Wood News Online Toshio Odate Tage Frid Highland Hardware Storefront
Tools For Woodworking Home Page Welcome to Highland Hardware your source for woodworking tools View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Opportunities at Highland Hardware

Ask the Staff

Question: I have a kitchen table and chairs that have the original stain and finish on them, and I would like to give them a worn, distressed look. A friend suggested I use milk paint. Is such a product suitable for furniture and functional pieces? How do I create a distressed appearance?

Answer: Prior to about the mid-1800s, paint was not commercially available. Therefore, most people mixed up their own paint out of whatever materials were readily available. One of the most popular formulas was milk paint, a durable and long-lasting finish made up of milk protein, lime and natural pigments.

Today, the milk paint formulation has been reproduced in an easy-to-use, dry powder mix. Our Old-Fashioned Milk Paint is an ideal product for antique and reproduction furniture and woodwork, or even for painting the entire house. It is available in 16 rich, earth-tone colors that can also be inter-mixed, and has a unique texture that cannot be duplicated with today's commercial paints.

Milk Paint needs a porous surface to adhere to, so we recommend using Extra-Bond on anything other than bare wood. On previously finished surfaces and non-porous surfaces such as hardwoods with tight, closed grain, Extra-Bond in your first coat of paint will greatly help adhesion.

For most jobs use a one-to-one ratio of water to paint powder. Add the paint powder to the water, mixing as you pour until you've achieved the desired consistency. Two coats of a creamy consistency will yield a solid, opaque coating. To make a wiping stain or wash that allows the wood grain to show through, add more water for a thinner consistency. Milk paint can be applied using a brush, roller or spray equipment, or a rag and sponge can be used to create special textures and effects on walls and other surfaces.

To create a distressed appearance, first apply a base color then paint over it with another color. Once the top coat is dry, use steel wool, a Scotch-Brite pad or sandpaper to scour areas where wear would most naturally occur. You can also hit or rub the surface with a hammer, chain, keys, etc., to create dents and simulate normal long-term damage. You can even create wormholes by heating a nail or other pointed tool until it's red hot, and using pliers to hold it, sinking it in slightly into the wood with a hammer. Keep your holes small and close together, and they'll appear more realistic. Be sure to practice first on a piece of scrap wood to get a feel for the different effects you can achieve. For more antiquing techniques, Jeff Jewitt's Great Wood Finishes (201260), complete with color photos, is a great resource.

Furniture and woodwork painted with milk paint should be top-coated with a clear finish for durability. Otherwise, it will develop white water spots if subjected to spills or if washed or wiped with water or other liquids. Ceramithane water-based acrylic-urethane finish provides a tough, stain-resistant coating. In addition to satin and gloss sheens, it is available in a matte flat, making it an ideal choice for retaining the traditional flat finish of milk paint.

Visit Highland Hardware to Subscribe to Our Newsletter   

Copyright © 2005 Highland Hardware, Inc.

Highland Hardware | 1045 N. Highland Avenue, NE | Atlanta | GA | 30306 | 404.872.4466