Welcome to my new series, Start to Finish! Over the next few days, I’ll chronicle the transformation of a piece from start to finish. I’ll share my tips, tricks, and hangups along the way, and hopefully you will be encouraged to get started on a piece of your own!
Are you ready? Let’s do this!
Step 1 – Select a Project
It’s been my experience that you can work on just about anything. Chairs, cabinets, hutches, dressers, picture frames, bookshelves, pillows, lamps, mirrors, tile, plastic, wood, glass – the possibilities are endless. Go find your piece and get started!
(Seriously, I’ll wait…)
Let’s meet my blank slate for this series:
This cabinet was given to me by our mentor couple. My husband and I meet with them from time to time and tap them on the shoulders for advice and support as we navigate our first years as newlyweds. They were missionaries in Amiens, France for a bit and they bought this piece at an antique mall. They used it for their TV and movies. The TV sat on the top while tapes and the VCR were stored below.
(Remember the days of VCR’s and tapes?)
Step 2 – Choose Your Paint and Prepare Your Piece
These next steps go hand-in-hand. One determines the other. The amount of prep work that’s necessary for your project depends on the type of paint you want to use and the existing finish on the piece. You may not have to do anything at all! You should also consider the structural integrity of your piece. Does it need repair work? Can you do it or will you need a professional’s help?
I wanted this piece to be painted in Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint because it’s raw wood. Based on previous experience, I know that milk paint looks amazing on raw wood. If you haven’t ever used milk paint, I highly recommend it, especially if you have a wood piece. The finish on my piece wasn’t glossy, so I predicted the milk paint would stick pretty well. If you put milk paint on glossy surfaces, it has a tendency to chip. If it’s too glossy, it won’t stick very well at all. To help milk paint stick on glossy surfaces, gently scuff it with sandpaper (150 – 250 grit) and use Miss Mustard Seed’s Bonding Agent. If my piece chipped, I wasn’t going to be opposed.
The other reason why I chose milk paint is because I wanted a more primitive painting experience with this piece. I felt like it belonged in a French country cottage somewhere up in the Alps. While I was mixing my paint by hand, I imagined the tinkle of cow bells in the distance, grassy hills dotted with goats, a bright blue sky with wispy clouds, and a soft mountain breeze blowing the sweet fragrance of wildflowers through windows flanked by wooden shutters.
On a serious note, I can’t replicate this experience with any other kind of paint. Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint gives me the chance to be more involved more with the painting process. Instead of cracking open a can of paint and going, I get to do that part myself. It’s ownership. It’s primitive. It’s awesome! I have so much control and can adjust as necessary. Boo to the yah.
Can’t you picture milk paint sitting in all of these little cracks and nail holes?
Some people don’t prefer that method, and I completely understand. As you work with different types of paint, you’ll learn which will work best for your project and what you’re comfortable with. But until you’ve tried it, don’t write off milk paint.
If you have a dresser, end table, buffet, or some sort of piece that has a top, you should decide if you’re going to paint it, stain it, or leave it natural. The top on my piece was in pretty good shape, so my original plan was to sand it down and use hemp oil to let its natural beauty shine through. (More on how that got changed later). Since I wasn’t going to paint it, I taped it up with blue painter’s tape.
I also taped the drawers just above the dovetail joints. (I know I’m cheating and jumping ahead by showing you paint, but this is part of the preparation stage.) You can certainly paint over dovetail joints, but I find that it looks cleaner to have a line just where the drawer fronts end. Some people prefer to leave the drawers in while they paint. In one of her recent posts, Marian of Miss Mustard Seed actually mentioned that she prefers to keep drawers in while she’s painting. To each, her own. There’s no right or wrong way. I bounce back and forth with my methods.
People often wonder if you have to clean a piece before you paint it. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. It mostly depends on the look I’m going for and how dirty the piece is. If it’s caked in dirt and yuckyness, then I wipe it off but I don’t go to town. I’ll clean out the inside of pieces so people can store their belongings inside, but in general, I do little cleaning. Such was the case with my little cabinet. I left the dirt, cobwebs, and dust on it (and it turned out just fine). If the thought of painting over dust makes you queasy and your type A personality starts rebelling, then clean! Painting should not bring on anxiety attacks! (Just realize it’s not always necessary.)
The last step before you paint is assessing the structural integrity of your project. Does anything need to be banged back into place? How are the drawers? Are they broken? Are there any cracks? If you’re considering buying a piece that has structural problems that are beyond your comfort zone, don’t do it (or take it from your neighbor…even if it’s free).
I know it’s tempting, but you may wind up sinking more money into it than you want to. Learn from my rocking chair experience.
This little guy was cute but I thought I could make a new back for it.
I wound up spending much more money than I wanted to because I had a professional hand-rush the back. It was a total profit loss for me. Not to mention it sat in my closet for about 6 months until I was able to sell it.
The only structural problem with my piece was minor – the knobs needed to be glued back in. I was pretty sure I could handle that.
Once you’re done prepping, it’s time for the fun part – PAINTING! Stay tuned for Part 2 – The Painting Process tomorrow!