a no-sand trick for prepping pieces for miss mustard seed’s milk paint
Whenever you use Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint on pieces that have a smooth or shiny finish, it’s best to scuff sand them to help the paint adhere. Roughing up the surface gives it “tooth” and helps this primitive style of paint stick more easily. Otherwise, the paint will fall off in sheets, leaving you with a patchy and bare project!
But what do you do when you have a piece you can’t sand, or simply don’t want to? I’ve got a trick to share with you today on how to tackle that problem! It involves a beautiful antique cupboard with a copper top and a magical product called Tough Coat.
getting into position
This antique cupboard doesn’t look like it would be all that heavy, but believe me when I tell you that it’s a total beast! This piece is a true well-built antique with thick boards for shelves and solid wood construction. It was much too heavy for me and Marc to take downstairs to the basement workshop, so we decided it was best for me to work on it in our living room.
I got a drop cloth from my stash and began to lay it underneath the piece. Because I was home by myself when I began work, I used a trick I’ve done for years to get the drop cloth under the piece.
First, I rock the piece up on one set of legs like this:
Once the piece is up on one side, I push the drop cloth underneath as far as I can. Then, I do the same thing on the opposite side.
Once the drop cloth is straight, I prop the piece up on pieces of wood. This helps the paint around the bottom not stick to the drop cloth as it dries. If you don’t do this step, you get fuzzies in your paint job from pulling the drop cloth away, or you miss an entire section altogether!
These boards happen to be the shelves from an old bookcase I scrapped for parts.
This is actually how I used to work on the living room floor in our first apartment. In the early days of Eight Hundred Furniture, Marc would often come home to a dresser in the middle of our living room with me bending over it and Gilmore Girls playing in the background!
prep cleaning the cupboard
Before I dove into the makeover process, I used a water dampened paper towel to wipe the cupboard down. It was dusty and had a little bit of grime on it.
When you can’t sand…
Normally my next step would have been to prep sand the piece. The problem was that I wasn’t able to sand this one because it had lead paint on it. Now I didn’t do an official lead test to confirm, but I’ve worked on enough antique pieces to be able to recognize lead paint when I see it.
Now I’m not a lead paint expert. You should educate yourself on the dangers of lead paint exposure and decide how you want to handle them.
To give myself a surface Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint could adhere to without sanding, I reached for their water based polyurethane product called Tough Coat.
I poured some Tough Coat into a little ironstone teacup and used my ClingOn! F40 brush to apply a layer all over the cupboard. (I’m currently low on my ClingOn! brushes in my online shop, but I have placed an order to restock!)
Tough Coat takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to dry. Our home was relatively warm at the time I was working (about 68°F) so it dried in 30 minutes or so.
The beauty of this process is that once Tough Coat is dry, you can paint right over it with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint and it adheres beautifully…without sanding!
The owner of this cupboard was hoping it would chip and flake away in true Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint fashion, but unfortunately, I couldn’t deliver that look to her in this case. It was more important to work safely over the lead based paint than go for chippy.
Painting over tough coat
My client wanted to cover the existing yellow paint on the cupboard with the beautiful gray tones of Miss Mustard Seed’s “Trophy“.
Trophy is a gorgeous shade of gray that is meant to mimic the tarnished silver color found on antique trophies. I mixed up about 1/4 cup of paint and began transforming the cupboard one stroke at a time.
I painted the piece with the drawers in, taking care to paint just the fronts..
In this photo, you can see how the paint was drying at different rates across the piece. The darker spots are where the paint was still wet.
I applied 2 coats of Trophy total and let them dry completely before moving onto the next stage – distressing.
distressing paint without sanding
I have another trick to share with you when it comes to avoiding sanding! Once the cupboard was dry, I needed to distress the edges to add character. Again, because the paint underneath was probably lead based, I couldn’t use my default sanding technique.
Instead, I opted to rub the Trophy Milk Paint away carefully with a green Scotch Brite scrubbie pad and a bit of water. This technique is called “wet sanding”, although I hesitate to use the word “sand”. It was more of a “wet rubbing”!
I started by dampening the scrubbie pad in water, and gently rubbed it along the edges of the cupboard. This removed the Trophy Milk Paint but did not disturb the existing paint underneath.
Once I distressed the piece, I let everything dry completely before sealing it. But that step is for another blog post! I’ll share how I sealed the piece and reveal the final look soon. It’s really pretty!