a thrifty makeover.

I’ve got a quick thrifty makeover to share with you guys today.

I picked up this item at the thrift store over a year ago.  I’m guessing it was meant to hang on the wall next to the phone (remember when phones were hung on the wall?) with a pad of paper for taking messages (remember writing messages down on paper?).

thrifty-makeover-before

Sometimes I like to pick out stuff that is hideously ugly just to see if I can re-purpose it, and this one is an excellent candidate.

Especially when you notice that the sheep are textured.

thrifty-makeover-before-detail

I know that back in 1983 or so someone hand-painted those sheep and absolutely loved them, so my apologies to the 80’s crafter who made this.

First things first, I had to sand down those textured sheep.

That was pretty simple.

Next I just added a couple of coats of Miss Mustard Seed milk paint in Farmhouse White.  I sanded to distress and got a nice little bit of chipping.  Then I gave it a quick coat of Salad Bowl Finish (a.k.a. MMS 100% beeswax).  Then I embellished with a couple of rub-ons.

thrifty-makeover-rubons

Rub-on’s can be tricky with milk paint.  The plastic sheet that the rub-on’s come on is just slightly tacky on the back and sometimes that will be enough to pull off some milk paint.  So if you are going to use a rub-on over milk paint, be sure that you have removed all chipping paint first.  You can see below where the top half of the “8” came off with a chip of paint.  In this case I think it just blends with the overall chippy-ness, but I have had rub-on’s take off an entire section of paint and leave nothing of the rub-on behind, which doesn’t look so good.

thrifty-makeover-rubon-detail

Also, rub-on’s can dry out and no longer work.  If you ever decide to pick up some to try, be sure to store them in their plastic sleeves so they don’t dry out.  The rub-on’s I used for this project all came from Hobby Lobby.  The “Cherish each Moment” is from the scrapbook sticker aisle and the numbers are from the Tim Holtz section (which for some strange reason is tucked way in the back of my store away from the scrapbook supplies so you may have to hunt around for them).

So, I’ve turned an outdated useless item into a unique photo holder.

thrifty-makeover-title

Unless you still have a wall mounted phone and like to write down messages, in which case you can still use it for that purpose too.

black & white.

Black and white has always been one of my favorite combos.  Back in June 2015 I painted this fun mid-century piece

black and white title

And then about a year ago I painted some black & white suitcases

inspiration title

I was really itching to do another black & white piece when I saw this dresser on craigslist and decided it would be perfect for it.

black-and-white-before

From the outside it looks like it’s in great shape, but in reality it was pretty wonky.  One drawer was completely missing a bottom, and most of the bottom sides of the drawers (where they rest along the glides) were pretty worn down.  So I sent it over to Ken’s workshop and he fixed it right up by replacing the missing bottom and adding new wood to the bottom sides of several drawers.  He also removed the top and re-glued the corner joints and added some wedges of wood for more stability.   All I had to do was add the paint!

black-and-white-1

The black is Fusion’s Coal Black and the white is Fusion’s Casement, two coats of each color.  Every time I paint with Fusion I am reminded of how ridiculously easy it is to use.  A quick sanding to rough up the surface (especially on this piece because the existing finish was very shiny), a wipe down with some vinegar water, two coats of paint, and a little sanding to distress the edges and you are done.  No need for a top coat.  Fusion has pretty much replaced chalk paint for me for that last reason.  Originally when I first started using Fusion I felt like it was hard to distress compared to chalk paint.  However, when I distress a piece of furniture I mainly just wear down the edges and that is pretty easy to do with Fusion as long as you do it shortly after the piece dries.  Don’t wait until the paint has cured because this paint is very durable at that point.

I really debated doing this look again because that earlier black and white piece took a while to sell.  But in the end, I’m so glad I went for it.  I think this dresser went from boring to interesting with just some paint and some new glass knobs.

black-and-white-close-up

The white is wrapped all the way around both sides.

black-white-side

This is one instance where I didn’t discard the mirror that came with the dresser.  I painted it white and the future owner can choose to keep it in place, or not.

black-white-dresser-with-mirror

By the way, have you noticed anything about my photos today?

black-white-photo-cottage

Yes!  I’m out in the photo cottage.  Are you having this amazing warm spell where you are too?  Sunny and 60 is practically unheard of for February in Minnesota.  I have taken full advantage by putting the top down on my convertible, grilling steaks for dinner, watching Mr. Q trim trees, hanging laundry out on the line and staging furniture in my photo cottage.  Woo hoo, it feels like spring!

black-white-dresser-with-fan

This dresser is for sale.  If you are local and interested, please check out my ‘available for local sale’ page for more details.

But first, tell me, what do you think of the black and white?

my other hobby.

I’ve mentioned before that I have another hobby, scrapbooking.

my-other-hobby

I used to do a lot more of it, but these days I only scrapbook about once a year when I head off on a retreat with some friends.  My sister used to fly out from New Jersey for these scrapbook weekends, so it’s really fun now that she lives here in Minnesota and doesn’t have to come from so far away!  She can bring many more supplies when she doesn’t have to bring them on an airplane.

So instead of painting furniture last weekend, I was off creating scrapbook pages.  Since I don’t have any furniture makeovers to share with you, I thought I would share some of my favorite scrapbook page techniques instead.

One of my favorite techniques is to focus on one color, in this case pink.

This works great when there is an obvious color to pull from a photo on the page, like the pink flowers on the right.  I like to pair my colors with a charcoal gray background.

I used that same technique on this next page, only this time using yellow.

I also used a black and white photo on this one leaving just the yellow of my embellishments for color.

The ‘happy’ chipboard sticker (and the ‘love’ from the pink page and the ‘today’ from the title photo) is from Heidi Swapp, but unfortunately this design has been discontinued.

happy

Such a bummer, they were one of my favorites.

Yellow was an obvious choice for this page of photos from Bonnet House in Ft. Lauderdale.

Here’s another example using red and grey.  Much like with decorating your home, it’s easy to combine different patterned papers if you stick with the same color.

In case you are wondering, Lucy is the name of the elephant and she is located in Margate, New Jersey.  These pics are from my trip to the Jersey Shore last summer.

Another technique I like to use is the two page spread.  Instead of focusing on just one 12″ x 12″ page, I create a design across the full 24″ width of two pages.  Even if that means cutting some elements down the middle.  Once you get the pages in the book your brain barely registers that they are cut apart.

Lago Mar is the hotel we stayed at in Ft. Lauderdale last November.

A Cricut machine really comes in handy for cutting page titles out of paper.

jersey-shore

‘Jersey shore.’ was cut out on the Cricut in two different fonts.  I think a patterned paper works great for titles and outlining each letter with a fine tipped black pen helps give them more definition so they are easier to read.

shore

 Here’s another title cut out with the Cricut.  Two fonts with two different papers is so much more interesting than doing the whole title the same.

By the way, if you’re wondering about the look of my photos and how I manage to not get any glare from them at all, it’s because I print my photos on matte photo paper.  I love the look of the matte paper.  I buy it at Target, but I’m sure you can find it many places.

October Afternoon products continue to be my favorites.  I like that I can mix and match their paper, stickers, chipboard and other embellishments and the colors always work well together.  Everything on this next page aside from the grey solid background (and the photos of course) is from October Afternoon.

at-the-seashore-2

I have just one last page to share with you. I basically did this page to torture my sister.  I’ve mentioned before that I have some old slides from when we were kids and I had a bunch of them turned in to jpeg files.  I print out a few here and there and I’m working on a scrapbook of just the slide photos.  This one of my sister cracks me up because the cowlicks in her hair are totally out of control.  As I was working on the page I realized that a photo I took of her while on vacation showed those same crazy cowlicks so I added that photo in the little Kodek slide frame.

I called them ‘devil horns’ and pointed out that she still has them just to annoy her.  Hey, I’m a little sister, I’m supposed to annoy her every now and then.  I’m pretty sure it’s in the job description.

If you missed seeing some of my other posts about scrapbook pages, you can them here, here and here.  And if you are thoroughly bored by scrapbooking, don’t worry, I’ll be back next week with some fun painting projects that I currently have underway.

See you then!

mia.

Today’s blog title ended up having a double meaning, although it wasn’t intended that way when I started writing it.  I ended up m.i.a. yesterday when I missed the self-imposed deadline for my normal Monday morning blog post.  Life has been getting in the way of my blogging hobby lately.  I’ve been busy doing all kinds of things, none of which involve painting furniture.  They don’t involve Valentine crafts either.  So here I am on Valentine’s Day with a post that is not even slightly Valentine related and only vaguely furniture related, but I hope you’ll enjoy it anyway.

Mr. Q and I have an annual Super Bowl Sunday tradition.  We go somewhere that is usually pretty crowded and we enjoy the fact that there is hardly anyone there.  You see, neither of us are sports fans.  This year we invited my sister Debbie to join us as well and we headed over to the MIA.  That’s the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for you non-locals, and also the real reason for my mia blog title.

The entrance to the MIA always cracks me up a little.  In typical Minnesota fashion, they have a grandiose front door but you aren’t allowed to use that entry.

You actually enter around the side at this much more unassuming entry, but you are allowed to keep your shoes on.Is that really a Minnesota thing, or do people do that everywhere?

Entrance to the MIA is free, which is pretty awesome.  However, we always park in the paid lot across the street that costs $5 for the first hour and another $1 an hour after that.  We also drop off our coats at the coat check because it always seems to be really warm inside and we don’t want to lug them around, so that requires a tip.  Of course, they do have a huge donation box in the entryway too, so we put some money in there as well.  We usually can’t resist getting a snack and a beverage (wine for me, coffee for Mr. Q) in the cafe too … so in the long run we shell out about $50.  But you don’t have to do that, you could find street parking, hang onto your coat, skip the snack and not leave a donation making your visit entirely free.  Or maybe just leave a little bit of a donation.

The MIA is huge.  We never see the entire thing in one visit.  This time we saw most of the third floor and just a smattering of the 2nd floor.

And see what I mean about Super Bowl Sunday?

Well, OK, the whole place wasn’t entirely deserted, but it was pretty empty.

My favorite thing to see at the MIA are the period rooms.  Complete rooms that have been dismantled from somewhere and rebuilt inside the museum, like this Charleston, South Carolina dining room.

Is it wrong that I want to paint that sideboard?  Wouldn’t it be gorgeous in Fusion’s Midnight Blue?  Those chairs would be much improved with some grain sack upholstery too.

Believe it or not, this is another of the period rooms …

You might be thinking that it looks more like some minion’s horrible tiny office, but no.  This is an art installation and you can read more about it here.  I hope you’ll take the time to follow that link and read about both the room and the artist, it’s really a fun story.  Basically, this is intended to be a lost curator’s office that was accidentally boarded up in the 1950’s and just recently unearthed.  There are some great details, like the bar cart (who doesn’t kinda wish we could still have these at the office?) and some of the old 50’s office equipment.

While at the museum I also discovered a great use for those vintage crocheted doilies and pot holders, not to mention any vintage toys you might have lying around …

Now why didn’t I think of that?

You all know how I love to turn mirrors into chalkboards.  This one would make a great candidate for that …

I could paint over the gold and black with some chippy Farmhouse White.

But finally, here is a piece of furniture that speaks my language, pardon the pun.

This is an 1870 pine cupboard that was painted by Aslak Lie, a Norwegian cabinetmaker who immigrated to the United States in the mid-1800’s.  It was made to commemorate the marriage of John Eriksen Engesaethe to Brithe Grinde.

My favorite part of the cabinet is the Norwegian inscription at the back …

Which just says John son of Erik, Brithe daugther of Sjurs, Engesaethe, year 1870.

Even I would never dream of covering this up with some milk paint 😉

I’ll leave you with this beautiful view of Minneapolis that you can see from inside the museum …

as well as the realization that next year we are going to have to come up with an entirely new plan for Super Bowl Sunday.  After all, next year the Super Bowl is taking place right here in Minneapolis.  We may have to leave town to find someplace that isn’t crowded next year!

keep it clean.

I am about to give you some advice about taking care of your brushes, but first I have to admit that I tend to be fairly bad about that myself.  This is partly why I prefer working with the more affordable Purdy brushes.  If I end up ruining one I don’t feel quite so bad about it.  But it’s not hard to clean your brushes, especially with the right products.

keep-it-clean

I have a few favorite non-toxic products that I keep on hand for cleaning my paint brushes.

My first go-to product for quick everyday cleaning of a freshly used paint brush is the Miss Mustard Seed Brush Soap.  This soap will clean and condition your brush.  A while back I wrote about the pretty ironstone covered soap dish that I purchased just for my brush soap.

ironstone-soap-dish

This dish with the MMS soap inside sits right next to the faucet on my kitchen sink for easy brush washing.  My theory is that if I have the brush soap right there ready to go I’ll be more likely to get my brushes cleaned promptly.  Obviously getting your brush cleaned before the paint has time to dry and harden is the best option.  To clean my brush using the MMS Brush Soap I simply rinse the brush first in running water removing most of the paint, then I swish my wet brush over the cake of soap a few times.  Finally I massage that soap into the brush using my fingers and get it nice and sudsy, working it into the bristles.  Then I rinse well and hang to dry.

But, I gotta be honest, that’s what happens in a perfect world.

In the real world I keep a supply of cheap plastic sandwich bags on hand (the fold over kind, not the zip lock kind) and when I am in between coats of paint I wrap my brush in the sandwich bag so it doesn’t dry out.  Unfortunately, sometimes I get distracted and that brush sits in the sandwich bag overnight.  When this happens I pull out some slightly more serious cleaning tools.

brush-cleaning-tools

I really like the Fusion Brush Cleaner.  It’s 100% natural, non-toxic, made with linseed oil and I like the mild scent.  There are just two reasons I don’t just use this product every time I clean a brush.  First, it doesn’t fit in my adorable ironstone soap dish and second, it’s a little hard to squeeze out of the tube.  So, it’s just slightly less convenient than the MMS Brush Soap.  However, when I have a bigger brush cleaning job I pull it out of the cupboard.

  I just purchased that pretty new tube shown above at Reclaiming Beautiful (so locals, you can find it there if you want to try it) because the tube I had looks like this …

fusion-brush-soap

Yep, it’s almost gone and it’s totally beat up and well used and that’s because … well … I forget to clean my brushes promptly with some frequency.

To use this product I again rinse my brush under running water and then squeeze a dab of the brush cleaner onto my fingers and massage it into the brush.  If your brush has lingered in a plastic sandwich bag overnight you are likely going to find some globbier bits of dried paint on it, so while the brush is still all sudsy from the brush soap you can use a small steel brush to remove hardened paint bits from the outer bristles.  I got mine for less than $3 at Menards.  A brush cleaning comb will help remove residue from the center of the bristles.  Once clean, rinse the soap off your brush and hang it to dry.

By the way, the Fusion Brush Soap is also great for cleaning paint off your hands or off your sink.  Just rub the soap on and then rinse with water.  I’ve heard you can also use it to get paint out of carpet, but I don’t have any carpet so I’ve never tried that.

Now, sometimes things get really out of hand and I totally forget about that paintbrush in its sandwich bag for several days.  Ugh.  This is a great way to ruin a paintbrush.  This is the only time I will resort to soaking a paintbrush.  Soaking your brush is not a good practice.  It will loosen up the glue that holds the bristles in place.  Not only that, but just leaving your brush standing bristle end down in a jar for very long will bend your bristles ruining the shape of your brush.

But if you’ve completely forgotten about your brush and you are at the point of either soaking it or throwing it away, you can try soaking it in a container with a capful of Murphy’s oil soap and warm water.

soaking-brush

This will help, but it won’t work miracles.  All of the products I’ve mentioned so far are safe, natural, non-toxic cleaners.  That’s where I draw the line personally.  You could resort to using things like mineral spirits or one of the toxic heavy duty brush cleaners out there but I prefer to work with products that can be washed down the drain rather than products that have to go to the hazardous waste facility when I’m ready to dispose of them.

One thing I’ll note here about working with milk paint specifically is that if you don’t clean your milk paint brushes thoroughly and promptly, the paint starts building up near the metal ferrule of your brush and it will harden like concrete.  Here’s an example of what that looks like …

bad-brush

For this reason you should especially try to be more conscientious about getting your milk paint brushes cleaned promptly.  Unfortunately I do not take my own advice and I’ve ended up with a few brushes like this.  This brush was a good candidate for an experiment on how well these cleaning methods work.  I started with Fusion’s Brush Cleaner and my wire brush.  After cleaning with those two items, that same brush looked like this …

brush-cleaning-step-1

It certainly looks cleaner and I got a good bit of the hardened paint off the outside of the bristles, but deep inside the bristles it’s still hard as concrete.  So next I soaked the brush overnight in the Murpy’s Oil Soap.  The next day I took it out and cleaned it again with my steel brush and some Fusion Brush Cleaner and it looks like this ….

brush-cleaning-step-2

You can see that it’s gotten a little bit cleaner with each step.  The metal ferrule is definitely cleaner, and the outside bristles have cleaned up fairly well.  But there is still a hardened clump of milk paint inside the bristles up near the ferrule.

But this brush isn’t a total loss for me.  I definitely got it cleaned up well enough to continue to use it for milk paint until it’s a complete goner.

By the way, you can also use the Fusion Brush Cleaner to clean your wax brushes.  I don’t bother with cleaning my wax brushes every time I use them.  That’s probably a bad practice too.  They do harden up a little, but if you work them a bit with a clean cloth the bristles will become pliable again and the old wax will mostly flake off.  But especially for this post I decided to go ahead and clean mine.

Here they are before cleaning.

dirty-wax-brushes

To clean them I just ran them under warm water, massaged some Fusion brush cleaner into the bristles and then rinsed.  For the black wax brush I had to rinse and repeat with a second washing.  Here are my nice clean wax brushes.

wax-brushes

Once your brushes are clean, you should always hang them to dry.  That’s why they have that hole in the handle.  Hanging them to dry serves two purposes.  First, any excess water can drain out of the brush rather than being trapped in the ferrule.  Second, the bristles won’t get misshapen.

Finally, once dry you should go ahead and put them back into the protective sleeves that they came with (if indeed they came with one).  Yeah, don’t throw those sleeves away!  This is the best way to protect your brush and help it keep its shape when you’re not using it.  
stored-brushes

If all else fails and you’ve ruined your brush but you just hate to throw it away, you can always add some rub-on graphics to your ruined brush and hang it on the wall as decor 😉

altered-brushes

To summarize, do as I say, not as I do and clean your brushes promptly.  Or, go ahead and do as I do and don’t lose sleep over the occasional ruined brush.  We all need an excuse to periodically buy a fresh new paint brush, right?

brush week, part two.

Welcome back to part two of brush week (still not a clever name)!

brush-week-part-2

On Monday I wrote about the brushes I use for painting furniture, today I’ll share some info on brushes I use for other things like waxing, stenciling and applying a sealer.

Using a brush for waxing.

When I first starting using wax I always applied it with a rag and it does work out perfectly well to do so, but there are a couple of downsides.  First of all, you’ll waste some wax that will be absorbed into your rag.  Then you’ll throw that rag away (I have found that they don’t wash up well).  We all know that a good wax isn’t cheap, so I prefer not to be tossing any of it in the trash.  Secondly, it’s hard to get into creases and crevices with a rag, a brush works much better for that.  On the plus side, an old rag made from your worn out t-shirt is free and a good wax brush isn’t.  If you are only ever going to wax one or two things in your lifetime, don’t bother investing in a brush.  But if you do a lot of waxing, I highly recommend getting a brush.

I have four different wax brushes.

wax-brushes

My wax brush collection is sort of a Goldilocks and the Three Bears situation.  The first brush I purchased was this one …

wax-brush-1

I purchased this at a local paint shop, Hirschfields, because I wanted it ‘right now’.  I suspect that this brush is meant more for painting than for waxing.  It’s not really big enough for waxing a large piece of furniture and the bristle are just a tiny bit too long and not quite stiff enough for a good waxing.  Now I mainly use this brush for white wax, and recently for the grey wax that I custom mixed.

Next I purchased this Purdy brush for waxing.

wax-brush-2

I thought the angled bristles would help get the wax into crevices more easily.  In reality the bristle are far too soft for waxing.  This brush is pretty much useless and I never use it anymore.

My next wax brush purchase worked out a little bit better.

wax-brush-3

Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I got this one or what brand it is and there are no markings on it.  This is like Mama Bear’s brush, it’s almost right but it isn’t perfectly right.  It’s a little smaller than I would prefer for waxing a piece of furniture, but I still use it exclusively for antiquing or black wax.

I finally found the wax brush that is ‘just right‘ with the large Miss Mustard Seed wax brush.

mms-wax-brush

It’s the perfect size for waxing a piece of furniture efficiently, and it’s also the perfect size for dipping it right into the larger jar of Miss Mustard Seed wax.  It has shorter, stiffer bristles that work really well for applying your wax in a circular, scrubbing sort of motion.  You have to use some pressure to work the wax into your painted finish and this brush is perfect for that.

If I had to do it all over again I would skip wasting my money on all three of the former brushes and just buy more of these.  For any of you locals, it sells at Carver Junk Co for $26.  If you do a lot of waxing, it’s worth every penny.

Using a brush for stenciling.

I always use a brush to stencil.  I have tried both a small roller and a sponge applicator in the past, but in the end I prefer a brush.  In my opinion it gives you the most control over the amount of paint you are using and that is crucial if you want your stenciled design to be nice and crisp.  Remember to dip the brush in your paint, and then remove most of the paint on a paper towel giving you a nearly dry brush for stenciling.

stencil-brushes

It’s also important to have a variety of brush sizes available when you are stenciling.  With a big openings in your stencil you’ll want a big brush to cover that large area more quickly.  If your stencil is smaller or has tiny details, you’ll want a smaller brush.

You definitely want to use a brush that is intended for stenciling.  You need a brush with short stiff bristles and a completely blunt end for pouncing or stippling the paint on.

I purchased my set of Martha Stewart stencil brushes a few years ago and as you can see they are beginning to fall apart.  But I’ve done a lot of stenciling with them and I’ve also forgotten to wash them out right away and had to resort to letting them soak overnight which really is hard on a brush.  So this is not entirely the fault of the product, more my own user error.  I would definitely buy these again.  They aren’t expensive and are available at most craft stores.  In fact I may need to buy another set soon since this one is on its last legs.

Other brushes.

I do have a mishmash of other brushes on hand for some miscellaneous uses.

other-brushes

I like to use inexpensive flat brushes for applying sealers such as the Rachel Ashwell Clear Coat or the Miss Mustard Seed Tough Coat Sealer.  Let me specify that I mainly use both of these product to seal pieces before I paint them to prevent bleed thru of some kind.  At that point I’m not too worried about the quality of the finish, so an inexpensive flat brush will do.  I will also use this sort of brush to apply Fusion’s Ultra Grip or Transfer Gel or to coat a piece with stripper.  I write the use on each brush (sealer, stripper, ultra grip, transfer gel) and keep a separate brush for each product just to be on the safe side.  These brushes don’t last forever, but I don’t spend much on them so I’m OK with tossing them and starting fresh every now and then.

Let me warn you here against using the really super cheap ‘chip brushes’ that you find at most hobby stores for less than a dollar.

chip-brushes

These things are awful.  They are not even worthwhile as a ‘disposable’ brush because they just lose too many bristles.  You’ll be constantly picking bristles out of your project with these.  Don’t waste your money.  When purchasing an inexpensive flat brush be sure to give the bristles a good tug first, if lots come off in your hand then pass that one by.

Finally, I’ll mention tiny detail brushes.  I always keep these on hand for a couple of uses.  First of all, I use them to touch up details on stencils.  Basically all stencils leave gaps in certain letters in order to hold the stencil together.  For example a “D” will have some gaps because otherwise that middle would fall right out of the stencil.  Does that make sense?  Well, I usually fill in those gaps to make the design look less stenciled and more hand painted.  This is a personal preference sort of thing.  And of course some designs are meant to look stenciled.  But sometimes you want to fill them in.  You can see an example of that here …

stencil-example

See how the A’s, the P and the D in Esplanade don’t have any gaps?  I filled them in with a small detail brush like the two on the left…

fine-brushes

I use small flat brushes like the two on the right for painting details like the spoon carving on this dresser which is painted in a brighter white than the rest of the dresser to help it stand out …

spoon-carved-detail

These sorts of brushes are nice to have on hand and easy to find in any hobby shop.

You’ll notice that I’m not sharing any information about what kinds of brushes to use for applying a poly finish.  I rarely do a poly finish, but when I do I use a wipe on poly rather than applying something with a brush.  So I have no knowledge to share on what kinds of brushes to use with poly.  You’re on your own with that one.  Unless any of you want to chime in with a comment about your preference for a finish brush.

Otherwise, I hope you’ve found some of today’s information useful!  Be sure to check back on Friday to learn more about cleaning your brushes.

tools of the trade.

Recently I’ve had several requests for a post about brushes and what kinds work best for which tasks or products.  At first I demurred because I don’t consider myself an expert on brushes, and in fact don’t really have any technical knowledge about them.  But then I realized that I could certainly do some research, much like I did with my post about waxes.  Plus, I really have to give myself credit for the fact that I have painted well over 200 pieces of furniture … all with a brush!  Surely that experience counts for something.

tools-of-the-trade

As I started to think about it, I realized in fact that I had way more info to share than I could include in just one post so welcome to brush week!  Yeah, that’s a terribly lame name, but I really couldn’t come up with anything more clever.  Maybe you guys have some suggestions?  Anyway, today we’ll be talking about paint brushes.  Wednesday I’ll dive into brushes for other tasks such as stenciling and waxing.  And finally on Friday, the best ways to clean your brushes.

My goal is to keep this information completely unbiased so I’m not including any links for purchasing products, etc.  I’m sure that if you want to try something I’m writing about you’ll be clever enough to figure out where to buy it, right?

OK, so let’s get started.

I don’t know about you, but when I walk into my local hardware store to buy a new paint brush I am quickly overwhelmed by my options.

brushes

For goodness sake, look at them all!  And that’s just the Purdy’s.  There are so many options, so let’s talk about a few of them.

Natural v. synthetic bristles.

Somehow it seems like natural should always be better than synthetic, right?  That’s not necessarily so with paint brushes.  When using water based products like Fusion paint, chalk paint, milk paint or even just latex paint, you need to go with synthetic bristles.  Natural bristles will absorb the water in these products causing the bristles to swell and lose their shape.  Natural bristles are best reserved for use with oil based products.

Phew, that one was easy.  Just choose synthetic.

stiff-or-soft

Nylon v. polyester.

Now that the synthetic decision is made, of course there is more than one type of synthetic bristle.  Nylon or polyester.  Both will work fine with water based products.  Nylon bristles will be softer than polyester.  When working with heavier paints, like a chalk paint, I like to use a stiffer bristle (ie. polyester).  I also prefer it with milk paint because I feel like it gives me more control over the paint.  In fact I really prefer a good stiff brush overall (wink, wink).  Except when using Fusion paint, then I reach for the softer Purdy Nylox brushes.  They give a smoother finish and are less likely to leave brush strokes.

brushes-2
 Angled v. flat.

Another choice you’ll have to make with a traditional paint brush (we’ll talk about those round brushes in a bit) is whether you want an angled brush or a flat brush.  I use an angled brush about 99% of the time.  It’s easier to get into those corners on the paneled side of a dresser like this one with an angled brush.

dresser-side

I do own one flat brush, but the only time I use it is when I’m painting something with lots of big flat expanses, like maybe a table top or a large chalkboard.

Does size matter?

Of course it does!  If your brush is too small it will take forever to get your piece painted, and if it’s too big you’ll have trouble with those little detail-y bits.  Plus the larger your brush, the more paint it holds and the heavier it gets.  In the end, my hand just gets too tired wielding a larger brush.  So I mainly use just two sizes of paint brushes.  I’ll use a smaller 1.5″ brush for painting narrow things like a mirror frame for example.  For most pieces of furniture I use a 2″ brush.  I almost never use anything larger than a 2″ brush for furniture.  I do have a couple of bigger brushes, but I use them for painting the house.

And what about those fancy round or oval brushes that are all the rage?

Yep, that brings me to the big round or oval brushes that you see so many furniture painters using.  They look so appealing in those youtube videos or in those really pretty pictures on blogs, don’t they?  I’ve tried to find some definitive data on whether or not they are preferable to a traditional paint brush for applying paint to furniture but the only reason I have found for using them is that they hold more paint and thus reduce the numbers of times you have to dip your brush to reload.  Theoretically they shorten the time needed to paint your piece, and perhaps that is true.  But as I mentioned above, the added weight of that paint on the brush is a problem for me.

I’ve never painted with these brushes, but I have used them for wax (more on that Wednesday).  However, I have this smaller 1.5″ version that Fusion sent to me quite some time ago that I’d never used (mainly because the 1.5″ size seems a bit small for painting furniture).

round-brush

So I opened it up, got out some Fusion paint and painted this small clay pot just to try it out.

clay-pot

This is a mix of Fusion’s Algonquin and Casement that I happen to have stored in a Talenti sorbetto container.  The brush does live up to my expectations regarding the quantity of paint that it holds.  I was able to paint the entire outside of the pot with one dip of paint.  However, as soon as I started using this brush I felt like it was too stiff for Fusion paint.  It gave me a lot more brush strokes than I’m used to.  It was also tough to get into the interior bottom corners of the pot with that big round blunt end, an angled brush would have worked better for that.  Bottom line, I think these round brushes are best reserved for use on projects where you want to see some texture (ie. brush strokes) and/or are using a heavy bodied paint such as chalk paint.  If you want a smoother look, stick with a traditional synthetic brush.

One last note.  You might be wondering why I use Purdy brushes and not some other brand.  The honest answer is that the first brush I bought was a Purdy and I loved it.  So now I just keep going back to them without really trying any other brand.  They aren’t overly expensive and they are a nice quality brush.  I have lots and lots of brushes.  In the summer I’ve been known to have half a dozen projects going at once, which means I need 6 brushes unless I want to wash a brush between each coat.  And on the other side of the coin, I am also not very good at caring for my brushes properly so I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a brush and then have to toss it because I forgot to clean it (more on that Friday).

I hope you found some of this information helpful.  I can sum everything up by saying that if I had to pick one brush that I use the most it would be a 2″ angled polyester brush for chalk and milk paint, or the nylon version for Fusion paint.  You can get a good quality brush for $12 to $15.

  Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a post about brushes used for other tasks.