Monday, September 8, 2014


I came across an oil cloth floor in Franklin, Tn while visiting an historical site. Here's a link to the previous post.
Today's post I'd like to build on that knowledge a bit with the tidbits below:

Floorcloth. There are several kinds of floorcloth. Formerly the name was confined to painted canvas, which is now called oilcloth; but the more recently introduced linoleum and other fabrics in which ground cork bulks largely are now extensively used for covering floors.

Oilcloth.—The basis of oilcloth is a coarse canvas generally made of jute, but it is stronger when made of flax tow. It is woven into pieces often as long as 150 yards and as wide as 8 yards. The first step is to fix a piece of this, say 75 feet in length by 24 feet in width, upon an upright frame provided with screws by means of which the canvas can be uniformly stretched. Stages or platforms are placed at convenient heights to enable the workmen to cover the canvas. Before paint is applied the canvas receives a coating of size, the chief object of which is to prevent injury to the cloth by acid products arising from the oxidation of the linseed-oil with which the paint is made up. When the size is thoroughly dry and pumiced, a layer or coating of paint is put on with steel trowels like those used by plasterers. Yellow ochre is much used for this thick coating, which if unaided by artificial heat sometimes takes fourteen days to dry. A second coat is applied in the same manner to finish the back, but the face receives five or six trowel coats, the surface being once or twice pumiced between the coats. The wearing surface receives a coat of paint with a brush if some other colour than that of the last trowel coat is wanted for the ground shade. In the case of cheap oilcloths, the coats of paint, instead of being applied by trowels, are put on by a .roller machine. A man keeps pouring the prepared paint out of a bucket on the moving canvas, and a long blunt knife-blade, almost touching its surface, regulates the thickness of the coat of paint. When made by this method, the oilcloth receives nine coats.

In printing, wood blocks are chiefly used, a separate one being required for each colour of the pattern. These are about 18 inches square, and the face is commonly made of pear-wood, with a pattern cut out by steel tools. There is an ingenious way of producing patterns on wood blocks by heated iron punches. Sometimes the raised portions of these printing-blocks consist of type-metal or brass.

Calico-printing will give an idea of how the impressions from several blocks complete a pattern. Beside the printers there is a table upon which are placed the colour-pads. Another table, padded with felt or flannel, supports the floorcloth, each pattern block, charged with colour, being applied by means of a small screw-press. A machine is in use for printing floorcloth which to a certain extent imitates hand-printing. The blocks which form the pattern are depressed by cams carried on shafts. Roller machines are not applicable to this kind of printing, because the paint would ' run' on a revolv-( ing surface. The durability of oilcloth depends' very much on the length of time given for the paint to harden, and also upon its quality.
Source: Chambers' Encyclopedia ©1893

Touching Up Household Articles.
These are a hundred and one little things about a house that may be improved in appearance by a slight rub over with varnish. The furniture, in most cases, is oiled and polished. The stair-cloth and hall or kitchen oil-cloth flooring may be varnished over at night and be dry for use the following day, but the knowledge of just how such work is to be done prevents many from attempting it. Directions for varnishing many household articles have already been given, but there is yet opportunity for going into more minute details.

Varnishing Floor Oil-Cloth.
The varnish best suited for a floor-cloth is known in the
trade as "No. 1 Furniture." It dries hard and quickly,
and is not so readily removed by the repeated washings
of soap and water. This varnish should cost about $2.00
per gallon, and it may be kept bottled so that at intervals
the cloth may receive a coating and thus be kept bright
and clean. It is hardly necessary to explain that before 6* (129)
varnishing, the oil-cloth must be washed clean. It is better to use no soap in washing or at least but a little, because strong soap will remove the coloring.

The figures in a floor-cloth may be brightened up by the stencil process if need be, and to do this take a pioco of thin paper and copy the figure originally on the cloth, then lay the pattern thus obtained upon some thick papor and cut it out (see page 59 for directions about making stencils). After the new paint has been put on, and this will probably not be necessary upon every square, tho varnishing will complete operations.
Stair-cloths may have the centre stripe, where most worn, painted with a plain color, say dark brown, leaving the original edge-stripe, and a very nice job be made of it. See chapter on Mixing Colors for method of preparing paint for this purpose.
Source: Everybody's Paint Book ©1884

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