Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Flooring Dutch Tool Chest - Part VI


This chest is nearly done.

Just like any other project, the quality of the finish depends greatly on surface preparation. In this case, I spent a lot of time with my Japanese burnishers in order to get a specific texture on the wood that I wanted to show through the milk paint. 

I chose milk paint because it is a traditional look for tool chests, plus it is pretty easy and safe to use.

The brand of milk paint mix I use is Old Fashioned Milk Paint. There are others, but this is the one I know best. I used some home-made milk paint on the last chest I made, and I have to say this mix is much easier and more consistent. Perhaps I need to work on my home-made recipe a little.

Anyway, for quite some time I've really admired the black over red look that is often seen on Windsor chairs. Curtis Buchanan has some really great YouTube videos on how he makes his, and in one of them he goes over his method for achieving the look he gets with this finish. If you would like to watch it, search "Curtis Buchanan - 46. Preparing to Paint" on YouTube.

I've tried this before, and haven't really gotten the results I was looking for. This time I tried to do everything the same exact way he does, and I'm very pleased.

The first bit that I took away from his video, is the water to milk paint ratio he uses. For red, he uses a 2:1 ratio, and for black he uses a 2.5/1 ratio.

Barn red basecoat.

The other thing I may have done wrong in the past was apply too-thick coats. This time it worked well to use just a little paint on the brush, and drag it as far as can be done. I spent some real time trying to avoid runs, as those will show through in the end.

After two coats of red, I let it rest over Christmas and moved onto the black.
Black over the red.
With the black, I also didn't worry about applying it in thick coats. This is more of a wash coat than anything. I slapped on a thin coat, covering 80%-90%, then for the second coat I just touched up the endgrain and the large panels. I didn't worry about making sure I covered up all the red. I wanted some of the red to peek through in the end.
Maroon and gray 3M scratchy pads.
After the paint is cured, it is time to burnish it. This is the main thing I have never gotten right in the past. I started with a medium scratchy pad, a maroon 3M pad in this case, and rubbed down everything with medium pressure. I worried at first that this would take off the paint I just spent so long applying, but it didn't. The only parts I had to be careful on were the sharp corners, and even some of them I scrubbed down to bare wood. I think the look is fine.

This already is giving the paint a much more refined look. After the maroon pad, I went to a fine, gray pad, and really pressed hard while burnishing. This had the surprising effect of shining up everything. I've never achieved a shiny look with milk paint before.
Underside of the lid. The ash grain is still obvious through the paint.
The front panel of the chest. The texture left behind by the Japanese burnishers looks beautiful.
Finished with burnishing, masking tape removed.
Now we're getting somewhere. I feel like up until now we are still doing surface prep, and I can apply whatever finish I would like now. I chose the natural Swedish boiled linseed oil (BLO) from Dictum. I slathered it on with a paintbrush, waited up to 20 minutes, then buffed it off with an old dishtowel.
The finish is beautiful!
This is the look I have been going for! Tomorrow I'll apply a light furniture wax and the finish will be done. The only part left will then be to attach the hardware and see about replacing the screws with nails.


  1. That finish looks great.

    When I learned to burnish milk paint I was surprised at how smooth it got. Didn't have that rough feel anymore. On my bench legs I used shellac on top of the milk paint and liked how that looked. Really improved the feel of the finish.

    1. The feeling is amazing. I know what you mean about that rough feel.

      Thanks, Steve!

  2. I like it. Gonna have to try that finishing technique


    1. Thanks, Bob!

      I'd love to see what you come up with.