Three water-based paints. On the underside is latex; on the left is General Finishes (fake) milk paint (acrylic); on the best is precise milk paint.

A number of weeks again, I posted a image on Instagram of my using a 4-in. roller to paint a instrument chest. From among the feedback and direct messages I bought, you’d assume I’d knocked somebody’s ice cream to the bottom or kicked their canine. But I stand by my roller use. Below is what I discovered from a skilled painter, mixed with my very own expertise, about painting furnishings.


First, purchase good brushes and care for them; they’ll final for years. (I’ve used my trusty 2-in. angled Purdy for 20 years on each partitions and furnishings.) I preserve a provide of 1/4-in. and three/16-in. nap rollers readily available in 2-in. and 4-in. sizes (and the roller frames, in fact), in addition to small paint trays. (I don’t like foam rollers; I discover they will introduce air bubbles). And you’ll want sandpaper or a tremendous (or extrafine) sanding sponge; I choose a sponge.


If I’m using latex or acrylic paint, I’ll typically go over a construct’s present surfaces to search for dings. If I can’t steam them out, I’ll fill them with Durham’s rock-hard water putty. A small scoop in a Dixie cup blended with a little water to attain the consistency of creamy peanut butter, and it’s good to go. (You can’t beat it for worth, and I’ve but to have it shrink out.) I press it into the dent (or knot gap) with an previous palette knife, let it dry for a minute or so, then use the facet of the blade to take away any extra and degree it. After the patch is dry, sand it clean. With milk paint, I fill dents provided that I’m going to be build up the paint for a near-opaque end (I don’t need the filler to present).

If there are any doorways, lids, locks—something with {hardware}—take away the {hardware}. Then tape off any edges of what is going to stay unpainted. Try not to be sloppy; tape isn’t a 100% assure that you just’ll keep away from bleed.

As with any end, I break all of the sharp edges earlier than making use of paint, and both vacuum or wipe off the sawdust. (I’m assuming the panels are already end planed or end sanded. If I didn’t aircraft, I sand to 180 grit when painting.)

I don’t sometimes use a primer except I’ve stuffed a lot of knot holes or dings on the present surfaces. It doesn’t harm to use one, in fact, however I discover it simpler in most instances to merely depend on a further paint coat; that means there are fewer brushes to clear. If I’m painting a notably resinous wooden, nonetheless, I’ll spray or brush on a skinny coat of shellac to seal it earlier than painting.

And lastly, if you happen to’re using milk paint, prep a take a look at board of the identical species as your venture, and finish-sand or aircraft it simply as if it have been a part of your construct. After all of your coats are dry you’ll doubtless need to both burnish the paint or add a topcoat—however you don’t need to do something with out testing it first.

furniture pieces with masking tape for painting
It can take a while to tape off all edges contiguous to the surfaces to be painted, however taping takes much less time than a) being cautious to not spill over and/or b) cleansing up oopsies afterward.

Kinds of paint

I take advantage of three sorts of paint on furnishings (nicely, 4 … however the fourth is linseed oil paint, and I take advantage of it however not often).

1. Latex, if I’m in a hurry or it’s Sunday. (My native ironmongery shop, open on Sundays, carries Benjamin Moore. If I would like something aside from latex, I’ve to plan forward.)

2. General Finishes (fake) milk paint. I like this paint; it goes on just about like latex however has much less sheen than even the flattest latex. And in contrast to latex, it permits a trace of the wooden grain to present by way of (with one or two coats). It’s a 42-mile spherical journey for me to decide this up, so I normally order it on-line and await supply.

3. Actual milk paint. This is my favourite paint end for furnishings (and particularly instrument chests). After it’s fully dry, it’s extremely hard-wearing, and I like its dead-flat, nearly chalky look (but it surely additionally seems to be good with an oil or different topcoat, which darkens the dried paint and provides it a good glow). But my favourite milk paint isn’t obtainable at any retail places in my city (the closest brick-and-mortar retail vendor is 100 miles away), so I’ve to plan forward and order it. And in contrast to latex or the fake milk paint, it has to be blended, and has a brief shelf life as soon as water has been added. Plus it sometimes takes extra coats, and is a bit tougher to apply than the opposite two. So for fee work, there’s an upcharge. (If you need to study to apply this end from a milk paint professional, I like to recommend Peter Galbert’s videos.)


First, break the venture into sections in your head. For instance on a Dutch instrument chest, I paint panel by panel, doing any cutting-in and painting edges with a brush. If I’m using latex or acrylic paint, I then use a roller to apply it to any giant, flat surfaces. With milk paint, nonetheless, I all the time use a brush in the route of the grain. It dries shortly, and I like seeing the comb marks in milk paint (like jack aircraft scallops on the underside of a tabletop or slight variations in dovetails, these brush marks say “handmade” t0 me).  Latex and acrylic have a lengthy sufficient drying time that they lay out flat, brush or no—so I’d as nicely use a roller; it’s sooner. I do one panel at a time in order that I can all the time preserve a moist edge; that helps to keep away from lap marks in the dried paint.

applying acrylic paint with roller
Here, I’m making use of fake milk paint (acrylic) with a roller. You can see a few bubbles proper after rolling, however they’ll lay out flat earlier than this paint dries. And sure, I roll proper over the nails. The heads will present by way of the paint, which is able to finally put on off them.

And I all the time preserve my brush in my left hand whereas using the roller with my proper. That means, if the roller leaves a glop of paint on an adjoining edge (or a drip), I can shortly brush it away. I attempt to catch any such errors whereas the paint is moist; it’s a lot simpler than sanding them away later.

Speaking of sanding, after the primary coat dries totally, you’ll nearly definitely have to sand—notably with water-based paints—whether or not or not you will have ugly drips or edges. I don’t hassle elevating the grain and sanding again earlier than painting. The few instances I’ve carried out so, I nonetheless had to sand after the primary coat, so why hassle? I take advantage of a superfine sanding sponge and go over each floor simply sufficient to clean it with out chopping by way of the paint. And if I’m sanding milk paint, I put on gloves and normally a masks. It powders up greater than latex or acrylic (or at the very least my coats do; I combine it pretty thick), and the mud turns my palms and mucus to no matter coloration I’ve painted (rainbow snot!). I all the time use a vacuum on the milk-paint mud.

milk paint sanding dust
Milk paint produces extra sanding mud in my expertise than latex or acrylic paint. Keep a vacuum useful to suck it up.

Now repeat. And you would possibly even have to do a third coat to get the protection you need. Or you may layer colours then misery high-wear areas for fast age (or simply wait a 12 months or three for the undercoat to begin exhibiting in locations). You doubtless gained’t have to sand the second coat of latex or acrylic, however do sand the milk paint between coats (I take advantage of a tremendous sanding sponge).

Once latex paint is dry, you’re carried out. I don’t put topcoats on the acrylic, both, so as soon as it’s dry, I’m carried out. General Finishes does promote a topcoat that the corporate says will make the paint put on tougher and alter the sheen (if I needed shiny, I’d in all probability have used a semi-gloss or gloss latex in the primary place). But for milk paint, I like to recommend burnishing the floor with 1,200-grit sandpaper or a folded brown paper bag. This will knock off any bumpy mineral deposits and preserve them from coming off later in your palms or garments. You may apply a topcoat of oil, wax, oil and wax, varnish and oil, and burnish that to give the floor a heat glow and make it feel and appear much less chalky. (I just like the chalky look.)

As I’ve written earlier than, I don’t perceive why paint typically will get a unhealthy rap as of late. Not solely is it an traditionally correct therapy in some instances, it’s a good way to costume up and defend wooden – notably on objects that see a lot of wear and tear, corresponding to instrument chests.  I additionally prefer it for brightening up the inside backs of cupboards (and overlaying up the secondary wooden I sometimes use there).

A Stunning Milk-Paint Finish

Elia Bizzarri exhibits how to layer black milk paint over purple to create a wealthy, layered look on his Windsor chairs.

Traditional Crackle Finish

A crackled milk paint end can add daring coloration and texture to any piece.

Three Steps to a Flawless Painted Finish

Pro finisher Paul Snyder explains how to put together, prime, and apply paint.

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