NBSS Week 15 – Applying finish to the shaker nightstand, turning a drawer pull on the lathe, and preparing the drawer stock for the toolbox… and a Christmas party!

This week began with finishing. After sanding all of the shaker nightstand components through sandpaper grits up to 180, we applied our first coat of milk paint to the base of the table.

Most folks are using milk paint from the Real Milk Paint Company and this paint dries very quickly between coats but each coat is rather thin and requires sanding between coats to achieve a uniform and smooth finish. It also requires multiple coats to achieve the desired depth of color. After that, a topcoat must be applied because the paint itself is rather chalky and tends to rub off if not protected with an oil- or water-based protective coating. The color blue is also notorious for being a very difficult color to achieve proper depth of color using traditional milk paints. For this reason I asked for and received permission to try out General Finishes’ version of Milk Paint. They use the same base as traditional milk paint but add some water-based acrylic binders to the mix to help with flow and color fastness. You have to stir the product very well to reincorporate the powdered milk paint into the mix but once the product is uniform in consistency it has great color and each coat application is smooth and much thicker than the traditional milk paints. The downside is that it takes longer to truly dry between each coat. I applied a total of three coats, sanding between coats 1 and 2. I had to wait 3 days between each coat to sand but the final color I achieved is deep and rich even without a topcoat. I plan on applying 2 coats of a water-based soy wipe on polyurethane next week. Here’s a comparison of traditional milk paint vs. the General Finishes version. The first table belongs to my NBSS next door neighbor Laura Goffin, she also used blue, but the traditional kind. She had to apply an undercoat of orange and then 6 coats of blue over that to achieve the color depth she desired, and then she applied two coats of Danish oil that helped to darken that color a bit more. (hers is in the left)

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Here’s my table after 3 coats of the General Finishes milk paint without my topcoat.

 

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In between coats of milk paint we also mixed up and began to apply shellac to the drawer and the inside of the base of the table. For these surfaces we are just painting on shellac using a traditional paint brush. For the top we are using shellac but applying it using a technique called French Polishing. Lance demonstrated the process on Tuesday and here’s his sample board.

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French Polishing involves applying shellac using a pad that consists of a central cotton batting soaked with thinned out shellac, which is then wrapped in a cotton cloth (t-shirt material). You rub the surface to be finished with this pad and in essence burnish a small amount of shellac onto the surface with each pass. Shellac as a finish dissolves and re-incorporates itself into each coat so as you are applying the finish with the pad you are building thin layers of finish while at the same time polishing the surface as a whole. As the shellac dries it becomes sticky so the important lesson for French polishing is to always work with a wet edge because the minute you start to catch on a sticky section that is drying you leave marks because you are actually pulling up part of the already applied finish. You can reduce the chance of this happening by applying a small amount of mineral oil to the pad to lubricate it as you polish more shellac into the top. I had to sand off my first attempt because I applied too many layers with too heavy an application of shellac so the buried layers were not drying. For my second attempt I thinned out the shellac to a 2lb cut, used a bit more oil for lubrication, and worked the surface only for 10 minutes for each application.

I also spent some time in the lathe studio this week turning some drawer pulls to possibly use on the shaker night stand. I first turned a simple knob out of maple and I was very happy with the feel and look of it, but I was having some doubts about what it was going to look like painted the same color as the table. So, I talked with the instructors and got approval to try out something new. I ordered an acrylic pen blank that is a dyed plastic resin swirled with different colors (like when you make brownies swirled with cream cheese filling). My color choice was called Caribbean Swirl (think “blues of the ocean”). The blank turns like wood but you can only using scraping tools to shape it, and it stinks like burned plastic while turning. The resulting knob, however, is gorgeous – after sanding and polishing it looks like a hand blown glass pull!

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For the last part of the week I worked on my toolbox. I cut and fitted the single vertical drawer divider, and then glued all of the drawer dividers into the case.

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With these glued in, I now have all of the drawer openings defined so I milled and fit the lumber needed to start making the drawers.

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With all of these components milled and fitted I can work over winter break to cut all of the dovetails to create each drawer and begin to glue up the lumber for the drawer bottoms!

We also had two special events this week to celebrate the holidays. The first was held on Monday and was specific to the Cabinetry and Furniture Making program, a pot luck lunch. Everybody brought in items they either cooked or bought and we had Irish dessert bread, quiche, 3 different types of salads, pumpkin bread pudding, lasagna, meatballs, and cookies, lots of cookies! The second event was the annual NBSS Christmas party held on Thursday evening. It included a raffle with items donated by each NBSS program, an open bar and heavy hors d’ oeuvres, and a special appearance by Lance “playing” the saw like a violin.

Coming up for the next few weeks: a little time off, but the workshop is open, soooo… I think I’ll cut some dovetails for my toolbox drawers and work a little more on finishing up the shaker nightstand, until then…

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