An Unexpected Change in Plans and Learning to Forge Ahead
This post was sponsored by The Old Fashioned Milk Paint (OFMP) Company of Groton, Massachusetts. I discovered their company in September of 2015 while searching for an American manufacturer of milk paint. I can honestly say it was love at first phone call. I began using milk paint that month and have never stopped. Milk paint was the center around which this blog was built, and as I grow and learn about natural paints, my plan is to continue to keep it as the foundation of and constant contributor to my painting experiences. In July of 2016 I was honored to accept an invitation to be an OFMP Official Brand Blogger as part of their Ambassador/Blogger Outreach Program. Although I have received OFMP products at no cost for the completion of this post’s project, all opinions and gushing admiration for all its wonderful milk paint properties are my own.
My original plan was to paint a small very old primitive dresser that I picked up at a yard sale this past spring for $10 – the same yard sale that originally caught my attention as I breezily browsed the photos of a few recently-discovered-by-me on-line yard sale advertising sites. Up until then I was sooo far behind the times and was simply reading the local newspaper’s once-a-week yard sale ads, wondering why I was seeing far less of them this past year or so. Yes, this new resource to feed a favorite hobby could be dangerous. Not needing anything and just curious what may be “out there’, of course, as my luck would have it, I came across a ’90’s style stationary bike – hmm, didn’t my husband just say he would like a simple stationary bike to use during dismal weather?? Well, we’ll just have to check it out, you know, being right here in our town and all….. So the bike was a mere $5 and perfect in its simplicity, and while my hubby was trying to fit it in my car, I came across the $10 dresser. Yup! My car welcomed that dresser with open trunk as well!
Flash forward to August, and as I was brainstorming ideas for my next post using Old Fashioned Milk Paint (OFMP), I decided I wanted to paint a piece with a real Colonial feel – a piece that not only used a popular colonial palette of mustard and black, but that was also heavily stenciled and a bit distressed. That little primitive pine dresser would be perfect to showcase my plan, but as fate would have it, I needed to first move a not-so-old beast of a cedar chest from my livingroom where I usually work in order to make room for my next project– a chest that recently came out of my Dad’s house when he moved and which still did not have a proper holding spot at our home. We don’t even know to whom it belonged, but I thought I could redesign it and find a new family to love it. So off it came to my home in the interim. Well it was my husband, the designated “lug-er” of all things heavy (this fact which of course was the prime reason for his soon-to-be-brilliance), who suggested, “Why not just paint the chest rather than swapping its location with the dresser?” which was on a different floor and all… Ha! Brilliant indeed, and so it passed that the chest would be the unexpected recipient of my Colonial plan and would offer even more surface area on which to work.
Here are a couple of photos of “the beast” with its not-so-pretty dark glaze and terribly scratched-up and stained lid.
I first removed the decorative handle hardware and was disappointed that the plate and plug into which the screws are affixed was plastic…oh boy …and sticky…sticky with an icky dark glaze that I realized had been totally painted over the entire original reddish-mahogany finish that showed through under the plates. For child safety reasons, I also removed the closure fastener on the lid so that the top could simply open and close freely with no latch constraint. After thoroughly washing the entire piece with TSP and rinsing and drying, the chest was ready to be painted. I knew I wanted to give it a bit of a worn look, and I have also been looking forward to trying OFMP’s Antique Crackle medium. Therefore I decided to forgo the use of OFMP’s Extra Bond, which, if applied to the first coat of milk paint, will act as a primer and not allow any chipping to occur through all subsequent layers of paint and medium. Ok, that means the steps would be undercoat, crackle medium, top coat, stenciling, sealing.
I do really need to train myself to work a little faster. After applying the undercoat of OFMP Pitch Black (#PitchBlack), I sat back and admired that color and for a fair amount of time seriously contemplated not continuing the plan. What’s not to love about that beautifully-silky true matte black finish? And my orphan cedar chest was already looking quite spiffy and proud of herself, truly shedding the dreadful nickname I had bestowed on her! I have to admit, it was difficult to take that leap of faith and accept that it would soon be covered up by a fresh mustard coat. (#Mustard) I found comfort in realizing there are plenty more pieces that I can leave “in the dark”.
The next step involved the application of the Antique Crackle medium. I used an old primer brush and applied a generous even coat, working in medium-length strokes and rather quickly, being careful not to allow any pooling, especially on the vertical surfaces so as to prevent running and sagging of the medium. It dried to the touch fairly quickly with a clear finish, but I waited the minimum curing time of two hours before beginning to apply the top mustard coat. My first crackle experience was 21 years ago when I was refinishing a little rocking chair for my daughter, and I have no recollection as to what method I used. I do remember the results were less than astounding, but I was proud of those little crackles that did manage to appear.
Now one of the properties of milk paint that I love is the variability in the depth of color of the finished product. However, this is really achieved because of the unique mixture stage which true powdered milk paint offers to the painter. Old Fashioned Milk Paint true milk paint is beautifully simple in its requirement of mixing OFMP’s all natural ingredients and water. Dissolvability of the powder into water is the variable which changes not only the consistency of the paint, but its ability to flow and the intensity of hue and therefore affects the amount of paint that is applied in each coat. The addition of a little more water to the mix will naturally thin the solution and lessen the amount of pigment applied for a given brushstroke. A little less water will intensify the amount of pigment and therefore hue for a given brushstroke but will thicken the solution and could cause more dragging. It may sound a little complicated, but it’s really not; what it comes down to is plain ol’ experimenting fun and what works for each painter/project requirement.
In my year-long journey of using OFMP, I have come to find the best way for me to achieve a nice flow of paint from brush to subject. When I first began, I realized I was painting too dry, and the brush would drag midway through a stroke, creating a very streaky first coat. I have read many accounts warning that the first coat of milk paint is always the “ugly” coat and not to let it discourage the painter. However, I thought there must be a better method to achieve a smoother result that extended the brush stroke with no dragging. I used to use a foam brush to achieve better coverage but soon tired of it falling apart after a larger project. I have since found that using a thick natural bristle brush works wonderfully for me.
The basic milk paint mixture recipe is one part powder to one part water then stir stir stir (and enjoy the fresh milk paint aroma!). I now know the tweaking of the amount of water to begin with then to add to obtain my desired consistency and intensity of hue after whisking with a little hand whisk, so I didn’t want to add additional water which would thin the mixture too much. Note also that the mixture will thicken slightly as work progresses so stirring every now and then is important. What works for me to achieve a great smooth flow?? Simply dipping the very tip of my paint brush into water first and then into my mixture before painting a few strokes. This adds just the amount of water leading into every stroke which allows the paint to flow beautifully with no dragging and to yield just the right amount of color intensity. So I always carry two little containers around with me when I paint: one with my mix, and one with water.
Ok, now onward to the top mustard coat. The Antique Crackle medium suggests letting the paint flow over the surface with a stroke in one direction and not brushing back over the same area. Cracks are expected to emerge almost immediately. Knowing even with my milk paint application technique outlined above that two coats are nearly always necessary, I wondered how I was going to do this in one coat. Especially since I was using a light color over the ultimate dark color, I knew the first coat would not give me the coverage I needed. Sure enough, one coat yielded too much dark showing through, although lo and behold, the crackling magic began!
I had learned that any additional water-based top coat would continue to activate the crackle medium, and I was loving the fine cracks I was seeing so was a little reluctant to paint another coat and have the lovely crackles erased for a bit. Then I remembered to forge ahead and have faith that they would return!! So for the second coat I was more liberal in the amount of paint that I applied. In other words I carefully applied a thicker coat, and I confess that I did brush backwards on the same stroke in a few areas which tends to drag the paint down to the original finish (old habits die hard!!), but for the most part things were working out pretty fine. And oh my goodness, did those gorgeous large wide crackles re-appear in all their glory with the most wonderfully random pattern!!
For the stenciling, I chose a circa 1780 floor stencil as seen in the Edward Durant House in Newton, Massachusetts. I wanted to present the feel of a continuous rectangular cloth across the top of the cedar chest and therefore chose to place the motifs side-by-side with no space in between each. The solid diamond stencil I chose for the front and sides lent a more substantial motif that visually balanced with the weight and expanse of the chest’s surface area. In addition, I liked how the elongated “S” design mimicked the “S” curves of the shell relief at the chest’s center front. This Borderman stencil (a general term for the male itinerant stencilers of the period whose individual work was not documented at the time) can be seen in the Rich Hollow Tavern of East Montpelier, Vermont, somewhere between the late 18th and early 19th centuries. As detailed in my last post, I wanted to use Old Fashioned Milk Paint to stencil again, even though milk paint has a characteristically thinner consistency. To prevent bleeding under the stencil edges, I added additional Pitch Black (#PitchBlack) powder to a small amount of my leftover black mixture until I reached a creamy paste consistency. I then picked up a dab on my small foam stenciling brush, swirled it on a paper plate, and blotted a bit on a paper towel and started swirling and pouncing over the stencil. I was a little braver than my last project (Doing = Confidence!!), and again, it just takes practice to get the feel of how much paint is necessary on the brush to yield the desired results.
Because I wanted to showcase a high level of “distress”, I welcomed the chippiness that occurred on the sides, front, and legs – not quite sure why not much happened on the top, but I’m kind of glad the beautiful circular motif held its own! I would have liked more of the diamond’s paint to have adhered, but that is the chance taken every time a chippy choice is chosen – and that is what I welcome and which leads to a piece’s total uniqueness that I love!!
I very lightly sanded this piece and then savored the last step of waxing the entire chest with another wonderful product carried by the OFMP Company: Daddy Van’s All Natural Beeswax and Lavender Furniture Polish. What a treat to use this wax for the first time and totally enjoy the process of seeing the Mustard milk paint turn a deeper shade while relaxing with lavender’s soothing aroma during this more labor-intensive step!
I hope you enjoyed seeing this Colonial transformation and that you also try your hand at using true all natural milk paint by the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company of Groton, Massachusetts. It is truly the original milk paint, the first and the best! AND a totally green product which you can feel confident in using because of its safety and simplicity. I think you’ll be hooked!! I love comments and questions, so please do not hesitate to leave a note below or contact me via my contact form.