Sunday, October 30, 2011

Antique Milk Paint Finish

These two shots show where we are headed.  I know, another story about antiquing milk paint.  Yawn, but I'll show you how I do mine and read if you want, you may pick up a couple things. 

First thing you want to do is dye or stain the whole chair.  I used an oil base stain, which honestly I wouldn't recommend because it can cause adhesion problems.  In this case it really didn't matter because I'm gonna antique it anyway, but if you were going for a better, more refined finish, it may cause problems, so better avoided.  Just pick a brown of some sort; all you're doing here is putting some color so when you rub thru, it's not a stark white.

 Then put on a base color,  Bayberry Green in this case from the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co.  For this application, the Old Fashioned works better as you can rub it to different sheens and completely off if you want.  Again, this coat doesn't have to be perfect,  it's a base color.  I should say here that in areas where there is  a lot of wear ( the seat for example, and the legs) put down some wax over the stain.  This will prevent the paint from sticking, so the wood will show after the chair is rubbed down.  Another thing is to brush on some liquid hide glue onto the wear areas.  Allow it to dry...when you paint over it the paint will crackle.  Be careful not to over brush the top coat, or the effect will be ruined.  I've never really had great luck with this effect but I recently discovered a better way.  Lay the paint on pretty thick and while it is still wet, hit it with a heat gun.  The paint will crackle right up.  I find it better because it's more realistic because the cracks are smaller and it is much more predictable. 

 In the above shot, you can see where I put the wax.  After the first coat has dried, rub down with a grey scuff pad.  Where the wax allows the paint to show thru, re-apply slightly larger so you can see the wood and the underneath paint.  I would recommend using Butchers wax in stead of a paraffin block.  The paraffin, because it is like a candle, can be moved around when rubbed and thus may end up in place you don't want.

 At this point the chair will look pretty bad but press on.  Then I put on a topcoat of Mustard.  To be honest, I wasn't really happy with the resulting color but more on that later. 

Here you can see the crackling so far.You can see the green peeking thru, and the crackling from the hide glue and heat gun.  Another thing I try to do is when I mix the paint, for antique effect anyway, is to use it right off.  Normally for a black on red refined finish, I mix it and let it sit, then strain it to get a really smooth paint.  But for older looking chairs and furniture, use it right off.  You also get more variety in the color.  My next post will go into more detail about that, but suffice it say, use the paint thick and quick.

 By not allowing the paint to sit, the clumps of paint are spread out by the brush, which allows the difference colors to come out rather than one boring monotone.

Now we get out the blowtorch!  Using great caution, I mix up some weak shellac, about a 4lb cut, and systematically paint on the shellac and light it on fire.  Do small areas at a time, like one leg, light, one stretcher, light, etc.  Caution!  The flame is not visible, so make sure it's out before moving onto the next area.  Go slow and light it when it is still wet. and do it outside and keep a fire extinguisher handy.  I keep a garden how handy too.  Again, the flame is barely visible, so BE CAREFUL!  What this does is oxidize the paint, giving it a crackled look.

 Above you see the results.  It does darken the paint, as well as giving it a tactile roughness that mimics old paint.  Next step mix up some dark wax, roofing cement, and a little dryer lint, about ten parts wax to 2 parts cement and shred up a little lint.  This mixture is is then rubbed on with a grey scotch brite and after it dries a little, rub it off with a cloth.  Try to remove as much as you can from the seat and areas that get contacted thru normal wear and tear, and leave the mixture in the nooks and crannies.  This does a really good job of mimicking years of dirt and grime, plus it hangs in the cracks of the milk paint, making them more visible. 

That about does it.  Like I said, the color isn't really what I wanted.  The Mustard didn't really cover the green like I'd wanted, they sort of blended together.  Plus, I went a little overboard with the antiquing.  The old adage is the less is more, and I think that's right.  I just wanted a chair that wasn't black on red, and showed some antiquing.  This just turned a little more then I wanted.  But the techniques are the same, just less so. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Duh, and a Moose

The other morning I was waiting with Erinn for the bus.  We were at the end of the driveway, see below,  and she said I think that's a moose over there.  And sure enough, a big bull was standing in a mowed field across the road, about a 200 ft. away.  He was close enough that we could see his breath in the cool morning.  We watched him for  about 5 min., until the bus showed up.  He watched the bus and was still there after it left, all the kids' faces pressed to the windows, the younger kids waving to him.  We used  to have a small moose that would come around quite a bit, so much so he was named Manny.  I wonder if this is Manny all grown up. 

The other day I had one of those duh moments.  Not that I have a hard time turning stretchers, but I always end up thinking there has got to be a better, or at least a more consistent way.  They sometimes come out lopsided.  I use a pattern from Drew Langsner's book a rough guide and just kind of eyeball it.  And I'm not sure why I didn't think of this, I don't know, years ago, but I cut the pattern to create a pattern that I could place directly on the turning.  This way I could see lumps and imbalances and correct them.  Such a simple fix.  Stretchers are harder, no, trickier to turn than they appear, especially the center one as it is very visible and also it tends to vibrate as it gets thinned out.  Sometimes the muse takes her time. 

In response to several inquiries regarding legs and rivings,  I am going to start selling turned legs and posts as well as rivings for spindles and such.  Around here, there is plenty of maple, as you can see below.  I usually get my hard ( a.k.a. sugar and rock ) maple from a local firewood dealer who will pick out the better logs for me.  For turnings you really don't need to be as picky as you do with the ash that is used for rivings.  I do split the pieces out by hand and rough them out to rounds.  I then let them dry for a week or two and then turn them out.  I find that the details hold better, and the legs and arm stumps have a lot less warping.  This makes them a little easier to ream and place properly. 

 Above you can see the baluster turnings for the legs and arm stumps.

 Below are more legs....from left to right are double bobbin, baluster, vase and a back post for  a side chair.  The patterns are for a Fan Back Arm Chair that can seen on my site.  I can also custom turnings.  In the second picture down you can see another baluster, a Philly front and back leg, a vase and at the bottom a bamboo leg for a rodback.  I also do stretchers, both bulge type and box stretcher.

Here you can see the rivings out of white ash.  There isn't any oak up here, but I actually prefer ash.  It finishes better and shaves just as well.

Below is the brake I use to split out ash into the rough pieces needed for spindles and such.  I carefully follow the grain so it can be shaved or steam bent.

As to the prices, here goes...

  • Legs- double bobbin, bamboo-$14
  •            baluster- $18
  • Fan Back Posts-$25
  • Fan Back arm chair posts-$30
  • Stretchers- side $9, center $10
  • Arm stumps-$12
  • Spindle stock 24" $3.50, 30" $4.00
  • Bow, arm  48" $15, 60"  $25.
I can also sell steam bent parts arms and such, not sure on the price on the bent pieces.  This info will be going onto my site soon.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Fall is here...there is a chill in the air, the leaves are turning and it's football season.  I coach a 7th and 8th grade local league, the Aroostook Football Junior Huskies.  Along with two assistants I try to teach the basics of tackle football, blocking, tackling etc.. and life lessons like teamwork and sportsmanship.

 We've had a great season so far, as we are currently 4 and 3.  Yesterday we dropped a close one to Millinocket, a team that thumped us a few weeks ago.  We practiced hard and made some adjustments and only lost by 2, 36 to 34.  The kids were happy and I couldn't be more proud of them.  I love coaching but it is a big time commitment, huge really. 

Fall is really here when the leaves start to turn.  Actually, I looked around today and I think up here they have already started to go by.   Erinn and I took a walk this afternoon and snapped a few pics. 

 These trees are the same ones I tap for maple syrup, so if you look back at those post you can see them in spring.  For whatever reason, the maples didn't really seem to turn red. 

A lot of golds and yellows but the reds are few and far in between.  I know we had a very wet summer, maybe that has something to do with it.

I find it strange that a tree can turn yellow and drop all it's leaves,  and another tree a short distance away is still green.  If anyone out there knows why, I'd love to hear.

It really is amazing to see the leaves turn their beautiful colors.

Erinn took this shot, looks cool out of focus I think.

And what would fall be without pumpkins!  Daddy's Little Pumpkins, that is...