How do you paint pine furniture?
This dresser started life as all pine and with care has been transformed into a hand painted feature.
This is a long indepth article on how to paint pine furniture. It is written by professional furniture painters, and aimed at plucky DIY who want to have a go at doing this properly.
If you have patience and determination and a somewhat arty touch, you can do it! But so often on forums I see the life and the fun factor drain out of DIYers as their enthusiasm is hit by mistake after mistake, usually based on assumptions and tips from horrible TV shows, where best trade practice died long ago.
The basic error I think is getting stocked up with kit and kaboodle from a DIY shed and jumping straight in. Don’t do it! Don’t be one of the many who go with the crowd, only to see their investment in time and money turn to pooh.
The information here is read on average 12000 times a month, and is regularly updated, to ensure it remains the most relevant information online on this topic.
There is a lot to digest, because there is no single magic bullet that suits all cases, so you are welcome to print it off or bookmark the full story:
– Before you start, decide what end result you are after.
– Get the products and tools you need to effectively and efficiently prepare pine – waxed, varnished, bare or painted – laminate effect… you can prepare them all for painting.
– Best brushes, sandpaper, paint to use
– The why, what, where, how…!
Most of the answers are here!
DIY or call a pro? We have you covered.
This article is aimed at plucky homeowners wanting to have a go, and also willing to have a bit of a read first, to get a fuller picture. Prepared, you can avoid wasting your time and money on basic (easily avoided) errors.
If time is against you, obviously you can call in a professional furniture painter They will give you a fixed price, and at the end of the job, present you with a finished piece of hand-painted furniture that makes you smile.
but if you want to do it yourself, this is where I hope I can make a bit of a difference
Thanks so much for recommending Langlows Patina. What a lovely finish. After using so many different products and being totally unsatisfied with the results, I won’t use anything else from now on. I also bought an orbital sander as a result of reading the info on your site. Am now researching eggshell finishes on painted furniture – am certain you will have something sensible to say !! More feedback from readers
Why paint pine furniture? Why not go and buy it ready painted?
It was a trip round John Lewis, that confirmed to me that furniture painting was going to keep a lot of people busy over the next few years! Consider that dresser above, well, I saw a shadow of that quality, factory sprayed, for over £1100. If you have one like that in pine, already, you can get it in showroom painted condition in a few days yourself.
Apart from the financials, if you are environmentally responsible,
one of the smartest things you can do these days is to paint pine furniture from a second hand store, or give a new lease of life to a piece you have had in the family for a while.
Upcycling rules! Re-working furniture is like recycling paint, use existing resources before creating any “new” alternative.
Older furniture is usually quite well constructed too, and deserves some love, especially those that were made with love! (The same applies to second hand kitchens!)
Even if a piece of pine furniture is a little out of touch with current tastes, and gone orange on you! for the sake of a few coats of paint or wax or varnish, a grim fashion statement can be updated and put back in the fashion game.
This pine table was all bare, orange and dull. But paintable.
Adopt a professional approach for a pro finish
If you aren’t happy with the end result, you aren’t alone.
The main mistake is usually buying the wrong products.
Just because you aren’t a professional, doesn’t mean you can’t do a good job. Pros use pro quality tools and paint, and being DIY doesn’t preclude you from buying and using trade quality products. So stock up with worthy kit!
In all honestly, I really don’t understand why anyone spends the money on rubbish in big DIY stores (or trade merchants for that matter) when for the same money or even less, you can use the right professional quality product.
If the reason for DIY hell on earth is, I don’t know what is available outside of B&Q, then you came to the right site to see how to invest financially, and wisely in some great tools and paints.
Coming up – which paints and then which tools and finally the good stuff, the painting process.
Correct paint for the finish or effect you are after
Before you think about shabby chic or distressing or conventional block colour, think about which type of paint you want to use, because all paint can be shabby chic-ed!
There are many furniture paint options, but the basic starting point for non professionals, I think, is either
-Chalk Paint – Water based, no petro-chemical odours. Apply straight on any surface, no prep required. It can be painted beautifully smooth (and left smooth, or it can be distressed), or it can be lashed on (and left nasty, or be distressed). Either way, once painted (and distressed , or not), you HAVE to protect the chalk paint, usually with wax.
– Acrylic eggshell. The surface has to be cleaned, prepared and primed, but the actual top coats should be pleasant to apply, be low odour and easy to clean up afterwards. (Again, you can attack, I mean, distress a nicely painted surface. It can be sealed with a lacquer, or left, more to follow on protecting a finish.)
– Oil eggshell over a thoroughly cleaned, prepared and primed surface. I like oil eggshell, but if you aren’t confident in your abilities, go acrylic eggshell. (Everything worth knowing about Oil v acrylic eggshell) Oil paint can be rubbed back and varnished if required. Generally though, the water based approach is favourite for paint effects.
Best paint for furniture
This is a much asked question. Give me a silver bullet answer, one paint that does it all. Oil based eggshell enamel! There you go, that is my answer. It has no context, best for what? etc.
There are choices, it is part of the furniture painter skill to specify the right paint for the job. But to keep it simple.
You can go round and round with this brand is better than that brand, and who would pay £x for that posh paint when you can get that high street brand paint for £x less 40%.
To save yourself headache and heartache, just think:
– the high street eggshell paints are shiny
– the posh eggshell paints are flatter
– chalk paint is different, quirky, and very cool, if the French look is your thing.
– all work well, all have limitations
– there really isn’t that much of a price difference between any of them, when you are talking small quantities of paint for the odd piece of furniture.
With that simplified view of the paint world you should find it easier to take your pick of some of these paint suitable for furniture .
Shabby chic or not shabby chic?
Before we go on to tools, a quick side turn down chalk paint lane.
As I said earlier, whatever paint you choose, you can either apply it conventionally, that is to say flat and even, in a block colour and leave it that way, or you shabby chic your beautiful paintwork with a judicious sanding. This wooden headboard was painted with a water based eggshell, I believe, and distressed.
It could have been painted conventionally, and over time, (a long time, hopefully) wear and tear would have shabby chic-ed it naturally. Or they could have used chalk paint from the outset, roughed up the edges to imitate wear and tear, and protected with wax.
To see what a professional can do, Lee Simone gives some brilliant advice on distressed paint finishes for furniture.
Regardless of skill level, it is purely a case of taste how you go about painting furniture and distressing it, or not. (And don’t underestimate the power of colour. The right colour can elevate a really naff piece of furniture into quite a nice feature.)
Painting 101 – Tools and products for preparing pine furniture
If you have been here before, the following offer may be relevant for you. If you are still feeling your way, though, keep on reading till you have a better idea of what is involved.
If you use chalk paint you won’t need any cleaning products. Just dust it down.
If you use conventional oil or acrylic or waterborne paints, you will need to make sure the surface is thoroughly degreased, clean and keyed/sanded.
To remove grease, try a cleaner that doesn’t hurt or burn you. Krudkutter Original was a good option, but is no longer available in the UK, and we have been moving over to * Fluxaf Pro Clean, it works very well, is biodegradable, a fraction of the price of KrudKutter, and most importantly is readily available. The tech support is straight from the chemists’ mouth too.
To remove wax, Pro Clean will serve you well. Mix it 1:1 with warm water, apply, leave to soak and it will probably dry to look like tea leaves. This is the wax broken down. Go at it with a good kitchen scourer.
Do wear gloves when using any degreaser. Even natural degreasing products are unable to differentiate between wax and your skin!
I cover abrasives further down.
Brushes – Why use a decent paint brush?
Would you buy a pair of running shoes that are 2 sizes too small? Equally, why would you buy a cruddy brush for your expensive paint? The better a brush holds its shape, the more paint it holds without running, the better balanced it is, then the more productive you will be – and the better the end result.
What is the best paint brush?
There isn’t a single brush that does everything 100% well, but there are certain brushes that do certain tasks better than others.
Best brush for acrylic eggshell
The American brushes pictured above are very popular, found in many a pro painter’s brush box, all tried and tested by contributors to this site, and will do you proud in acrylic eggshell.
PICASSO BRUSHES CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER THAN DDC
-* 2.5″ angled sash marvel for emulsion & trim! .
Looking for a brilliant all round brush, made in the UK, that is a good price?
That would be the new phenomenon in brushes – the Fox.
The Fox Paint brush, Developed and Used by Traditional Painters
Traditional Painter and our Trade Corner associates know a bit about brushes.
Birth of a world beating British brush »
MyPaintBrush commissioned a traditional paint brush for modern paints, and Martin Guest our trusty kitchen and furniture painter in the W Midlands worked with a local brush-maker to develop what are now known as the Fox brushes. In a year, the group have produced, tested and released a revolutionary paint brush range that ticks many many boxes.
The bristles are super fine. The shape has been formed using literally new technology. Other brush makers can achieve the same shape, but with chemicals, which cause bristles to wear out prematurely. The Fox bristles are very robust and also seem to hold a fantastic amount of paint, but still cut a sharp straight line.
Although they are fine and soft, the bristles hold their shape and work in water-based, oil based and heavy shellac based paint. That is phenomenal. Full story on the Fox paint brush here.
As a range, they are genuinely a superlative all-round brush for everyone into painting – suitable for highest quality kitchen painting, furniture painting, super fast emulsioning, and they keep on working well in oil based eggshell, gloss… in chalk paint they are a 9/10.
Can you tell, we are proud of the Fox!And being made in the UK, they are very reasonable prices too. especially in bundles.
Best brush for chalk paint
I think the Wooster FTP is one the best conventional brushes for chalk paint. 2.5″ straight cut.
And this a * pure bristle brush for chalk paint AND wax.
Paint brush care
Taking care of brushes used in water-based paints can be as simple as washing out under a tap every couple of hours, before the paint goes off.
For a deeper clean, leave the brush in a pot of Krud kutter for an hour, or soak overnight if needed, and then wash out under a cool running tap. This will get most brushes perfectly clean.
When clean, flick the bristles out as dry as you can, shape the bristes with your fingers and lay it down somewhere safe on a piece of kitchen paper.
To minimise washing and waste and dirty tap water
Treat yourself to a * Brush Vest.
to keep the brush safe while in transit.
Or use the * Paint Brush Cover
Don’t clean your brush every day. Instead, at break times or overnight, place your brush in the cover.
It is designed for protecting bristles and keeping water based paint soft for a few days. It works well, designed for skinny brushes though. That is a Rembrandt, the stockier 2.5″ Fox won’t fit currently.
Store and Go! gel
This pot of gel will keep your water based AND oil based brushes in perfect condition for months. When you want a break or at the end of the day or at the end of a job, literally wipe off excess paint and dunk the brush into the gel. You can leave it an hour for lunch or with the lid on, 6 – 12 months, and when you come back, scrape gel off bristles into a scrap pot and carry on painting.
Paint doesn’t leach, it can’t.
Under £20, so much hassle saved, very eco friendly, the water savings are massive. What’s not to like!
Simple cleaning ensures a really nice synthetic paint brush will last you a long time and it will be a joy to use, and there should be some sense of peace of mind too, knowing that you are using the same kit that painters like me are using, rather than using cheapo brushes from B&Q that pros wouldn’t have much luck with either!
Paint conditioner in water based paints
Acrylic paint on woodwork gets a bad rap because people say it goes on stringy and you can’t get rid of brushmarks. That isn’t true.
IN CONVENTIONAL ACRYLIC PAINT, add Floetrol, up to 10%, instead of water. It is a colourless pure acrylic fluid, so does not diminish the qualities of conventional acrylic paints. ALso use a best brush!
IF USING COMPLEX WATER BORNE PAINTS JUST ADD WATER. If you are using a HI TECH PAINT, such as water-borne acrylates, please ask if it has been tested by the manufacturer before adding anything other than water.
Paint chemists will tell you that the Floetrol does extend the drying time of paint, which extends the curing time. This is sort of a moot point. New paint even if dry, needs to be left for about 2 weeks or so before it reaches full hardness. The small margin of extra time to be touch dry / cure overall, because of a conditioner, shouldn’t be cause for concern, just allow a bit longer.
Some decorators will tell you all conditioners are a waste of money! Thinking it through, at worst, if you add 10% Floetrol to most water based paint, you create 10% more usable paint. At best it will give you time to work the paint. And it will help the paint to lie flat with fewer / negligible brushmarks.
Where waste of time may apply, or rather, waste of a lot of time and money, is using XIM Latex Xtender. This is an alternative conditioner which some decorators are getting quite attached to. A few drops, keep topping up, turns the paint slippy and flows nicely. Be very careful in pure acrylic paint! It has been shown to discolour white Eico Alterior 100% acrylic paint. Floetrol has been proven not to do the same to the same paint.
XIM also contains an alcohol, which is sort of anathema to the durability of acrylic resin!
Paint conditioner in oil based paints
If you use oil paint, add Owatrol oil, up to 10%.
Again, with a bit of technique, the conditioner will help brushmarks flow out nicely. It does extend drying time, but having used a lot of it in Little Greene oil eggshell, this is not a problem.
A problem is extending the drying time of oil paints from the big trade players whose paint already takes much too long to dry anyway.
Abrasives have come a long way since Oakey sandpaper, the stuff that used to disintegrate and stink to high heaven when it got damp! Abranet is the way ahead, especially as it comes with such a simple starter kit that attaches to your Henry for instant professional dustless sanding!
Use 80 or 120 grade for rougher sanding.
Sanding between coats
If you use acrylic eggshell, on flat surfaces, sand between coats with 240 or 320 grade abranet, and your finish will be immaculate. On profiles use a spongy sanding pad, or if you have a lot to do, consider Mirka Gold Flex, which is a bit of a revelation for sanding edges without removing too much paint. (Mirka do provide many of the best sanding solutions on the market.)
Chalk paint can be sanded super glassy smooth, but really, there is no need to sand till you get to the first wax stage. It’s the Annie Sloan way and it really is much cleaner that way.
Across the range, Abranet is used on the roughest woodwork to the highest class autos. It is part of a dustless sanding system. I got started for with an Abranet starter kit which back in 2009 was between £25-£40. I have adopted the whole power sanding system too, but I still have this starter kit, and use it most days.
The system is a sanding block that plugs into your vacuum cleaner, plus some abrasives. Without seeing it, I know its a weird concept, but honestly, it has revolutionised decorating across the board. And this is what the basic kit looks like.
So you use the sanding block for flat areas, the dust goes straight down the tube into your vacuum. For fiddly bits, there are a variety of specialist sponges and blocks available, but for DIY to get the feel for it, the simplest option is an interface pad.
A starter kit comes with an interface pad, which is about 1/2″ thick foam with velcro. I take this pad off the sanding block and use it for sanding profiles.
Don’t bother cutting corners with other sandpaper, you will miss the whole point of Abranet and dustless sanding. (Dustless to the point that 90% + of dust should be captured at source. )
Exclusive Mirka offer
Traditional Painters work with Mirka, who we think are out-and-out fantastic company with a great ethos. They seem to like us too, and their distributors have put together an offer.
Readers of the Traditional Painter site can enjoy a tasty price on the Abranet Starter Kit – £33.07 delivered to your door
Also the Handy Kit for under £40 delivered. It is a great price, really.
So often I see demos on Youtube where a few pieces of masking tape in the right place would have raised the standard from sloppy DIY to thoughtful professional. 3M Scotch Blue 2090 is reliable and easy to get hold of. *Dolphin is also a reliable blue tape used by Traditional Painters and about half the price of the 3M range.
Don’t buy from a Dulux Decorator merchant though, price ways, they will pull your pants down, so to speak. Shop for tapes on-line for a much more reasonable price.
No point painting furniture and flooring.
A roll of lining paper works well, or a sheet of One Tuff if you like your floor protection tuff and fluff free. Cotton dust sheets or newspaper, nooooooooooo – that is making life hard for yourself.
You are also committing your free time to this project, because even with the best will in the world, no plug-and-play-and-leave machine can do the work for you. I don’t know about you, but there are only so many hours in a day, definitely not unlimited spare time.
I hope this run down of equipment will help you make your next purchases count and maximise the return on your money and time!
That is the kit, how do I actually paint pine furniture?
There are thousands of blogs and forums that talk about painting pine and painting pine furniture. I see a lot of misconceptions floating around, and home DIY painters especially, are getting in trouble, unnecessarily, following duff advice, or not understanding a few simple principles.
Painting pine properly is not super easy, but with a few thoughts in the forefront of your mind, any keen painter can achieve excellent results.
Rather than me talking in abstracts this links to an article I wrote that uses the exact same principles outlined above:
Paint a pine table with Little Greene paint & Mirka CEROS
When you have read that, you should have a clearer picture in your mind of the practical steps and the principles. However, there are lots of combinations of primers and paints for different surfaces, so by all means come back here, and below is a series of step by steps to paint varnished furniture, paint waxed furniture etc
Painting pine furniture the professional ways
When it comes to preparing pine furniture for painting, if you want a professional looking finish, there is no choice: it should be done to the best of your ability. When deciding which primers and finish paint to use on pine furniture, there is choice. Oil based or water based, or a combination of the two.
All the paints and products mentioned, I use them and stand by them (unless I say otherwise). Some suppliers are listed in the lower information section of the page.
Armed with a good paint brush, abranet abrasives, vacuum cleaner with brush attachment, decent paint, a few bits and bobs, and the tips and tricks below, you are good to go!
Oil based finish on pine furniture
I think the combination of water-based primer, oil based undercoat, oil-based eggshell is the solution numero uno that ticks all the boxes for the most durable and, in my opinion, the most beautiful traditional paint finish possible on timber:
Clean the pine– If woodwork is fairly clean, wipe it thoroughly with a lint-free rag dampened with white spirit or meths. (Not dripping!) When it has evaporated off, sand with 120 or 180 grade Abranet abrasive paper, using a foam sanding pad for intricate areas.
Or, if the woodwork is waxy or filthy, . Krudkutter Original with scourers achieves a quicker and cleaner end result. Leave to dry overnight and then sand as above. (See Annie Sloan chalk paint below if you cannot stand the prospect of too much preparation of waxy pine.)
Prime pine – Prime with Blackfriars Problem Solving Primer, which is water-based low VOC low odour. (The contents of the Blackfriars tin are in fact re-branded Classidur Universal Primer which historically adheres to any surface better than any other primer available to the decorating trade. It has a lot of body too.) Mythic Universal primer is on a par with the Blackfriars paint for this scenario. It is fantastic to apply, but because of its consistency, I would specify 2 coats of Mythic primer on new timber versus one of the Blackfriars.
For water based primer, use a Wooster Silver Tip, Proform Picasso, Rembrandt or Corona Knight brush to give yourself the best chance of a nice finish.
Undercoat – apply a coat of oil-based undercoat tinted to the colour of the top coat. (I use Little Greene oil undercoat, as it has body and dries as expected. I used to favour Dulux Trade undercoat for this sort of work, but I’m not confident with Dulux formulas these days.)
Fill – When the u/c has dried overnight ideally, do any filling of dents over the undercoat; sand smooth. 2-pack filler is most sensible choice.
Eggshell finish – Apply 2 coats of Little Greene Oil Eggshell, sanding between coats and cleaning with a tack rag. Prior to last coat, sand with 240 or 320 grade for a lovely finish.
Brush tip! If this is a one-off project, just buy one 2″ Wooster Alpha, for the whole job. Clean it out after priming in water-based. When you have finished with the oil u/c, if you have a little Brushmate vapour box, there’s no need to clean the brush out.
Finish with the undercoating, then use a scraper and piece of lining paper to get out as much paint as you can, then work the brush in to the eggshell. By the time you are onto the second coat of eggshell, the brush will be perfect.
Water-based finish on pine furniture
On unpainted timber, a combination of oil based primer, and water-based eggshell will get you very close to a beautiful “oil-based” finish on pine. It is based on what I have picked up from the most knowledgeable residential painter I have ever encountered, US painter, Jack Pauhl.
When starting from bare pine, please bear in mind that water-based primer and water-based topcoats will do little to disguise the grain of the wood. The finish will be tough, it is low odour and nice to apply, but 2 coats of a quick-drying oil-based primer like Zinsser Coverstain, although rather smelly, is the best start to a more solid water-based finish.
Prepare pine– Preparation is same as above ie If woodwork is fairly clean, wipe it thoroughly with a lint-free rag dampened with Krudkutter Original or white spirit or meths. (Not dripping!) Sand with 120 or 180 grade abranet, using a foam sanding pad for intricate areas.
Or, if the woodwork is waxy or filthy, . Krudkutter Original with scourers achieves a quicker and cleaner end result. Leave to dry overnight and then sand as above. (See Annie Sloan chalk paint below if you cannot stand the prospect of too much preparation of waxy pine.)
Knot and prime pine For a belt and braces approach, use Zinsser Aerosol to seal knots and then prime with Zinsser Cover Stain (oil-based paint) These are superb trade products that dry quickly. On small projects, you can have the surface sealed and primed twice in a day, ready for finishing the next day.
Fill over first coat of primer Now you can see the blemishes, do any filling, and sand smooth. (2 pack fillers are good bet.)
Re-prime Apply second coat of Zinsser Cover Stain.
Acrylic eggshell finish Sand the coverstain smooth with 180 abranet. It will sand down easily to a glassy finish. and apply 2 coats of acrylic eggshell, sanding with 240 or finer Abranet between coats.
If using Farrow and Ball Estate eggshell, which is an oil-water-borne hybrid, the correct approach is to apply one coat of F&B primer -undercoat over the coverstain! If you paint F&B eggshell straight over Coverstain, or any primer other than Farrow and Ball’s, they will not entertain your complaint if there are any issues. Slow drying, no drying, flaking, to name but 3 issues I have encountered or heard about.
As you can see, this approach with oil primer plus acrylic topcoats is a bit more thorough than the slap-it-on-quick technique that many people are lead to believe is the advantage of using water-based eggshell.
You need a really good technique to avoid brush marks in acrylic eggshell. I cover this elsewhere on the site under Brushes.
100% water-based products for painting pine furniture
100% acrylic water-based primer, brushing filler and water-based eggshell plus patience will achieve very close to a beautiful “oil-based” finish on pine using water-based products only! I developed this system on a 2011 project where absolutely no oil paint was allowed on site, but the finish on the woodwork had to be 5 star.
Apply one coat Blackfriars Problem-Solving Primer or 2 coats Mythic Universal primer to seal surface and block stains from knots etc.
Apply 2 heavy coats of Acrylic Gesso, leave 24 hours and sand smooth with 180 grade Abranet.
Apply 1 primer undercoat, and 2 topcoats of acrylic eggshell.
The acrylic gesso is used by artists who prime canvas to create a super smooth substrate before painting. It is water-based and the consistency is like a cross between liquid filler and oil-based undercoat. ie it has body and builds up the surface to give a nice hard base for the rest of the water-based paints. It involves more work than priming with just an oil primer, (2 extra coats, extra sanding, extra time) but where customers with high expectations for quality require zero/low VOC, no/low odour paints, this is the way ahead.
Painting over previously painted furniture
Repainting over old oil paint, I would have no hesitation in recommending an all water-based approach ie 2 coats of Mythic Universal primer plus 2 coats of acrylic finish (Mythic semi gloss, or Little Greene acrylic eggshell, Sikkens BL Satura, to name but 3 that come with glowing references.)
The hard work for preparing a solid surface has already been done by the old oil paint, so as long as it is solid, you can achieve a really solid and durable finish, slightly more plastic sheeny than oil eggshell, but very acceptable in 95% of cases.
Painting waxy pine furniture with minimal preparation
Try Annie Sloan chalk paint for a real country look to your pine furniture. This is a very clever product that thrives on wax and grease. Minimal preparation required except on knots, which you need to seal with a couple of coats of aerosol Zinssser BIN.
Then apply 2 coats of chalk paint and seal with clear wax or varnish. This is how boy decorators use Annie Sloan Chalk paint.
You can tint the wax, or wipe on / rub off to reveal the backing colours, distress, age, or keep it conventional. See Cait at Carte Blanche for the full inside story and Annie Sloan supplies.
Sometimes furniture is made up of different materials. The interior of a pine cupboard may have an easy wipe finish? Here is how to paint a laminate finish.
Furniture painter specialists to do the painting for you
If you would rather have a professional furniture painter transform a piece of furniture for you, contact one of these specialist furniture painters in your area. Trustworthy and switched on, they have their own slightly different approach to their work, but fundamentally, we all sing off the same hymn sheet. Correct material choice and thorough workmanship is the way to go.
For ready-reckoner budgeting, think in terms of £150 for a chest of drawers to £250 for a good size wardrobe for a flat paint finish. Nicky Hancock of HK Art or Martin Dunn are 2 craftsmen on the list who also offer fine-artistic additions, and most offer decorative paint finishes. If you have a suite of good quality furniture, it usually makes sense on every level to employ a pro, as you would be hard-pushed to replace one piece for the cost of the painting of the suite. If you have a one-off not-so-special piece of furniture, then experience says that it is probably a DIY project.
The ideal surface is new, unpainted timber. However, unpainted second-hand pieces will accumulate dirt and layers of wax etc which can fatally affect the adhesion of most paint. As a rule of thumb, with poor prep, all your good work could be for nought, so even though the primers available nowadays are really high performance, I don’t skimp on prep, and regardless of the primers I use, I try go the extra mile to get timber surfaces clean. Therefore,
As an alternative cleaning agent to white spirit or meths, or Langlow Wood Reviver or Liberon Wax Remover, try Krudkutter Original, which is an eco friendly biodegradable cleaner which decorators use to clean really dirty or waxy surfaces quicky. Wipe on with a scourer, leave for a few minutes, and while still damp, scrub down. Wipe with a lint free cloth like a Mirka microfibre. Repeat if necessary.)
Once cleaned down, the surface is ready for sanding. The aim of sanding is to provide a key for the paint, so 180 is minimum grade roughness you should use to prepare with. At the other extreme, don’t use coarse 60 grade – you don’t want to create ugly gouges and scratches. That doesn’t add character, that screams poor workmanship! I am practically down to only one type of abrasive, Abranet.
The conventional decorating specification for woodwork always starts, with kps – knot, prime stop.
If you have knots, (which can continue to exude resin for years afterwards) the text decorating books say to “knot” them ie traditionally you would seal the knots with shellac knotting (brown) or clear styptic knotting.
That is very old hat, and there are alternatives, which I now prefer.
Blackfriars Problem Solving Primer or Mythic Universal Primer These are high adhesion water-based primers that prime AND seal knots and stains. One coat Blackfriars or 2 coats of Mythic Universal Primer. (Be aware that if surfaces are in direct sunlight, knots can leak through any sealer).If in doubt, Zinsser BIN is about the last resort and if that fails ot seal a knot, there isn’t much left to do except drill out the knot and fill it
Zinsser Bullseye or other quick drying primers are user-friendly and have good stain-blocking abilities, just not as good as the 2 above options. However one option that has worked for me is to prepare and paint the whole surface first with a water-based primer. The dark shadow of knots will show through the white primer, and you seal those with a couple of sprays with aerosol Zinsser BIN.
Bear in mind that some knots will weep beyond the capabilities of any paint coating, and will literally lift the paint and break through it. The ultimate solution is to drill the knot out and fill it. Or view it as character!
If you are priming over factory lacquered pine, the lacquer coating should have had a stain blocker added to it, so knots should have been sealed in for good. However if you are priming with anything other than Blackfriars or Mythic primers, it might be a good idea to spot spray Zinsser BIN over visible knots.
All the above primers dry within minutes and can be overpainted the same day.
Types of filler
Fill any obvious holes with a 2-pack filler or wood stopper, but not a standard “poly” filler which is too soft.
You could use linseed oil putty or a plastic wood – . Wipe any excess putty or plastic wood off the surface with a rag. Putty skins over sufficiently overnight for painting. Use a chisel to level off plastic wood.
For cracked joints, I use acrylic caulk sparingly before the first top coat.
The extent of your filling is very subjective. I could skim and fill the grain of old pine furniture with Toupret Gras a Lacquer till it had a porcelain blemish free finish, but I think it is pointless and detracts from the fact it is pine. I fill obvious nail holes, and then make a judgement on where I stop. Judging by customers’ responses to the quality of my paintwork, so far, so good! Fillers and primers are getting quite complex bedfellows these days.
For an oil finish, after priming, you should either undercoat once, topcoat twice, 3 x topcoats. I am a big fan of tinting the undercoat as close to the top coat colour as possible. Dulux oil undercoat was as good as any under Little Greene or other oil eggshell finishes but I tend ot stick with LG now. (Mark at Broken Cross Decorators Merchants in Macclesfield or any merchant with a machine should be able to tint primers and undercoats to match whatever you need for topcoats.)
Next day, sand down well with 220 grade abrasive, clean off with vacuum/tack rag; apply acrylic caulk to joints, let it dry (2 hours is enough) then apply first topcoat of oil eggshell paint, dry overnight, sanding between coats with 320 grade abrasive, cleaning with vacuum and tack rag, repeat. Done
I now use Little Greene Paint Company exterior / interior oil based eggshell on furniture and kitchen units.
In general terms, water based eggshell paint still doesn’t do it for me when a 5 star finish is required on furniture that has never been painted before – UNLESS it is premium grade joinery. There is always a balance with “perfect” because, you have to decide, do you want this laminate-looking finish on a characterful piece of reclaimed pine? I know I don’t, but the laminate look is growing in popularity, so maybe I am out of touch!
Beware painting furniture in white oil paint The 2010 VOC regulations have thrown most of the paint industry into a tizz and they are having real trouble formulating white eggshell and gloss. Lots of evidence that it is prematurely yellowing, Dulux especially, as the highest profile manufacturer. Drying times have also extended.
Thus far, Little Greene oil eggshell still performs as expected, and in normal conditions, I have had no problems sanding down first coats of eggshell the following day.
Remember, this technique is great for reviving pine and oak furniture, a truly eco recycling strategy, but think long and hard before applying a hand-painted finish to an inlaid, veneered table and / or antique item. Better to sell them and buy a more modestly constructed piece for painting.