Sunday, January 27, 2008

Painting In Action

When asked what I find to be the hardest part of chairmaking, my reply is quick, the painting. It seems simple and the instructions and few articles on it confirm that it should be, but getting a finish deserving of the time invested in a chair can be a trying experience.

My goal in painting a chair is to unify the design and enhance the look and feel of the wood. This means that the finish should be thin, yet cover. Most instruction on using milk paint is like a road map, easy to follow, as long as all goes well. I have found there to be a few unmentioned potholes along the way.

I have posted earlier on how I mix, filter and apply milk paint. I build up multiple thin coats over a well prepared surface. I have made a minute long video of painting a coat of black over red. First the chair is painted fully barn red, as though it will be a red chair. After a full nights drying time, I paint on the black. As you see in the video, the black paint is just thick enough to barely cover, there is plenty of reddishness peeking through.

The point of the video is to show the importance of working systematically back into the painted area, keeping a wet "live" edge. The milk paint has two characteristics that can cause trouble. First, the paint dries very quickly and working back into a semidry area will build up an excess of paint and even shift the color leaving harsh lap marks. Second, the wet paint can dissolve the previous coats if allowed to soak in and then brushed over again, making a mushy mess and possibly creating adhesion issue.

I know that watching someone paint sounds like a joke, but anyone who's struggled to control milk paint will understand the video, and I hope find some tips. You'll notice how I always add paint to the unpainted area and then blend it quickly with the wet edge, I paint the whole chair this way, part by part. It is vital to spread the paint thinly and to keep moving and avoiding working back into the drier areas. Milk paint is a one way street, you gotta just keep moving on.

To complete the finish, I follow this coat with another just like it before burnishing and oiling the chair.

I will be taking a short break from the shop and look forward to returning next week.


Anonymous said...

Pete, thanks for the tips on using milk paint . . . I'm interested in what you mean by "burnishing" and what type of oil you use on your chairs. Will you have a later post on this?

Herman Veenendaal said...

Nice work Peter. I often stain areas that will receive wear like the handholds and the sides of armposts, prior to painting. After the last coat of paint I have also brushed NGR stain over that and then finished with a coat of oil. I just posted a picture of my comb back arm chair knuckle on my blog and you can see the effect of the stain. The colours are deep windsor green over barn red. I use paint by Real Milk Paint. I like their deep windsor green best.


Peter Galbert said...

I already posted on the oil mix. Look for a post called Milk Paint pt. 3 or just search "oil" or "varnish". I also describe the burnishing in that post

Anonymous said...

From a strictly non-chairmaker point of view, watching these little videos was mesmerizing. Nice dog barks in the back ground of the twine one are nice, too.
The head of design here at work used to work at the Bard Graduate Center in NYC and thought I should send you this link: