Milk Paint – Advice and a Mad Chef

First: Clear the premises of all penguins

First: Clear the premises of all penguins.

In addition to the Milk Paint appendix in the “The Anarchist’s Design Book” there are a few more resources that the new milk painter might find useful:

  • Chapter 25 on Finishing in “Chairmaker’s Notebook” by Peter Galbert, available from Lost Art Press.
  • Peter’s blog Chair Notes has tons of information including this article on using milk paint, “Bullet Proof Finish.”
  • Chris recently completed a DVD for a bookcase where he covers the use of milk paint. The DVD (or dowload) is available from Popular Woodworking.

For the adventurous painter and finisher:

  • Brian Anderson, our compatriot in France, experimented with a milk paint recipe and reported his results in “The Mad Chef’s Milk Paint Gets A Shellacking” post here.

A big thank you to Richard Byrne and Ryan Mooney for providing a wealth of links to painting and finishing resources in yesterday’s post, “Milk Paint – A Short History.”

Suzanne Ellison

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6 Responses to Milk Paint – Advice and a Mad Chef

  1. kendewitt608 says:

    And these guys were waring ties while they painted. Could not happen in this day and age.

  2. Rachael Boyd says:

    I have been using a recipe for chalk paint. using latex paint, plaster of pairs, and water.I have used it on a couple of pieces ,you do need to oil or wax it but from what I have been reading its a lot easier to make and looks great, that is why I was asking about the difference between chalk and milk paint. I think I will keep using my recipe. but a great big thanks for all the info.

    • Rachael Boyd says:

      this the the bench I did with chalk paint

    • saucyindexer says:

      Plaster of paris is gypsum so you are making chalk paint with the modern addition of latex paint. From what I have read this is one of the preferred recipes for, as you say, ease of use and you get a very nice surface. The bench looks great!

  3. jenohdit says:

    I love milk paint and have used it for a long time so I’m not knocking it in any way but I found an article a few years ago which questions how widespread it traditional use was.

    It focuses on Johannes Spitler’s work which is how I found it and it doesn’t claim to speak about all 19th century folk painters but it does conclude that he at least was using commercial pigments in oil even though he was in a pretty rural location in Virginia’s mountains. I thought it would be an interesting addition to the discussion of milk paint.

    The article also mentions what appear to be 2 German language paint recipe books published in America in the early 19th century. I’ve played a bit at homemade linseed oil paint (basically dump pigment in oil and smear around to see what happens) and it seems doable so I’m kind of intrigued by the possibilities of making paint in general.

    From the article:
    … In fact, the myth that rural artists developed their own materials has colored our thoughts about the materials used to fabricate folk art…
    There is a profound assumption being made here that isolated rural painters did not have access to the materials used to make high quality paint.
    There has been far too little objective scholarly investigation to counter myths such as this…
    …The oil paint binder and commercial, probably imported, pigments used by Johannes Spitler were quite different from the types of materials which have been widely assumed to be used by folk artists of the time.

  4. Ryan Mooney says:

    You guys are on a roll 🙂

    Another avenue of exploration that I haven’t really been able to explore to satisfaction is the historic use of other protein based binders. My (admittedly rough) understanding is that due to protein degradation over time it becomes difficult to tell many of them apart by most conventional analysis so some of the things we believe to be milk based may actually be blood (albumen) or egg based[1]. Given what little we know about the history of agriculture it would be surprising if blood and eggs didn’t predate milk by some substantial amount and I would be surprised if they didn’t continue in use for a long time. Indeed egg tempera and glair is still used today. I don’t know of any extant uses of blood[2] but I think anyone who’s tried to clean it out of a white shirt can agree that its both a persistent colourant and a stubborn binder 🙂

    “For casein, glair (egg white) and egg yolk, the amino acid composition is not sufficiently distinctive to permit differentiation by qualitative or semi-qualitative technique”.

    Unfortunately I don’t currently have access to this one.. but it had some interesting data.

    A Clever way of actually determining the protein source via antigens that bind to the protiens.

    This list isn’t even close to exhaustive obviously…

    [Nose blood as binder for paint by the Eskimos]. Sounds like fun?

    Fun side fact; some people with egg allergies use blood albumen as a substitute for egg whites in cooking – e.g.

    There is also the use of blood as a binder in some traditional cob floor building techniques.

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