Using Old Fashioned Homemade Milk Paint

by ziggy on January 11, 2013 -- 2 comments -- Follow

Old Fashioned Milk Paint

Painting the Windsor chair with milk paint

Paint has historically conjured some nasty feelings and sensations for me — that chemical smell oh-so liable to induce headaches, the almost plastic appearance of the finished product, the worry that washing brushes in the sink or out on the lawn is going to kill something, somewhere down the line… Well, it doesn’t have to be that way! Enter good old fashioned, homemade milk paint. Yes, paint… made with milk. It’s really that simple.

Milk is a brilliant natural alternative to synthetic binders, and has been used for thousands of years, and is perhaps a superior product to anything you would typically find in the store. I’ve learned that milk paint is a traditional finish for Windsor chairs, and you can actually buy it in powder form. I’ve made it myself in the past, but buying it is a convenient alternative to souring and stirring milk with your own pigment — see Old Fashioned Milk Paint.

First… How to Make Your Own Milk Paint

Making your own milk paint is really easy, as long as you have pigments around. Here’s a recipe from earthpigments.com:

  • 1 gallon skim milk (milk must be fat-free and fresh, not powdered)
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 112 grams Hydrated Lime Powder Type S (approx ¾ cup)
  • 200 grams pigment
  • Water for rinsing and slaking

Now, I’m sure you could come up with these common ingredients. I’ve used iron oxide for a pigment, which produces a nice rusty red color. For the full instructions, visit this page.

Buying Old Fashioned Milk Paint

Old Fashioned Milk Paint sells its product in powder form, which is a little different from the traditional method of using wet ingredients, but it’s a great alternative nonetheless. They’ve got a range of colors, which for pretty obvious reasons is not as expansive as synthetic colors, but you can always mix and combine your own combinations. Pretty sweet.

Homemade Milk Paint

They also sell a type of milk paint specifically designed for interior walls, but I can’t tell how it is different from the standard milk paint.

Using Homemade Milk Paint

As per Greg’s instructions, I am applying four coats of milk paint to my Windsor chair. Two red coats act as a base for the final color, which I have yet to choose, but it could be either black, green, yellow, etc. Milk paint has a distinct look and finish, quite separate from other types of paint. It’s actually really durable, and the paint has a kind of “character” and pattern that sets it apart. It is a less predictable than synthetic paint, but that is part of the appeal.

I’ll be sure to post more images of my milk-painted chair when it’s done!

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  • Jay C. White Cloud

    I love the color you picked. Have you ever mixed the milk paints with natural oils? Did I ever share with you our “go to product,” we have used it for over 20 years? It is called LandArk, (http://www.landarkwoodfinish.com/contact.html) Great job Ziggy.

    Regards, jay

  • This is really fantastic and inspiring. It’s funny for me to see you working on these projects and with milk paint—2 months ago I got into spoon and green wood carving and am now playing with milk paint myself. There’s a really great group on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/GreenWoodWork/

    Keep up the awesome work!

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