Brush Technique & First Coat of Paint

by | Jan 31, 2016 | 0 comments

I’ve spent the last two weeks traveling. First, I spent a week up in Jonesborough, TN with my mentor Curtis Buchanan, working on a birdcage barstool and refining our techniques for reaming bent posts. Or more importantly, eating Marilyn’s good food and getting a gardening lesson from Curtis.

This week I’ve been in Asheville helping Warren-Wilson College’s woodshop students assemble some Fan Backs.  On Tuesday I got to eat dinner with Claire Minahan (maker of the world’s prettiest travishers) and talk about dancing, snow-boarding and heat-treating. What fun!

Ok, back to milk paint:

The first coat of paint has Extra-Bond in it to increase adhesion (mix according to the label). I use a good quality 1 1/2“ sash brush with synthetic bristles.  A good quality brush has tapered bristles, the ends of which have been frayed to hold more paint.


Having the right amount of paint in the brush is one of the keys to a good paint job.  Too much paint on the brush and the paint will sag and drip, then dry into a crusty layer that flakes off at the touch. Too little paint on the brush is a safer option, but this makes you hit the surface of the chair harder with the brush bristles; on a wash-coat this will cause the fresh paint to mix with the previous ‘dry’ coat, causing the colors to blend into a muddy mess.  A barrier coat of shellac may prevent this, but I’ve never tried it.


To prevent splatter and mixing of paint layers, my goal is to touch the chair as gently as possible with only the very tips of the bristles, like this…


…not like this. On every part save the turnings, I paint parallel with the grain and leave the longest possible brush strokes.  I can paint any direction necessary to get the paint onto the surface, but my last strokes are parallel with the grain and as long as possible.


If you drag the bristles off a corner and your brush is at all wet, you’ll get runs.  To fix, unload the paint in the brush somewhere else on the chair, then come back and fix it with your now dryish brush. My final strokes on any give spot are done with the brush fairly dry, leaving a nice surface.


Milk paint settles, so keep it stirred every few minutes.


Oops, I missed a worm hole.


No problem, just fill it with putty and paint right over it (no waiting required).


I leave the bottoms of my chairs unpainted. To cut around the bottom cleanly, hold your brush like this…


…not like this.


Painting the underside of the bow.


I paint the oak spindles diagonally to work the paint into the pores, then smooth the paint parellel with the grain using the side of the brush (like this).


Dern, I got splatter on the seat. If it dries, it will leave a ghastly bump of hard paint.


A stroke across the drip with the brush semi-dry will prevent this.

You need to load the brush with more paint in order to paint the seat.  Here, the side of the brush left a ridge of wet paint.  Keep working the paint….


…until it looks like this. Once you’ve painted the entire chair, wash your brush to get the adhesion additive out and wait three hours for the coat to dry.


John Dee

 A couple weeks ago, John Dee Holeman played in the shop.

Shop Party

His wife Joan organized a fish fry and we all danced. We had a ball!


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