About Milk Paint

Click on any of the pics to enlarge and get a better view...

Introduction

As a woodworker, little pains me more than obscuring the beauty of wood.  Enter paint...  opaque particulate solids suspendend in a solvent.  Paints of yore have little in common with modern, high tech paints.  Milk paint predates written history by mellennia.  The formula is pretty simple: quark (essentially curdled milk), lime, and earth pigments for color.  If you want to get fancy, you can add something like linseed oil to make it even more durable.

So, imagine my self-loating when I discovered my favorite furniture form (Shaker furniture) and my favorite craftsmen (the Shakers) used this... stuff to cover their furniture and wares.  Okay, that's a joke.  I don't hate me.  And, I've used milk paint.  It's rather "en vogue" as modern day country furniture.  I still hate it.

Milk Paint

Modern day paint comes in any color one can imagine, but when one hears the modern day phrase "earth tones", it's old world milk paint that is the inspiration.  Most are subdued, but a quick look at the color palettes of earth pigments will show that the earth supplies quite a wide variety of colors. 

Beyond the colors available from any given pigment, "custom" colors can easily be derived by mixing pigments.  Using strict weight measurements of pigment from within the same batches, reproducing the colors can be acheived fairly successfully.  However, differences in pigment impurity from different batches of pigment can make reproducing colors virtually impossible.  That's the reason wear from time often shows multiple colors on antiques.  It was easier to completely recoat the surface rather than trying to touch it up.

Making Quark

To make the quark

Desired
Cut
Alcohol Shellac
3 lb. to 2 lb. 2 Parts 5 Parts
3 lb. to 1 lb. 3 Parts 2 Parts
2 lb. to 1 lb. 1 Part 1 Part

One last thing about thinning or mixing your own shellac.  Not all alcohols are created equally.  FINISH LATER.

For a more indepth article on the production, history, and other aspects of shellac, see the linked article. 

So, What's the Issue?

Woodcraft Premium Casters -- © S.C. Rogers Blown treads.
Woodcraft Premium Casters -- © S.C. Rogers Treads in various stages of failure.

A Final Thought...

Just give working with wood that's "furniture dry" a try one time.  I think you'll like it. 


Resources

Rich color, non toxic pigments are available from companies like Earth Pigment Company, Natural Earth Paint, or Ardec.
Earth Pigment Company has also produced a great DIY How to video for the purists.

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Last Updated:  Apr. 19, 2018