In our excerpt of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry,” A.-J. Roubo offers a recipe for staining wood red using a concoction made using horse dung and urine.
Here’s the recipe:
Before finishing the dyeing of wood, I believe I ought to give a least-costly method of dyeing white wood red, which is done in the following manner:
You take some horse dung, which you put in a bucket of which the bottom is pierced with many holes, and you place it above another bucket, into which falls the water from the dung, as it gradually rots. When it does not rot fast enough, you water it from time to time with some horse urine, which helps a lot and at the same time gives a red water, which not only stains the surface of the wood, but penetrates the interior 3 to 4 lines deep. In staining the wood with this dye, one must take care that all the pieces be of the same species, and about equal in density if one wishes that they be of equal color throughout. This observation is general for all water-based stains, which have no palpable thickness nor even appearance [they leave no residue or any evident change in appearance], which requires the cabinetmaker to make a choice of wood of equal color and a density as I mentioned before.
Woodworker Jonas Jensen of Mors, Denmark, is making this stain and documenting the process on his blog, Mulesaw. Follow along – but be warned, if you don’t like pictures of dung you are not going to like the instructions.
In attempting to prove that the minute subdivision of labor has an evil tendency, I am aware that I shall meet with few who will admit the evil to be so extensive as I shall endeavor to point out; and it is very probable I shall be written down by some of the many able correspondents of the Mechanics’ Magazine.
But as the following facts are the results of long observation and experience among the working classes, I have resolved to publish them anonymously, in the hope that they will meet the eye of some who may be benefited by them; and should they be the means of convincing even one, I shall consider myself happy in having brought the subject into notice. I have myself served an apprenticeship to a mechanical profession, and had then ample opportunities of observing the causes that tend to bring about the moral degradation of some of the working classes.
That the division of labor produces a cheaper article, and is a great source of national wealth, I readily admit. I believe were it not for this very cause, Britain would ere this have lost her political status among the nations. Groaning under a load of taxation, which no other nation on earth could have borne, we have been driven into an artificial state of society, and the division of labor with all its attendant evils is one of the results.
This is illustrated by the fact that we export machinery to countries where workers are obtained at half the price: and yet these countries are unsuccessful competitors in the same market with the poor tax-eaten British. Our national vanity whispers that this is owing to our superior genius; but I contend that it is our artificial mind-degrading system of dividing labor, which by making individuals do only one part of a thing; with mechanical, or rather slight-of-hand, rapidity, enables us to produce a whole as cheap as our foreign brethren. (more…)