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The paint quandary

I have been tempted to try a milk paint finish on a Windsor chair, but have never quite managed to get around to it. There are a few reasons for this.

Firstly, a milk paint finish is considered by those in the know to be more typical of American Windsor chairs, whereas their British counterparts were more often left as bare wood.

Secondly, milk paint is normally used where the wood is not of the best quality, or lots of different species have been used in a piece of furniture. The paint can cover up a multitude of sins!

Thirdly, all of my chairs have been made from nice bits of timber, and it makes me feel a bit sad to cover it up...

Finally, considering the days of work that go into each chair, the thought of trying a new finish and it going wrong or looking awful is not very attractive!

Well, I had made a load of chair parts over the last few months with a paint finish in mind, and the most reason creation had a seat made from a single lump of slightly spalted pine which was so discoloured that I thought it would definitely need covering with something. As normal though, once the chair was together I decided that I still liked the woods colour and figure, and I almost didn't use the paint once again. This time I was brave though, and broke out the milk paint to see what it was like. The before and after photos are below.

Before any finish is applied - bare ash, oak and pine

After finishing with milk paint

In the end I think I quite like it. The chair is painted with red milk paint, then rubbed down and repainted with black milk paint. Then the whole lot is rubbed back, with extra attention given to areas where we expect more wear to give the chair a 'well-worn' look, and then it gets a coat of raw linseed oil to seal it all. I'm pretty pleased with it.

If you look carefully at the first photo of the unfinished chair, you might notice the arm bow is a lamination of Ash and Iroko (a bit of an experiment). This was the only arm bow I had currently made up so I had to use it, even though I felt a bit sad about painting it - it would have looked great with just a coat of oil! (although to be honest, I actually thought it looked a bit like posh plywood - given how many sheets of plywood I have worked with in my life, this was not a look I was actually that happy with in the end!!)

No more chairs for a bit now. I have bigger pieces to get stuck in to!

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