Milk paint finish on chair

Doing well after two years of steady use

The Windsor chair I built (yes I’ve still built only one) is almost two years old.  I want to document the finishing steps for quick reference later and also post a few photos of how it’s wearing.  I still love this chair.  It’s light, comfortable and tough.  And I also love milk paint.  This chair has been kicking around between our kitchen and dining room.  Besides getting sat in a lot, it also gets things stacked on it,  feet put on it when tying shoes and cats jumping from it up to the windows.  In other words it’s not getting babied by me, my kids, or our pets.  The wear shows but I think in a good way, which is where I think milk paint excels. I don’t know the chemistry of it. But it seems as if milk paint calcifies in the wood hardening the outer surface. It definitely seems to be protective, but it doesn’t create a layer on top of the wood that would obscure the wood grain or tool marks.
I was also concerned about the seat when I built this. It’s a thick slab of white pine, which is a very soft wood. It is also wearing well. I think it is actually more comfortable sitting on a seat made of soft wood.

Here are the steps I used for this finish. This recipe was from the class instructor Jim Van Hoven. I’ll do it this same way with the next chair.

  1. Apply brown water-based dye stain.  This serves two purposes: to raise the grain, and provide a dark color under all the paint should it get worn through in a spot
  2. Sand down the raised grain
  3. Spray shellac on the pine seat.  This is to seal any pine tar near the surface
  4. Fine sand the shellac
  5. Paint with strained milk paint (I used red)
  6. Sand the rough milk paint finish with 400 grit, steel wool, or an abrasive pad
  7. Paint with strained milk paint (I used black)
  8. Sand as after the first coat of paint
  9. Rub on boiled linseed oil with steel wool. Thin the BLO with about 10% mineral spirits
  10. Paste wax. I used clear Trewax.

About johnjoiner

Computer nerd by day, Dad and woodworker by night. Woodworking blog at
This entry was posted in projects, techniques. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Milk paint finish on chair

  1. That is a beautiful chair and paint job. I love all the tool marks.

  2. Nuevo says:

    Thanks for putting this out here, John. I think I might actually put the finish on mine soon but lost the mail you sent me in the past with the recipe.

    I still love your chair, probably as much as you do. I wish the original back we made in class survived (for mine). I find the one that we used as a replacement binds at the top of the sides of me arse a bit since it’s more of the balloon shape Jim favors. I like it aesthetically but not practically.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s