Bag of tricks

by statia on January 14, 2013

I love it when people love the work I do. I feel so accomplished when I finish a piece and I’m very critical. When I first did the dresser, I had the idea to paint it green, and I loved the color all through the process, but when I stood back and looked at the finished product, I was all “um, that’s REALLY green.” Like, you think so? What did you expect? Idiot. But now I love it, and I’m not going to lie, the extra storage for all of the kids many craft things and mounds of play doh and accessories is pretty nice too.

A lot of people asked me how do I do such a great job when I paint.  Well, first, I’m a perfectionist. It can be a bit of a problem, because if it doesn’t look perfect, I will just keep fixing it until it does.  I like to pay a lot of attention to the detail. But I have a secret:

Before I started really getting into painting, I HATED painting. Because I really sucked at it. I couldn’t paint a straight line. I hated doing trim work. I hated taping and then having it still bleed  and my eyes would get all stabby and forget it. I can’t live with that sort of mess. When we moved into our house almost six years ago, I hired someone to paint it all. I had an eight week old infant, so there was no way it was happening even if I wanted it to.  But since houses are giant money suck holes, I had to learn to do stuff myself and the line just gradually blurred into redoing furniture too. And now people are asking me for advice on how to do it. So, I have a few tips. I mean, I’m by no means an expert, but I do know a lot of basics and tricks and I can definitely pass on what has worked for me.

Patience, grasshopper:  If you’re the type of person who just wants to slap a coat of paint on something and call it a day, perhaps something of this nature isn’t really for you. I’m not saying you have to be perfect, but even the easiest piece of furniture can pose its challenges. A lot of people look at me like “yeah, there’s no way I have the patience for that.” That’s cool. I actually thoroughly enjoy it. I think that helps.

Shopping time: Invest in the right tools. Not right away, but with each project, invest in something good. Paint brushes are probably your first really important tool of choice. Crappy paint brushes will make you so much more frustrated. They fall apart in your project, and leave brush strokes.  Big box stores carry an array of brushes. Purdy’s are a decent line, as are Woosters.  I have both, and I’ve been satisfied with their performance. But if you want to use what the pros use, go to a good paint store. My two favorite brands are Corona and my newly recent find, with an ironic name: Picasso. Picasso brushes are my new absolute LOVE. Always get the type of brush intended for the type of paint your using. Oil based paints use a different type of bristle than a latex paint. Any good paint store will be able to steer you in the right direction. A good brush, if cared for properly, should last you a long time. Don’t be turned off by the prices, because it’ll definitely make the paint go on like buttah! Like a big stick of BUTTAH! I have a slight addiction to brushes. I’m not lying when I say I have at least 20 brushes. Other things you’ll need: masks/respirator, safety goggles, and heavy duty gloves. Helpful tools: a hand sander (useful when you’re redoing a piece that isn’t too expensive- i.e. not an antique) and a scraper.

Start small: Go to a thrift store or search craigslist for something inexpensive. An end table, or something easy that you don’t really love. Maybe you see something you can make it into, but if it doesn’t work, then you’re not out a ton of money. It’s easier to practice on something you’re not so heavily invested in.

Paint or Stain?: Should I paint it? Should I stain it? Does the paint really matter? Look, I’m biased to the type of paint I use, and I firmly believe there’s a difference in quality. But, I’ve used all brands of paint.  We have a crappy $200 kitchen table that we bought when we first moved in. It gets beaten on a daily basis. I paint it once a year to cover up the jelly muck and all sorts of other food particles that I can’t sand off. Just to quell the twitching in my brain.  It’s not a forever piece. It’s more like a “if the kids destroy it, no big deal.” But in the interim, I use whatever black paint I have on hand, and some sort of food safe urethane or wax to keep it looking somewhat decent for the next year.  But if you have a nice piece,  always opt for refinishing the original wood.  If that’s not possible, paint it based on the piece. For the murder dresser, I used a high quality paint, because it’s in my front hall. I recommend Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint. It goes on more like an alkyd (oil based) paint, but it’s water cleanup, and low VOC. The finish is solid and will take a beating.

That should get you started. And I will be happy to answer any questions. I’m not an expert, by any means, but I feel that passion about something will take you a long way (and render you unable to shut up about a subject).  If it’s something that really interests you, or inspires you, then you can absolutely do it. I couldn’t paint a straight line a few years ago, and now, I don’t even tape off when I’m redoing a room, because I find that it takes more time than its worth.


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