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The Complete Stenciling Handbook

Introduction to Chapter 1: Before You Start

In its most basic form, a stencil is a very simple tool: a template that allows a precise shape to be easily painted on a surface and the exact pattern to be repeated wherever and as often as you wish. Templates made of tin, leather, paper and other materials have long been used by people all over the world to create painted decoration. For hundreds of years, the methods employed by stencilers changed very little -- one would apply a small amount of paint through the opening in a template, stipple it out evenly, lift the template and move on.

Twentieth-century technology changed many things, and sooner or later, it was bound to affect even the humbler crafts, such as decorative painting. True, painters still climb ladders, dip their brushes into cans of paint and wipe stained hands on their overalls, but they have a dizzying array of specialty materials and tools from which to choose. It doesn't matter that few of these products were developed specifically for stenciling; like most creative people, stencilers are always on the lookout for new ideas to adapt to their own uses.

Although this project began as an updated revision of my book Stencilling: A Harrowsmith Guide, I soon realized that the whole field of stenciling has changed so much that a mere revision wasn't going to be enough. So I decided, instead, to start from scratch and adopt more of a textbook approach to the subject. This would allow me to include not just the nitty-gritty of how to use a stencil but also enough information on materials and related issues to make this a useful reference book and sourcebook. I have tried to organize the subject matter so that both beginner and expert can find what they need without having to sift through sections which may not be relevant to them at the time.

The Complete Stenciling Handbook is not the place to look for creative inspiration in the form of finished rooms and projects. Rather, it is meant to be a source of methods that can be applied wherever inspiration leads. There are bound to be some new materials I have overlooked and some traditional methods I have missed, and for that, I apologize. The range of topics here was already large enough that by the time I started working on the final chapters, I had trouble remembering what I had covered in the initial ones. We finally had to draw that line in the sand and finish the book.

For all the topics touched on that are not directly concerned with stenciling itself, my comments are necessarily abbreviated and should be considered more of a nudge in the right direction than a comprehensive treatment. For more information on these topics, please see Further Reading.

If you find this chapter hard to wade through, skim over it, picking out whatever information you need for the time being, and jump right into the good stuff by grabbing your paints and trying out some of the methods described in subsequent chapters. Just remember that the information is here whenever you need it as a reference.


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Stencilling on a Grand Scale

Stencilling on a Grand Scale

Using Simple Stencils to Create Visual Magic
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