“A pounce is used for tracing designs on scenery.  It is made by first drawing the design on paper of a reasonable weight.  The design in then “pricked” with a pounce wheel or with a pin mounted on a short stick.  The backside of the pounce paper is sanded lightly with sandpaper to remove the brr from the holes.  Then rubbing with a pounce bag, an impression of the design in made on the scene.  Note that the design is drawn once by hand so that the pounce method results in great economy of time.  The repeat pattern has a “register” mark to fit the spacing which has been laid out on the scene.  When the entire pounce process is completed, the scene is ready for painting.”

Excerpt from Bradford Ashworth’s “Notes on Scene Painting” (1952, page 30)

My professional note: I had pounce bags.  They create dust, you inhale it, your hands are covered with charcoal dust, and there is a fine layer of grey everywhere.  About twenty years ago, I started a new process that saved time, energy, grime, and money.  I trace the pounce outline with a piece of jumbo charcoal, then, with a paper towel or rag, I wipe it off of the surface.  Wiping it off of the surface prevents the spread of airborne particles and surface contaminants.

Using jumbo charcoal to trace the pattern and transfer the image is MUCH faster than a pounce bag from a simple time standpoint.  The pattern is also transferred directly to the surface without any of the charcoal dust leaking through and spreading on the canvas.  Quick, easy, fast and far less messy.

Below is an example of a pounce pattern that remained visible after 90 years.  It is from the Fort Scott Scottish Rite scenery collection, ca, 1924.



Medium for Binding Distemper Colors

This is an earlier take from my previous post that noted Atkinson’s directions for scene painters in 1916.   F. Lloyds gives instruction to make the binding for dry pigment in 1875.  Below is an excerpt from his “Practical Guide to Scene Painting and Painting in Distemper” on page 19.

“Size is sold in firkins or by weight.  That called best double is to be preferred, and when melted, must be mixed with water in the proportion of one pint size to four pints water, to make what is called working size.  Another called, strong size, for sizing and priming a cloth or any piece covered with canvas, may be made by dropping the size exactly as it comes from the shop, into a kettle in which there is just sufficient water to prevent the size from adhering to the bottom of the kettle.  The size is ready for using as soon as it is completely melted, without having been allowed to boil.  Use is frequently made of what is called half-and-half size, a mixture of working size and strong size in equal quantities.”

I have found the best hide glue available from Bjorn Industries in North Carolina.  Working closely with their chemist to get the perfect version – HC315.  In the past I have mixed my own versions with products labelled rabbit skin glue, hide glue, and technical gelatin.  The biggest thing is to heat it up in water over very low and indirect heat.  The expensive glue pot is not always an option.  I have used a double-boiler (not the same one I use for melting chocolate!) and a crock pot (not the same one I use for cooking).  My personal favorite for small projects is the mini crockpots as you can create very small amounts of size glue each day.  The best experience that I have has is mixing ONLY the amount of size that I will use for one day and then disposing of it.  If you need to keep it for an extended period of time, store it is glass containers, do NOT cap, and ideally refrigerate it.  I use those industrial size pickle jars and cover with cheesecloth.  In these conditions, size can last for weeks.  I try not to add any preservative to extend the shelf life as I really believe that counteracts with the strength of adhesive properties.  Putting in metal or plastic has a tendency to turn your size into a science experiment.

Below is the crystallized hide glue that I purchase from Bjorn.  You can immediately tell the strength based on the translucent quality of each grain.  Weak version appear very opaque and dull.  Good versions are translucent and shiny.