Milk Paint is Still Good Today
Milk paint is the best paint to use on bed headboards and footboards.
E-mail This Page to Your Friendsx
A link to %this page% was e-mailed
By Matt Fox
You have seen us finish new furniture before on HGTV's Room by Room, but you haven't seen us use the paint product that is best for this bed headboard and footboard.
Milk paint. That's right--milk paint. My partner Shari Hiller and I have used practically every type of paint available on the market, but I must confess I had never used milk paint before. Yet I have seen pieces of furniture that have been finished with the paint, and it is really beautiful.
The early American colonists and shakers used milk paint to paint not only their furnishings but also their interior walls and woodwork as well. The formula for milk paint dates back to ancient Egypt. In America, earlier settlers had no local paint stores in which to purchase their paint. They had to make it by using a combination of milk protein, quicklime and earth pigments. Well, thankfully for us, it's a lot easier. Practically everything you need comes in a small paper bag. But, the fun part is that you still have to mix it with water yourself, so in my book we're making paint. Now don't be concerned; this paint is not toxic or harmful to the environment.
Well, enough of the background--Let's make some paint!
The paint comes in three sizes of bags: pint, quarts or gallons. I decided to make a pint at a time. Once the paint is mixed with water you need to use what you made. If you haven't used all of the mix in the bag, it can be sealed and used later.
In a clean plastic pail, measure out equal parts powder and water. Mix thoroughly using a paint stick. I have found that using warmer water works best. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, you will notice that the paint will begin to get thicker. You can achieve different looks with the milk paint; you can use it as a washing coat with a stain-like consistency by adding more water, or a full-body paint by mixing it equally. When you have mixed the paint thoroughly, you're ready to paint.
Using an unfinished headboard, I first did all my preparation. I sanded it lightly with a 220-grit sandpaper to remove any rough edges and removed the dust with a tack cloth. You also can use a damp rag. For pine, you ordinarily need to seal any knotholes prior to painting or staining, so that the knot will not bleed through the finish. Just apply a little shellac on the spot by using a foam brush. Let it dry, which it will do quickly. Then sand the spot lightly with 220-grit sandpaper.
For the unfinished piece I didn't need to prime; the milk paint acts as a primer and will seal the raw wood. To apply the paint, I used a paintbrush and worked my way across the piece just as I would any other paint. Milk paint can be brushed, rolled or sprayed. But for our purposes I used a good ole paintbrush. Since the paint dries so quickly, you can apply another coat within an hour. But I was very satisfied with the first-coat results. I like seeing the pine color peaking through. It gives it an older hand-painted feel.
I love the barn red color I chose. Milk paint comes in many colors, and colors can be mixed together to give you many variations. The first coat gives a more flat look, but you can give it a semi-gloss look by just rubbing the surface with a rag.
I have seen pieces painted with milk paint, and what I like most about it is how it looks after it has aged. The patina changes, and as the furniture has been used the burnishing or the rubbing of hands and bumps and bruises gives it a more aged feel, just like the furniture that was painted by our forefathers.
One last thing: I painted these pieces in my garage one evening and if it wasn't for the radio's playing, I could have been in my great-great-grandpa's shop painting a new piece of freshly built furniture with what else?
(Matt Fox writes this column with Shari Hiller. They also co-host the Home & Garden Television show Room By Room.)
Master gardener Paul James takes questions about gardening from his audience.