deepen the tone of the pigment.

Green Japan Grounds.

Green japan grounds are produced by mixing Prussian blue or distilled verdigris with orpiment, and the effect is said to be extremely brilliant by applying them on a ground of leaf gold. Any of them may be used with good seed-lac varnish, for reasons already given. Equal parts by weight of rosin, precipitated rosinate of copper, and coal-tar solvent naphtha will give a varnish which, when suitably thinned and the coats stoved at a heat below 212° F., will give a green japan second to none as a finishing coat as regards purity of tone at least. To harden it and render it more elastic half of the rosin might be replaced by equal weights of a copal soluble in solvent naphtha and boiled linseed oil, so that the mixture would stand thus: rosinate of copper 1 lb., rosin 1/2 lb., boiled oil 1/4 lb., hard resin (copal) 1/4 lb., solvent naphtha 1 lb. When heated to a high temperature this rosinate of copper varnish yields a magnificent ruby bronze coloration, especially on glass. Verdigris dissolves in turpentine, and successful attempts might be made to make a green japan varnish from it on the lines indicated for rosinate of copper.

Orange-coloured Grounds.

Orange-coloured grounds may be formed by mixing vermilion or red lead with King's yellow, or orange lake or red orpiment (? realgar) will make a brighter orange ground than can be produced by any mixture.

Purple Grounds.

Purple grounds may be produced by the admixture of lake or vermilion with Prussian blue. They may be treated as the other coloured grounds as regards the varnish vehicle.

Black Grounds.

Black grounds may be formed either from lamp black or ivory black, but ivory black is preferable to lamp black, and possibly carbon black or gas black to either. These may be always applied with the shellac varnish as a vehicle, and their upper or polishing coats may consist of common seed-lac varnish. But the best quality of ivory black ground in the best super black japan yields, after suitable stoving, a very excellent black indeed, the purity of tone of which may be improved by adding a little blue in the grinding.

Common Black Japan Grounds On Metal.

Common black japan grounds on metal by means of heat are procured in the following manner: The surface to be japanned must be coated over with drying oil, and when it is moderately dry must be put into a stove of such heat as will change the oil black without burning it. The stove should not be too hot when the oil is put into it nor the heat increased too fast, either which error would make it blister, but the slower the heat is increased and the longer it is continued, provided it be restrained within a due degree, the harder will be the coat of japan. This kind of japan requires no polish, having received from the heat, when properly regulated, a sufficiently bright surface.

Tortoise-Shell Ground.

This beautiful ground, produced by heat, is valued not only for its hardness and its capacity to stand a heat greater than that of boiling water, but also for its fine appearance. It is made by means of a varnish prepared thus: Take one gallon of good linseed oil and half a pound of umber, boil them together until the oil becomes very brown and thick, strain it then through a coarse cloth and set it again to boil, in which state it must be continued until it acquires a consistency resembling that of pitch; it will then be fit for use. Having thus prepared the varnish, clean well the surface which is to be japanned; then apply vermilion ground in shellac varnish or with drying oil, very thinly diluted with oil of turpentine, on the places intended to imitate the more transparent parts of the tortoise-shell. When the vermilion is dry, brush the whole over with the black varnish thinned to the right consistency with oil of turpentine. When set and firm put the work into a stove where it may undergo a very strong heat, which must be continued a considerable time, for three weeks or even a month so much the better. This ground may be decorated with painting and gilding in the same way as any other varnished surface, which had best be done after the ground has been hardened, but it is well to give a second annealing at a very gentle heat after it has been finished. A very good black japan may be made by mixing a little japan gold size with ivory or lamp-black, this will develop a good gloss without requiring to be varnished afterwards.

Painting Japan Work.

Japan work should be painted with real "enamel paints," that is with paints actually ground in varnish, and in that case all pigments may be used and the peculiar disadvantages, which attend several pigments with respect to oil or water, cease with this class of vehicle, for they are secured by it when properly handled from the least danger of changing or fading. The preparation of pigments for this purpose consists in bringing them to a due state of fineness by grinding them on a stone with turpentine. The best varnish for binding and preserving the pigments is shellac. This, when judiciously handled, gives such a firmness and hardness to the work that, if it be afterwards further secured with a moderately thick coat of seed-lac varnish, it will be almost as hard and durable as glass. The method of painting in varnish is, however, far more tedious than with an oil or water vehicle. It is, therefore, now very usual in japan work for the sake of dispatch, and in some cases in order to be able to use the pencil (brush) more freely, to apply the colours in an oil vehicle well diluted with turps. This oil (or japanners' gold size) may be made thus: Take 1 lb. of linseed oil and 4 oz. of gum anime, set the oil in a proper vessel and then add the gum anime powder, stirring it well until the whole is mixed with the oil. Let the mixture continue to boil until it appears of a thick consistence, then strain the whole through a coarse cloth and keep it for use. The pigments are also sometimes applied in a gum-water vehicle, but work so done, it has been urged, is not nearly so durable as that done in varnish or oil. However, those who formerly condemned the practice of japanning water-coloured decorations allowed that amateurs, who practised japanning for their amusement only and thus might not find it convenient to stock the necessary preparations for the other methods, might paint with water-colours. If the pigments are ground in an aqueous vehicle of strong isinglass size and honey instead of gum water the work would not be much inferior to that executed with other vehicles. Water-colours are sometimes applied on a ground of gold after the style of other paintings, and sometimes so as to produce an embossed effect. The pigments in this style of painting are ground in a vehicle of isinglass size corrected with honey or sugar-candy. The body with which the embossed work is raised is best formed of strong gum water thickened to a proper consistency with armenian bole and whiting in equal parts, which, being laid on in the proper figures and repaired when dry, may be then painted with the intended pigments in the vehicle of isinglass size or in the general manner with shellac varnish. As to the comparative value of pigments ground in water and ground in oil, that is between oil-colours and water-colours in enamelling and japanning, there seems to have been a change of opinion for some time back, especially as regards the enamelling of slate. The marbling of slate (to be enamelled) in water-colours is a process which Mr. Dickson says well repays study. It is greatly developed in France and Germany. The process is a quick one and the pigments are said to stand well and to maintain their pristine hue, yet if many strikingly natural effects result from the use of this process, its use has not spread in Great Britain, being confined wholly and solely to the marbling of slate (except in the case of wall-paper which is water-marbled in a somewhat similar way).

"In painting in oil-colour," says Mr. Dickson, "the craftsman trusts largely to his badger-hair brush to produce his effects of softness and marbly appearance; but in painting in water-colours, this softness, depth, and marbly appearance are produced mostly by the colour placed upon the surface, and left entirely untouched by badger or any other brush. The colour drying quickly, does not allow much time for working, and when dry it cannot be touched without spoiling the whole of the work. The difference first of all between painting in water and in oil colour, is that a peculiar grain exists with painting in water that it is absolutely impossible to get in oil. The charm of a marble is, I think, its translucency as much as its beautiful colour; it is to that translucency (for in marble fixed we have no transparency) that it owes its softness of effect, which makes marble of such decorative value. This translucency can only be obtained by thin glazes of colour, by which means each succeeding glaze only partly covers the previous one, the character of the marble being thus produced. This is done sometimes in oil-colour in a marvellous manner, but even the best of oil-painting in marble cannot stand the comparison of water-colour, and it is only by comparison that any accurate judgment can be formed of any work. The production of marbles in water-colour has a depth, softness, and stoniness that defies oil-painting, and in some cases will defy detection unless by an expert of marbles. It may be that first of all the materials employed are more in keeping with the real material, as no oil enters into the composition of real marble, and by using the medium of water we thus start better, but the real secret is that by using water as a medium the colours take an entirely different effect. In painting in water-colour greys of any tint or strength can be obtained suitable for the production of a marble of greyish ground, by pure white, tinted as required, being applied of different thicknesses of colour, all the modulations of tone being obtained by the difference in the thickness of the colour applied."

Varnishing Japan Work.

Varnishing is the last and the finishing process in japanning. It consists in (1) applying, and (2) polishing the outer coats of varnish, which are equally necessary whether the plain japan ground be painted on or not. This is best done in a general way with common seed-lac varnish, except on those occasions where other methods have been shown to be more expedient, and the same reasons, which decide as to the propriety of using the different varnishes as regards the colours of the ground, hold equally with those of the painting, for where brightness is a material point and a tinge of yellow would injure it, seed-lac must give way to the whiter resins; but where hardness and tenacity are essential it must be adhered to, and where both are necessary a mixed varnish must be used. This mixed varnish should be made from the picked seed-lac as directed in the case of the white japan grounds. The common seed-lac varnish may be made thus: Take 11/2 lb. of seed-lac and wash it well in several waters, then dry it and powder it coarsely and put it with a gallon of methylated spirits into a Bohemian glass flask so that it be not more than two-thirds full. Shake the mixture well together and place the flask in a gentle heat till the seed-lac appears to be dissolved, the shaking being in the meantime repeated as often as may be convenient; then pour off all the clear and strain the remainder through a coarse cloth. The varnish so prepared must be kept for use in a well-corked glass vessel. The whiter seed-lac varnishes are used in the same manner as the common, except as regards the substances used in polishing, which, where a pure white or the greater clearness or purity of other pigments is in question, should be itself white, while the browner sorts of polishing dust, as being cheaper and doing their business with greater dispatch, may be used in other cases. The pieces of work to be varnished should be placed near the fire or in a warm room and made perfectly dry, and then the varnish may be applied with a flat camel-hair brush made for the purpose. This must be done very rapidly, but with great care; the same place should not be passed twice over in laying on one coat if it can possibly be avoided. The best way of proceeding is to begin in the middle and pass the brush to one end, then with another stroke from the middle pass it to the other end, taking care that before each stroke the brush be well supplied with varnish; when one coat is dry another must be laid over it in like manner, and this must be continued five or six times. If on trial there be not a sufficient thickness of varnish to bear the polish without laying bare the painting or ground colour underneath more varnish must be applied. When a sufficient number of coats of varnish is so applied the work is fit to be polished, which must be done in common work by rubbing it with a piece of cloth or felt dipped in tripoli or finely ground pumice-stone. But towards the end of the rubbing a little oil of any kind must be used with the powder, and when the work appears sufficiently bright and glossy it should be well rubbed with the oil alone to clean it from the powder and to give it a still greater lustre. In the case of white grounds, instead of the tripoli, fine putty or whiting should be used, but they should be washed over to prevent the danger of damaging the work from any sand or any other gritty matter that may happen to be mixed with them. It greatly improves all kinds of japan work to harden the varnish by means of heat, which, in every degree that can be applied short of what would burn or calcine the matter, tends to give it a firm and strong texture where metals form the body; therefore a very hot stove may be used, and the stoving may be continued for a considerable time, especially if the heat be gradually increased. But where wood or papier-mâché is in question, heat must be applied with great caution.