1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Japanning
JAPANNING, the art of coating surfaces of metal, wood, &c., with a variety of varnishes, which are dried and hardened on in stoves or hot chambers. These drying processes constitute the main distinguishing features of the art. The trade owes its name to the fact that it is an imitation of the famous lacquering of Japan (see Japan: Art), which, however, is prepared with entirely different materials and processes, and is in all respects much more brilliant, durable and beautiful than any ordinary japan work. Japanning is done in clear transparent varnishes, in black and in body colours; but black japan is the most characteristic and common style of work. The varnish for black japan consists essentially of pure natural asphaltum with a proportion of gum animé dissolved in linseed oil and thinned with turpentine. In thin layers such a japan has a rich dark brown colour; it only shows a brilliant black in thicker coatings. For fine work, which has to be smoothed and polished, several coats of black are applied in succession, each being separately dried in the stove at a heat which may rise to about 300° F. Body colours consist of a basis of transparent varnish mixed with the special mineral paints of the desired colours or with bronze powders. The transparent varnish used by japanners is a copal varnish which contains less drying oil and more turpentine than is contained in ordinary painters’ oil varnish. Japanning produces a brilliant polished surface which is much more durable and less easily affected by heat, moisture or other influences than any ordinary painted and varnished work. It may be regarded as a process intermediate between ordinary painting and enamelling. It is very extensively applied in the finishing of ordinary iron-mongery goods and domestic iron-work, deed boxes, clock dials and papier-mâché articles. The process is also applied to blocks of slate for making imitation of black and other marbles for chimneypieces, &c., and in a modified form is employed for preparing enamelled, japan or patent leather.