Sunday, November 24, 2013

More Teaching, More Learning

I've had a couple of busy weeks here with lots of folks in the shop. First, I had the pleasure of finally meeting Jameel Abraham, whom I've been working with long distance all year to get the Drawsharp completed.

Here is Jameel carving the front of his seat.
He brought along his pal Louis to join in the fun.
Here they are with their chairs.
When I was starting to make chairs in my NYC shop that I shared with a guitar maker, I used to get visits from Eddie Boros who was an amazing untrained sculptor. I featured his work in this post and tell the story of him calling me a fence builder compared to the guitar maker. All week long, as I guided Jameel through his first chair, I couldn't get Eddies raspy voice out of my head. If you don't know what I am talking about, look at what Jameel can do.

Luckily, chairmaking is very different from Oud making and I think Jameel picked up a thing or two.
When I had a little down time, I continued my quest to master the Real Milk paint.

A little background...I stopped using the Old Fashioned Milk paint because of the issues that I, and lots of others ran into with white powdery flecks, adhesion and color shifting. It's a fine product, but to get the consistent results that I want easily takes some effort, and even then, can be elusive.
I think that I have finally latched onto a way to make the results of the Real Milk paint product as good as the Old Fashioned at its best, at least with the black over red finish.

I have been using a very very thin coat of blonde shellac to aid in the process and doing so, I was able to get this finish within a 6 hour period from the raw wood.

 I shot the photos from two angles so you could get a better idea of what the finish looks like in a dark or light environment.
Here is how I did it.

First of all, the best way that I've found to mix this paint is to combine the paint and some warm water in a cup and then to swirl the cup like you would an icy drink until the powder is all wet, then use a stick to mix it further. Then let it set and mix it more over a period of a couple of hours, this gives the particles a chance to absorb all the moisture they can.

In this instance, I mixed the red paint 2 parts to 3 parts water. Then I applied the red to the piece. I put it on thin, but at that mix, it covered great.

Once it dried for a couple of hours, I rubbed it lightly with a xfine mirlon pad to get any excess paint build up off. This step seems to be the key to getting the thin finish that I like,really allowing the wood texture show through. If any of the steps would benefit from a longer drying time, it would be this first one.

Then, I padded the piece with the super thin shellac. Don't let the shellac harden before the next step. This seems to do a few things. The next coat of black paint (mixed 3 to 5 H20) adheres a bit better and it keeps the black from dissolving the red and mixing in with it, which just creates a dull muddy appearance.  After an hour or two, I rubbed the piece again with the xfine mirlon pad to remove the excess paint. This step gives me the opportunity to even out the saturation of the paint. The piece had an ox blood color at this point.

Then another coat of shellac and black. One lovely benefit of this process is that the shellac allows you to see exactly what the piece will look like if you simply finished at that point. The second coat of black dried for a couple of hours and then I rubbed it to get just the look that I wanted, which doesn't take much effort and then a final coat of shellac to seal it up. After that, I rubbed out the shellac with the mirlon lightly and did a topcoat of Waterlox to finish it off.

It may sound like a lot of steps, but each one is quick and there isn't that moment of fear right before oiling that something might not look right.
With the Old Fashion Milk paint, I found that the mixing, filtering and application were the keys to getting a successful finish, but if you screwed up any one of them, then the results were compromised. With the Real Milk paint, you do want a good consistency, but the translucence of the final finish comes more from sealing in what you like with the shellac and rubbing each subsequent layer to a thickness that you want. It's much more controllable in my opinion.

I will be finishing and documenting a c arm that I have in the works, but I wanted to get the ball rolling. If you are interested, do some samples and let me know what you find, thanks!


Matthew ONeill said...


Are you using the very fine, ultra fine, or micro fine mirlon pads (red, grey, and gold respectively)?

Also, do you strain your milk paint?

Thanks for posting this, getting a good looking finish with milk paint is always very frustrating for me.

- Matt

Anonymous said...

That is beautiful finish. I'm looking forward to reading more about how you achieve it.

Peter Galbert said...

I know what you mean, it's been frustrating for lots of us, but I hope to change that. I use the grey mirlon and with the Real Milk paint, there is no need to strain, but now that I think of it, it may make the paint a bit finer, so give it a try. I don't strain it because there is no issue with the crud that I used to get.

Bruce McCrory said...

Your milk paint and shellac chair finish reminded me of a chair that we have. The real McCoy, in fact, of what your attempts appear to be. I don't think mine is milk paint based. It is tagged "Sikes Chair Company, Buffalo, NY". I will try to copy the Photobucket link here: [URL=][IMG][/IMG][/URL] I posted three images.

Bruce McCrory said...

Link does not work for me. Trying another:

That seems to work. Sorry for my clutsy-ness.

Matthew ONeill said...


Thanks for the reply.. If you're working on another post with these details, don't worry about replying here, but could you elaborate on your shellac a little? Are you using dewaxed flakes? I assume it's not zinsser's spray can shellac :D.

- Matt

Konrad said...

Could not help but notice the can of Creemore Kellerbier in the bottom corner of the 3rd photo - someone has good taste. And the 'verbotten' no-go zone - love it.


Peter Galbert said...

yep, I"m not usually a lager drinker, but it is great stuff. Louis is a Canadian and smuggled some down for us!

Patrick M. said...

Hi Peter,
Will you be including this process in your upcoming LAP book on chair making?
PS If this is a duplicate, I appologize. (My internet connection was acting up.)

Peter Galbert said...

yes, it will be in the book, but in a video on the blog soon

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Terry Kelly said...

white spots are a pain in the only remedy has been a hearty topcoat. which i'm not crazy about. ill explore this option