How Paint Was Made in 1772
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How Paint Was Made in 1772

How red ochre paint was made in 1772 that was originally used to paint my old house. The pigment used was fired clay mixed with milk and oxblood.

When my old house was first built (like most houses in 1772) it wasn’t painted with traditional paint as we know it today. Shortly after its construction, it was covered with a type of paint called “Red Ochre.” This type of paint was made from clay containing iron oxide which imparted the red coloration. Whether it was naturally red or fired to obtain the red coloration is a question. Although there are no records available as to its origin historically they had a brickyard just up the street capable of performing this task. How we know that the house was originally painted with red ochre is because there is a small patch of this paint behind an addition containing the kitchen that was built after the main house displaying red ochre paint.

This kind of paint was made by first digging some clay out of the ground. Obviously if there was a brickyard just up the street there had to be a supply of clay. The clay was put into a large wooden tub where it was stirred with a wooden paddle until it was all dissolved into the water. After it was dissolved it was left to stand for a few minutes to allow the sand grains to settle out then the remainder was decanted into another tub where it was allowed to further settle out leaving most of the clay at the bottom of the tub in a mass. This clay was removed from the tub after pouring the water off. At this point the clay was used to make “yellow ochre.” This was the result of using the clay to make paint without firing.

The best evidence that they used red ochre instead of yellow is the remains of red ochre on the small part of the siding exposed inside the addition. The clay used in red ochre is fired clay that is burned at just a high enough temperature to drive off some of the water and to turn the clay red. The fired clay was then ground in a mortar and pestle. This was usually a job reserved for children since in those days they had no child labor laws. After the clay was ground it was then mixed with some sort of fluid like oil or most probably in the case of my old house a mixture of milk and blood to which was added the pulverized clay that formed the paint. The resulting paint was then applied to the house. Because the human race is inherently lazy the paint was probably made in small lots on an as needed basis.

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Comments (6)
Ranked #41 in History

Very interesting history of paint manufacturing during this period, John.

I find this a great trivia..

Ranked #94 in History

Very interesting topic, John. Considering the religio-spiritual history of red ochre. I wonder if those who used it believed they were "protecting" their houses?

Ranked #1 in History

Very interesting discussion.

Really very informative article

Nice share and very interesting facts on how paint was made. Good job! Voted