general finishes milk paint.

There are several furniture refurbishers out there whose work I really admire and they extol the virtues of General Finishes Milk Paint.  So when I ended up in a shop that sold this product while out shopping with some friends recently I decided to pick some up and give it a try.

The first thing you need to know about General Finishes Milk Paint is that it isn’t really milk paint.  I know, confusing right?

Here is what they say about the paint on their website:  GF’s Milk Paint is not a true Milk Paint – it is premixed and does not contain any casein based ingredients. We named our product Milk Paint with the intention of putting a clear, bright, contemporary spin on an old fashioned furniture paint tradition. It is designed to mimic the low luster finish of old world paints.

So if you are buying this paint and expecting to find a powder you’ll mix with water inside the can, guess again.  And if you are used to using this ‘milk paint’ and then you buy some Miss Mustard Seed or other true milk paint, don’t be surprised to find that it’s totally different.  Also, just know that you won’t get the chippy look that milk paint is known for with this paint.

The fine print on the can says that this is an acrylic paint, and for that reason it didn’t surprise me to find that it is very similar to Fusion paint.  Much like Fusion, it does not require a top coat (whereas chalk paint and milk paint require a top coat to be water resistant).  It also has the same self-leveling properties as Fusion.  It also distresses in a similar fashion, and by that I mean that neither of these paints distresses as easily as a chalk or milk paint.  These paints are meant to be very durable, so the longer you wait between painting and distressing, the harder it will be to sand off the edges for a distressed look.  Just be sure to distress promptly, if you plan to distress at all.  For those who prefer a non-distressed finish, both of these paints are perfect for that.

OK, so now that we have all of that info out of the way, let’s see how it looks.

I started with this petite desk that a friend gave me a while back.

I have to admit, I thought this desk was kind of hideous but it was either me or the Goodwill so I took it.  If nothing else, it provided a great canvas for testing out a different brand of paint.

You got a little sneak peek at this one in my post about my painting chair

Yep, this is where I paint in the winter.  Smack in the middle of my house.  And that chair was the perfect height for painting all of those spindly legs.

And now that it has a couple of coats of General Finishes Milk Paint in Queenstown Gray, well …

it’s kinda cute now, don’t you think?

As you can see, I did distress this piece and I did it about a week after I painted it.  So it can definitely still be done, it just takes a little more effort.

I lined the drawer with some pretty map paper.

Although I’ve called this piece a ‘petite desk’, it’s definitely too small for me to use as a desk.  It would be perfect for a youngster’s desk, but I think it would also work really well as a console table in a foyer or behind a sofa.  It also is the perfect height to be used as a nightstand.

Back in the day, it would have made a great telephone table, but nobody needs those anymore, right?

In the end I think this paint is very comparable to Fusion paint.  It’s just a bit more expensive (at least at the shops where I buy my paint), but not a lot.  If you love working with the General Finishes Milk Paint, you will also love Fusion paint and vice versa.  But obviously, if you’re looking for a true milk paint you aren’t going to find it here.

If you noticed in my first photo, I also bought a can of General Finishes Flat Out Flat topcoat.  I did not use that on this desk.  I have heard really good things about it as well, and I hope to test it out on something soon so stay tuned.

In the meantime, this little desk/nightstand/telephone table is for sale.  Be sure to check my ‘available for local sale’ page for more details.

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.


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.


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.


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 …


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.


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 …


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 …


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 ….


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.


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.


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.  

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 😉


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)!


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 …


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…


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 …


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.


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.


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.


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.

 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.


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).


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


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.

how to get the perfect chippy finish.

chippy-finish-titleWhen I posted the farmhouse chippy cabinet on Monday, I mentioned that I ran out of paint and had to request more from Homestead House to complete my project.  When I sent in that request I included a photo of my original chippy mess and explained that I had it nearly under control, but had run out of paint!

When Jennylyn, the president of Homestead House, responded she suggested I try her foolproof method for perfect chipping on my next project and she offered to send me the product she was suggesting I try.  To be fair, she didn’t call it ‘foolproof’, I’m adding that adjective on my own.


But wait, what?!  Back up a minute.  There is a method?  And it doesn’t involve clicking your heels together 3 times, or crossing your fingers, or knocking on wood?  Sign me up!

Here is what Jennylyn told me to do.  First, prep the piece properly, then apply a very thin layer of Homestead House Salad Bowl Finish (you can also use Miss Mustard Seed 100% beeswax which is the same thing) to the areas you want to chip.  Then paint as usual.

Sounds pretty simple, right?

So I pulled out an old framed mirror that I had salvaged from a dresser to do a little experimenting with this method.  I remembered back to my high school science class and decided I need a ‘control group’ of sorts, so I used my old method on the outer sides of the frame and just sanded them lightly and wiped them with a damp cloth.  On the front of the frame I sanded a little more thoroughly, vacuumed away the dust, and scrubbed it down with a water/vinegar solution.  Then I added a thin layer of the Salad Bowl Finish using a cloth, focusing on the edges and the corners where I wanted chipping.  Next I painted two coats of Homestead House milk paint in Buttermilk Cream.

Once the paint was dry I could clearly see that the ‘control group’ or the sides of the frame were chipping A LOT.  The front of the frame didn’t look terribly chippy at all though.


But then I got out my fine sandpaper and lightly sanded and voila!  There were the chips right where I wanted them to be.  And they were indeed pretty much perfect.


Although the ‘control group’ area was chippy, it was not a controlled chippy.  In fact, the ‘control group’ was a little out of control.

You can also use this method with layers of different colored paints.  For example, paint a base coat of French Enamel blue, add some Salad Bowl Finish, then paint white on top of that.  Then you’ll see color under your chips rather than the wood.

For a little extra bit of fun on this project, I added a row of rub-on phrases all along the frame just under the mirror.


They are tiny and you have to pay attention to notice them.  Embrace imperfection, discover yourself, look within, one of a kind, stand boldly.


The next time you are thinking it’s too hard to use milk paint and get just the right chippy finish, be fearless and try the Salad Bowl Finish!


stenciling with chalk.

After I finished the Eastlake dresser mirror frame turned chalkboard and hung it on my living room wall last month, I decided to treat the frame that I removed from that spot in the same way.

I’m sure you don’t remember it, so here’s a ‘before’ photo.


I removed this frame from a dresser eons ago.  I painted and sold the dresser, but hung onto this frame and used it as a guinea pig for milk paint.  I originally painted it in MMS Artissimo, then I painted it in MMS Kitchen Scale (shown above).  As much as I loved the Kitchen Scale, I didn’t think it would work well with a black or green chalkboard insert.  So after sending the frame over to Ken’s workshop to have a shelf added, I got out some Homestead House milk paint in Limestone and painted it again.


One thing I’ll note about the Limestone, it looks very creamy once mixed.  You will feel like you are getting a cream not a white.  Once painted and dried though, it is a gorgeous warmish white.  I once again chose not to use a topcoat.  This piece won’t get a lot of handling once it’s hung on the wall so I feel like it won’t need a lot of protection.  I think if I added wax it would bring out the creaminess of the color more.

I really love painting over pieces that are already painted in milk paint because I almost always get some awesome chipping this way.  This piece was no exception.  And the Kitchen Scale is a great color to have peeking through the Limestone.


Initially I was planning to paint the chalkboard inset in the same green I used before (you can see that here).  But then I was surfing pinterest and I saw an aqua chalkboard.  Eureka!  My favorite color as a chalkboard!  Why didn’t I think of that?

Since I’ve had such great luck using milk paint as a chalkboard finish, I just pulled out some Homestead House milk paint in Laurentien.  I used two coats, and sanded lightly with fine sandpaper in between each coat to keep the board fairly smooth.  Once dry, I seasoned my chalkboard by rubbing chalk all over it and then wiping it away.

The last step was to add a design of some kind to the board.  I use several different techniques for writing on a chalk board.  Sometimes I free-hand like I did on Debbie’s washboard chalkboard.  Sometimes I print a design on paper, rub the back with chalk and then trace around it to transfer the design onto the board (like I did on Ken’s thank you gift).  But this time I used a stencil.  I had a new one that I ordered from Etsy a while back but hadn’t had a chance to use yet, so I pulled that out.

Using a stencil can be a little tricky, after all they are not designed for use with chalk, so I thought I’d share a couple of tips.  For the fine lines of a stencil, you’ll need to use sharpened chalk, and lots of it.  You can only do a few lines before sharpening again … and again … and again.

I use an old lip pencil sharpener, and once the chalk gets short I can no longer sharpen it successfully.  So I end up with a pile of shorties.  As I said, you will go through a lot of chalk so lucky it’s cheap.

The next tip is essential.  Place your stencil over the chalkboard and use the sharp point of the chalk to fill in the stencil.  Don’t try to capture every detail at this point.  Just get the broad strokes.  Once you have them, remove the stencil and then go back in with more sharpened chalk and add the details free-hand.

In the photo above I have already done that with the upper part of the design, but the last line shows how it looked before I filled in free-hand.  If you have a sort of ‘outline’ of the design, it’s easy to go back in and connect the dots, so to speak.


The addition of the little shelf at the bottom of the frame makes this piece perfect for displaying a collection of ironstone pitchers or some other non-collectible.


I hung this chalkboard on the wall in my dining room, just to get some photos of it.  I think this next photo gives a little better indication of its size.


It is 39″ wide by 46″ tall, so it’s really quite large.  It’s not going to stay in this spot though, I have other plans for this wall.  This charming chalkboard is for sale.  Be sure to check out my ‘available for local sale’ tab if you are local and are interested.

But I’m curious, what do you think of the aqua chalkboard?  Too pale?  Or just right?

a showdown between milk paint and Fusion paint.

Did you know that the Canadian paint company that manufactures Miss Mustard Seed milk paint, Homestead House Paint Co., also makes Fusion paint?  Not only that, but they also have a full line of milk paint that is not packaged with the Miss Mustard Seed branding.  It is manufactured with the same ingredients and is pretty much the same exact stuff, except it comes in different colors (you check out those colors here).  As it turns out, a lot of the Fusion paint colors started out as Homestead House milk paint colors.

Recently the Homestead House people offered to send me some samples of their milk paint to play around with.  I asked them to send me some of their Midnight Blue milk paint specifically so that I could compare it with the Midnight Blue Fusion paint.  And thus, this blog post was born.  A show down between milk paint and Fusion paint.  Which one is better?


Before I move on with the detailed comparison, I’m going to give you the answer to that question.  It’s sort of like reading the last page of the book first, but who doesn’t do that every now and then?  And the answer is: ‘neither’, or ‘both’, or ‘it depends on what you like’.

So let’s compare, shall we?

I happened to have a pair of chairs that I snagged curbside for free last spring at the White Bear Lake Trash to Treasure day.


Painting one with Fusion paint and one with Homestead House milk paint is a great way to compare the qualities of these two types of paint side by side and in the same color.


Right off the bat we have a big difference between the two products.  The Fusion paint is ready to go right out of the jar, the milk paint powder has to be mixed with water.  I’ve spoken with some painters who don’t like having to mix milk paint themselves, but I kind of enjoy it in a ‘making mud pies’ sort of way.  It feels a little like a science experiment to me.  Mix powder and water and it makes paint, kinda cool, right?  For the Midnight Blue I used a little more water than powder since it’s a nice dark color.  With lighter colors I go with more of a one to one ratio of water to paint.  I mixed my paint before starting to prep my chairs to give it some time for the color pigments to dissolve and blend well.


To keep a level playing field for this experiment, I did the same amount of prep on both chairs.  Very little.  I removed the seats and then I didn’t bother with sanding them, I just wiped them down with a damp cloth.  This is not the recommended procedure for either paint.  The recommended prep work is to sand lightly to give your surface more paint gripping power, then wipe down.  I skipped the sanding because I wanted to encourage chipping on the milk painted chair, and also because I was feeling a little lazy.

I started with the Fusion chair.  Painting with Fusion is fairly straightforward.  Just dip your brush and paint it on.  Here it is after the first coat of paint.  You’ll have to excuse the purple-ish look, it was a bright sunny day when I took these photos and there was a little too much reflection coming from the wet paint.  As you’ll see later, this is really a navy blue.


I almost could have gotten away with just one coat of the Fusion paint except for a few spots that didn’t quite have enough coverage.

While that dried I painted the milk paint chair (ditto the above regarding the purplish look, too much glare).  Right away I noticed the difference in applying the two kinds of paint.  The Fusion paint feels heavier on the brush and takes just a little more effort to brush on.  The milk paint is very light and almost watery by comparison.  This makes it really easy to paint on.  But it also tends to get a little drippy.  It’s easy to just keep an eye out for drips and wipe them away with a pass of the brush though.


Once I had the first coat of paint on the milk paint chair, I went back to add a quick second coat to the Fusion chair.  Unfortunately it wasn’t quite yet dry.  It does take just a bit longer for the Fusion to dry.  This is another quality that I love about milk paint, it dries very quickly often allowing me to complete painting projects requiring two coats of paint in one evening after work.

Since the Fusion chair wasn’t quite dry yet, I took a quick break and dug out some fabric for recovering the chair seats.  I cut the fabric to fit and ran a quick hot iron over it to smooth out any creases.  In the time it took to do that, the paint was dry and it was time for a second coat on each chair.

I’ve learned that it is much easier to distress Fusion paint shortly after applying it.  The longer you wait, the more the paint cures and the more durable it becomes.  This is great for long term durability, but can be frustrating if you want to purposely distress your piece and you didn’t get to it right away.

So as soon as the paint was dry, I used a sanding block to lightly distress areas on the Fusion chair that would normally show some wear and tear over time such as the edges.  I did not sand the flat surfaces at all.  I then used a very small amount of wax on a cloth to darken up any spots of fresh wood that were revealed by the sanding.  This not only protects that bare wood, but it darkens it up and makes it look more naturally distressed instead of looking freshly sanded.  It just took a quick minute to do, I didn’t thoroughly wax the whole chair by any means.


Next I turned to the milk paint chair.  I was really happy to see that it had some spots where the paint was already flaking up.  I wanted to see some chipping and in my opinion this is where milk paint really shines.  I ran some sand paper over the entire chair (including flat surfaces) and did get some paint off, but I wanted more chipping so I used one of my favorite secret tips, masking tape.  Imagine using masking tape to de-lint your black dress pants, it’s the same idea.  Press the tape onto the surface and then pull it off.  Voila!  Chipping!

Once done with that I ran my shop-vac over the chair to remove any remaining dust or paint chips.

And now we’ve come to the moment in time where I admit that there is one more step required for the milk paint chair that is not necessary with Fusion paint.  A top coat.

I opted to use hemp oil as my top coat.  It’s a little easier to apply than wax and I like the way it darkens up the Midnight Blue a bit more than wax would.


At this point I think the difference in the final look between the two paints is pretty obvious.

The milk paint finish looks more genuinely aged.  I know this chippy look doesn’t appeal to everyone, but personally I love it.  For me, nothing compares to the chippy look you can get with milk paint.  But as I think I’ve pointed out, it’s just a tad more work to use milk paint rather than Fusion paint.


Is it worth the extra work?  I think that depends on the piece.  Some pieces really come alive with a chippy milk paint finish, while others are better off with a more solid Fusion finish.

Another thing to consider is that the Fusion finish is more durable and washable than a milk paint finish.  If you’re painting kitchen cabinets, you’re definitely better off with Fusion paint.


So, which one is better?  Neither.  Both.  Depends on what you like.  For me personally I prefer the chippy milk paint finish.  When I’m painting pieces to keep for myself I almost always choose milk paint.

How about you, do you have a preference?