If there is one area in which I absolutely excel, it’s in learning things the hard way. I also tend to give you guys lots of advice, and then not follow that good advice myself. This past Saturday I worked on a project that was a prime example of both of these.
You see, I was so excited to start using my new IOD Decor Stamps on a piece furniture that I forgot one of my own best tips. I didn’t test my technique on a practice board first. Granted, I did test the stamps themselves first, but I used them over bare wood. I should have also tested how the ink would interact with paint. Instead I just jumped in at the deep end and then floundered a whole bunch!
But before we get there, let’s go back to the beginning.
Over a year ago my bff’s sister Laura called me and said that there was a vanity free at the curb in her neighborhood, did I want it? She was willing to pull it into her garage until I could get there to pick it up. Unfortunately I neglected to take a real ‘before’ picture of the vanity. But here’s the picture that Laura texted to me.
It was in pretty rough shape and the middle section was barely holding the thing together, so I decided to dismantle it and, with Ken’s help, turn it into two nightstands instead. I have a plan for the mirror as well, but that will be down the road.
By the way, if you are new to my blog and don’t already know this, Ken is my next door neighbor. He can always come up with a clever way to fix stuff. In many ways, I think he is one of a dying breed. These days people tend to prefer to replace broken things rather than repair them. Ken is from the generation that repaired everything. And apparently he’s also a photo bomber! See him back there? And yes, that is his back yard, with my back yard in the foreground. He was actually on his way over to take a look at the repairs needed on this pair of nightstands when I took the photo (and yes, this was last fall when the grass was still green and not covered in snow).
I had a precise vision in my head of how I wanted these nightstands to look when finished. Imagine chippy, old, ethereal, delicate, feminine. Can’t see it? Well, stick with me, let’s see if we can get there.
My first step was to remove the big round wooden knobs. They weren’t terrible, but they didn’t work with my vision for the piece. Next I sanded lightly, cleaned with TSP Substitute and then painted a base coat of Fusion’s Little Piggy which is a very pale pink. I didn’t get a photo, but they did look really pretty in the pale pink. If I’d had enough Little Piggy to do a second coat, I could have just gone with the pink. Life would have been so much easier. But I was out of Little Piggy after one coat, and hindsight is always 20/20.
Next I added a little Homestead House Salad Bowl Finish (a.k.a. Miss Mustard Seed Beeswax) along all of the edges of each nightstand to provide a resist to the two coats of milk paint that I applied next. This is where mistake no. 2 comes into play. I wanted a warm white and I had several mostly used bags of various whites so I mixed them all together to give me enough paint for both nightstands. Again, this would have been OK, except for what happens later.
But for now the nightstands were painted and they looked amazing. I sanded them to distress and that looked amazing too. I got out my new IOD Decor Stamps (I used stamps from the Friffery set) and my Ranger Archival ink in a color called Watering Can.
I started small with a stamp on either side of the opening for the drawer. They went on perfectly and looked gorgeous! But 10 minutes later they looked decidedly less crisp. My first thought was to check my glasses, didn’t I have my ‘cheaters’ on? I did, and the stamp was definitely no longer as crisp. So I waited another 10 minutes and looked again.
Oh boy, even worse. That was not at all the look I was going for. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the ink was bleeding into the milk paint. I should have sealed my paint before applying the stamp, mistake no. 3.
Then I realized that I didn’t have enough paint left to cover up the bleeding stamps. And since I had custom mixed the color, I knew I wouldn’t be able to recreate it perfectly. Sigh, mistake no. 2 coming back to bite me.
That’s when I started drinking.
No, not really. It was tempting, but it was still only about 10 a.m.
So instead I decided to back up a step and check my theory with a practice board. If only I’d done that in the first place!
I found an old board and painted half in Fusion paint (left side) and the other half in milk paint (right side). Once dry, I used The Real Milk Paint Co’s Dead Flat to seal the lower half of the milk paint side. Once dry, I applied the stamp to each section.
As you can see, sealing milk paint first will make all the difference if you want to use an IOD Decor Stamp with ink on your piece. Good to know for next time.
However, at this point I was back to square one. I needed to repaint my pieces in their entirety because I didn’t have enough paint to just paint over the stamps. It was time to re-think my entire plan and switch to Fusion paint.
I was able to get away with just one coat of Fusion’s Putty, a pale grey, over the white milk paint. Once that dried, I added the smaller stamp on either side of the drawer opening. If you look back at the ‘before’ photo, you’ll see that I pointed out that these spots must have originally had some sort of carved detail. All that was left were the shadows showing where they used to be. I really liked the idea of replacing those with the stamp.
Next I wanted to use a larger stamp on the doors.
As it turns out, it takes a bit of finesse to use that big 10″ x 12″ acrylic block. You must make sure that your surface is perfectly flat and there are no other obstructions to keeping the entire 10″ x 12″ block flat. You know, things like hinges for example!
On my first attempt at stamping the door, the door itself pushed inward as I pressed down on the block. Ugh, mistake no. 4. I quickly realized that I should have taken the doors off so that they could lie flat while I stamped them. So I removed the doors, added another coat of Putty to them, and when that was dry I tried again.
This time around, when I went to press down on the acrylic block I realized that the hinges I’d left on the doors impeded the block. Mistake no. 5.
So after repainting the door fronts for a 3rd … or was it 4th … time, I adjusted where I placed my stamp on the acrylic block so that I could avoid those hinges. And this time, eureka! It worked!
So let’s recap all of the Q-tips I learned while working on these nightstands.
- Do not use Archival Ink over unsealed milk paint, it will bleed.
- Do use Archival Ink over Fusion paint.
- Be sure to allow the ink to dry before rubbing over it to avoid smearing.
- Don’t use a limited amount of a custom mixed color of milk paint when experimenting with new products.
- When using the large acrylic block, be sure you can keep it flat and not hit any obstructions, like hinges or raised trim. Note: you can use these stamps without the acrylic block to avoid this problem, but I haven’t tried that yet. Maybe next time.
- Be sure the the item you are stamping can’t move (even the smallest amount) while being stamped, like a door or drawer that can move inwards. Instead remove them from the piece and place them on a firm surface while stamping.
- Have extra paint on hand just in case. It’s going to take some practice to get the hang of stamping on furniture, so be prepared to paint over the mistakes and try again.
- Don’t expect perfection!
After much trial and error, in the end I think my nightstands turned out lovely. Did I achieve my vision of chippy, old, ethereal, delicate, feminine? Well, not entirely. Certainly not the chippy part, but maybe the rest?
What do you think?
And before I close, I wanted to point out one of the best features of the stamps. Buy them once, use them a million times. They can be used over and over and over. I’m planning to get lots of use out of them, especially now that I’ve learned how the hard way.