I think milk paint is a neat finish, and I wanted to use it for my school box. I've used milk paint before, but I have only ever used the pre-mixed stuff that is mixed with water.
Milk paint like that is much more common (and affordable) in the US than it is here in Europe, so I thought I would give a try at making my own.
Most of the milk paint recipes online have as an ingredient hydrated lime, or some such thing. I didn't really have immediate access to that, so I looked for a recipe that only had things I could get at the grocery store, or the home center next door.
I came up with a recipe from Martha Stewart.
I thought it looked easy enough, so I gave it a shot.
All I did was take a half liter of room-temperature skim milk, and I squirted a healthy squirt of white wine vinegar because that's all we had.
It immediately began to curdle, so I lightly covered it and set it aside for two days.
|Giving it a try.|
Take my advice and don't use good kitchen bowls, mixers, utensils, etc. for your first milk paint project, find some old junkie containers or buy some cheap ones from the Chinese flea market.
You were warned.
After a couple days, there is a good bit of curd and the liquid stuff (whey) is much clearer.
|After two days.|
In Martha Stewart's defense, two other similar recipes I found had the same defect. It doesn't really describe which part you should save and which part you should use after straining the curd from the whey.
Needless to say, I did it wrong. I threw the curd out, and mixed some coloring agent with the whey.
It seemed reasonable to me. There is no way that nasty, cottage cheese looking stuff could ever make paint. It's too thick.
I was wrong.
It took me a while to figure out, I tried a couple things with my colored whey, including adding baking soda. What a mess! I'm glad I tried painting it with a test piece.
Eventually, I ran into this old blog post written by Brian Anderson for Lost Art Press. I couldn't envision it when I first read this post, but now that I knew what he was talking about, it was easy.
Just make up some more curds, add tint and whip them up until smooth and creamy.
That's it. Honest!
To make curds faster, heat up the milk until just before boiling, then add the vinegar and turn the heat off. 15 or 20 minutes later, there should be some curds to use, although there will be more if you wait longer.
I didn't get many pictures of the whole process. I'll just describe what I did instead.
I strained the mixture to get the curds by themselves, and let the whey drain down the sink. I used a big metal colander, and lined it with an old dishrag, since I didn't have any cheese cloth.
Then, I made sure to rinse the curd the best I could. The LAP blog entry suggested doing it two or three times. I'm not sure how he did that, probably had better drainage. I did the best I could. I think the idea is to remove as much acid from the vinegar as possible.
This leaves a clumpy glop of white goo, about the consistency of wet sand. The first batch I did, I put in a big mixing bowl, added a bunch of tint, and mixed with a fork and a whisk.
By the way, all I used for the green tint was some of the paint tint from the home center. It is the stuff that is used to color white house-paint whatever color you want. I found some that was water soluble, and went with that. Next time I might try a more traditional (read, "cheaper") tint such as brick dust, charcoal, or curry. For now, I used what I had.
|What I used to tint my milk paint.|
Mixing the cottage cheese mix this way makes an awful mess, and takes forever. After about thirty minutes of mixing this little bit of paint by hand, the mixture was about the consistency of mom's gravy.
Clumps and all.
Now I had something that I could use that vaguely resembled paint that I could apply with a brush.
My previous experiences with powdered milk paint that was pre-made resulted in a finish that was almost chalky, opaque, and very dry looking. This milk paint was nothing like that.
I was expecting it to have some of the crumbly bits on the surface that could be brushed off with your hand when it dried.
This mixture was very hard when dry, and almost glossy. I ran out of paint after three coats, and this is where I was.
|It is really clear. BTW, that is my mixing bowl in the corner. I got in huge trouble because the green tint didn't come out.|
The next day I took some 180 sand paper and smoothed the whole thing down. I wound up getting to bare wood in a couple spots. My first plan was to smooth it out and darken it up with boiled linseed oil.
The more I thought about it, the more I decided BLO probably wouldn't fix all my problems. This paint is kind of glossy, and I suspect BLO might not penetrate like it does on the milk paint I've tried before.
The answer was to make another batch of paint. This time I took the Frau's electric hand mixer and smoothed out the curds in no time flat. I thought I was being smart and did this before mixing the tint. This would have worked if I didn't put a big green thumb print on it when I put the business end in the dishwasher.
While this time the mixture was creamy smooth, it seemed a bit too thick. I thinned it with a little water, and that worked great.
If you thin it with water and think you might have overdone it, just put your mixture in the fridge for 15 minutes and it will thicken up a bit.
I applied three more coats, this time using my best brush-stroking technique, trying to leave as small of brush strokes as possible.
|I think it turned out much better.|
|Crisp chamfer is still visible.|
|Close-up of a dovetail pin.|
This paint is almost glossy, and very tough to the touch. I had originally planned on topping this with BLO, but I think I will not. If anything, perhaps a coat or two of paste wax.
Next up, the completed Benchless School Box and AAR!