This is a photo of the bench with the final coats of semi gloss clear coat applied.

This is a photo of the bench with the final coats of semi gloss clear coat applied.

Before the 1870s, ready-made paint was unknown. Each batch had to be compounded by hand from three basic components. Dry pigment, a liquid medium to carry it, and a binder to hold the mixture together. Milk paint’s popularity was due in part to its inexpensive ingredient list of natural earth pigments, slaked lime, and a milk protein called casein. Milk paint is the original “organic” paint.

Today, milk paint continues to be made from all-natural ingredients, making it a popular choice for those concerned about toxic substances in the home and the environment. It’s popular for other reasons as well. In appearance, it’s unlike any other paint on the market. The finish is flat, yet has subtle differences in shading that mimic the patina of age.

Although not a true “milk paint” (there is no milk in it) General Finishes is a modern version of old world paint with a strong mineral base. Milk paint can be used indoors or out & applied to furniture, crafts, and cabinets. It is easy to use and can be brushed or sprayed. It can be used alone, layered over another milk paint color, or combined with a glaze for a decorative finish. Milk paint is compatible with existing finishes, stains, and other paints and adheres to a variety of surfaces. The nice part about using General Finishes Milk Paint is the multiple ways it can be used. It can be lightened, distressed, used with a glaze and layered with different colors, which makes it perfect for antiquing or repurposing furniture.

Our Early American Bench needed a finish to give it the look of age but the ability to stand up for daily use. The colors selected were Seagull Gray and a new color call Driftwood. These colors combined together beckon to the times of early Colonial America and are a great choice for our bench. To use the colors selected, here are the steps I undertook.

Always stir paint thoroughly. If the paint is too thick when brushing on, add a small amount of water to thin. I used a poly foam brush to apply the paint. I also used poly foam brushes for a few of the clear coats, but the last couple of clear top coats were sprayed. Once the first coat of Seagull Gray was completely dry, (2-4 hours) I lightly sanded it with 320 grit sandpaper and applied a second coat of the Seagull Gray.

Since we were going to have the underlying color exposed with a distressed look, I used a coat of General Finishes Poly Acrylic Satin Topcoat before painting the top color (Driftwood). This seals the first color, allowing easier sanding without fully burning through to bare wood.

After the clear topcoat was dry, I lightly sanded with 400 grit sandpaper and then applied the first coat of our final color of Driftwood. Once it was dry, I lightly sanded again and applied a second coat of Driftwood. Once this second coat had dried, I began the distressing process. I used 220 grit sandpaper to keep sanding off the top coat, exposing the undercoat of Seagull Gray but mostly I do a whole lot of rubbing. I concentrated on areas of the bench that would have seen the most wear if it had been used over a hundred years such as the edges and the bench top. I like to use a rag to keep picking up the sanding dust so it does not clog the sandpaper and does not get ground into the surfaces I am working on.

Once I was happy with the final look, I re-sanded the whole bench with 400 grit sandpaper and applied several coats of satin topcoat, sanding very lightly between each coat. The process can be a bit lengthy, but the finished product is worth the extra work and provides a surface that will protect the bench for many years. I then completed the top coat process by spraying three coats of semi-gloss high performance clear top coat. The final step was to re-check for level and apply the felt pads on the bottom of the legs. All that is left now, is delivering this bench to a new home. Our pictures below show the final steps.