Sunday, March 4, 2007

Milk Paint pt.2

This is a photo of a chair that my neighbor Bob Brown bought from me a number of years ago. Bobby is a hay farmer and cuts firewood. Bobby is in his seventies and has a bad back (he needs a supportive chair) and as I help him unload our firewood, I am always fascinated by his hands. They are farmers hands, the size of a baseball mitt and rougher than anything they touch. When I set out to make a chair for him, I decided that the hands on his chair should reflect the man, so I designed it with extra large knuckles, forgoing any tight spots that his fingers couldn't reach. Every night, Bobby sits in his chair and as you can see, rubs those knuckles. There are few things that make me swell with pride like thinking of Bobby in this chair.
On to applying milk paint. In the earlier post I addressed the mixing process, so now we have a cup of premium creamy paint. Next is thinning the paint to apply it. For most solid color chairs or undercoats, this is probably a fine ratio. Before applying the paint, make sure that the wood is clean and free of oils. Milk paint dries so fast that it creates a dramatic surface tension, if the surface is contaminated, the paint bond can break. I actually heat pine seats with a heat gun (liquefying the surface sap) and rinse it with naptha (wear gloves and ventilate well). In first coat of paint on a pine seat I also use the extra bond product sold by the Milk Paint companies, following the directions on the bottle. When brushing on the paint, I am careful to always paint one part at a time and to work back into the wet edge of the paint. Milk paint dries so fast that returning to an area that has started to dry can result in having it build up (as opposed to blend in) and shift colors! The first coat will look pretty rough and soak in quickly. Later coats will go on smoother. A quick tip is that if you aren't looking at it, you aren't painting it. To paint the inside of legs or around the turnings, follow the brush will your eyes. Milk paint doesn't just flow into every little spot, you have to put it there. It's critical that you let the paint dry thoroughly in between coats, 6 hours or overnight will do. I know, it seems dry after a few minutes, but the paint is so soft still that recoating it will desolve the previous layer and cause potential adhesion issues. In between coats, you might want to check for areas of raised grain. After letting the paint harden, these areas are easily sanded. I don't burnish the chair inbetween coats, which might cause adhesion issues. Just let it harden and paint it again. More on burnishing and oiling later.

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