Indulging My Masochistic Tendencies with More Milk Paint

Stumpy Feet

One thing about my chair that caught some attention when I posted pictures on Instagram was the stumpy nubs on the feet. To answer any questions that may have popped into your head: no, I’m not planning on leaving the stumps. I just prefer to keep those on until after assembling the undercarriage. This allows me to pop them back on the lathe to turn the tapered tenons that pierce the seat after they’ve had a chance to super-dry in the kiln.

In this case, I was very glad I didn’t cut the stumps off prematurely. Elia Bizzarri had suggested 22″ legs for the high chair. I ended making them 23″ long (plus the ~1.5″ stumps) just to make sure they’d be long enough. Well, after assembling the chair, my wife wisely suggested that we put it in front of the table with my son in it, so I would know how much to cut off. Turns out, if I had cut the stumps off as I had planned, the chair would have been uncomfortably short for him. Dodged a bullet there, but now I had to turn the stumps flush with the feet, and it was a *bit* too late to put them onto the lathe again.

So, on to Plan B:

Split leg stumps
Split off as much as I dared…
Shaved leg stumps
Shave the remainder flush with a drawknife and spokeshave…
Sanding leg stumps
And sand to smooth them out.
Tippy toes windsor chair
Now I’m left with much more normal-looking feet.

And with that, the chair was ready for a finish. If you’ll recall, I got rather frustrated using milk paint on the Tavern Table and decided to experiment with some alternatives – namely, oil paint and tinted shellac – in the future. I still plan to do just that, but since I still have a hundred bucks’ worth of milk paint laying around the shop, I figured it would be prudent to press on and try to make peace with it.

I mixed up some Barn Red from Old-Fashioned Milk Paint, using 4 tbsp of powder to 8 tbsp warm water. I let the mixture sit for an hour or so and double-filtered it with cheese cloth. It started going on just beautifully – a smooth, thin coat, more like ink than like paint. But some some reason, after about 30 minutes (it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to paint a chair, by the way) the mixture started foaming up for no apparent reason. There were no bubbles in the mixture, yet as soon as I brushed it on, it would look like this:

Milk Paint Bubbles
Just a few small bubbles in the finish – nothing to worry about…

But as I brushed the coat to smooth it and spread it, it just worked itself up into a foamy, lathery mess, like this:

Milk Paint Foam
Yuck. This is one of the reasons I swore off milk paint in the first place.

There was nothing I could do. I tried adding some more water to the mix, but that didn’t help. No amount of stirring made a difference. It was annoying and disappointing. Luckily, after about 5 minutes of drying, I found that I could go back over the bubbly areas with a semi-dry brush and smooth them down. The most egregious spots were in the crevices around the turnings, where the bubbles seemed to accumulate the most.

In the end, I was able to smooth the finish to an acceptable degree, and I think it will look reasonably good after burnishing with a bit of brown paper. Still more effort than I think a good finish should require. If I’m not pleased with the appearance after burnishing, I’ll give the milk paint a coat of red oxide oil paint to even it out some more. My wife is liking the red color, so we may just leave it solid red rather than proceeding with a black topcoat, as I’ve done in the past.

Red Continuous Arm High Chair II


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