Izzi’s Table Finished – Milk Paint

A while back I wrote about building a table to hold my daughter Izzi’s doll house on.  You can read more about the build here: A Simple Doll House Table.  The build was a fun one day project that resulted in a much heavier duty table than I anticipated, but a table that she will be able to use later in life as well as now.


The biggest issue I had after was what type of finish to put on the table.  Using a stain and/or varnish is my typical preferred finish because I don’t like to cover up wood.  The problem is the table is going in my daughters room and everything in there is painted…..well girly.  Even the big loft bed that I built her a few years ago is painted white.

Around the same time as I was trying to decide on the finish, I was reading about Megan Fitzpatrick’s tool chest and the use of milk paint as the finish.  I had never used milk paint before but it seemed like the perfect solution.  Milk paint give you a surface that is unlike regular paint.  It does cover completely (well mostly) in color but is not completely consistent in tone across the surface.  Another difference is that it doesn’t build up on the surface of the wood like modern paints, in fact the first coat acts more like applying a dye to the wood.  The result is that the grain patterns show through, especially with the oak I used.

Applying the milk paint was a little nerve racking.  I read Michael Dunbar’s article in Popular Woodworking, Milk Paint before getting started it was a great reference on what to expect and some great advice.  The milk paint mixes from a powder.  After mixing equal parts water and the powder, you get what looks (and smells) like colored mud…and that is partially what it is.   The directions recommend waiting for an hour for the bubbles to settle but I found that I had to wait almost twice that long before the paint thinned back down.  The first coat goes on very slow and more like dabbing on than painting.  The results after the first coat is a very interesting finish to say the least.  Luckily I was already prepaided that this coat would not look good…at all.

Because the milk paint has such a short shelf life once mixed, about one day tops, I made sure I applied the second coat immediately  after the first had dried.  The second coat goes on much easier and acts closer to a regular paint.

The result of the second coat was a much more even tone and consistent coverage, there were still some fluctuations in the tone but I think that is part of the appeal.  The paint has a very chalky look and would scratch easily so a sealant needs to be applied to protect the finish.  I used two coats of polyurethane thinned to about a 2:1 ratio with mineral spirits.  The first coat really penetrated into the wood just showing how little the milk paint protects the wood.

I believe the choice of using the milk paint was the right decision.  I am happy with the look and it will only improve with age.  Milk paint does not chip off but will only wear.  It also darkens and polishes which will give the table a wonderful patina look with age.  I hope this is a table that she will enjoy not only now but will be something she will carry with her as an adult.

Be safe, learn something, and have fun.


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6 Responses to “Izzi’s Table Finished – Milk Paint”

  1. February 24, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

    About six months ago, my daughter and I was shopping looking for a changing table for a my youngest grandson. We didn’t want to spend to much, but we wanted something of quality and the ones she kept picking out were outside the budget and I wasn’t to impress with the craftsmanship. So I what home and jumped online and did some research on what it would take to build my own table. That’s when I came across this great site called http://www.wood-working-made-easy.com. This thing that Ted put together came in so handy. I went looking for a changing table and came out with over 16,000 step-by- step woodworking plans that has made every projects I’ve done so far super easy, under budget, and nothing but the best quality craftsmanship out on the market today. No short cuts here, nothing but the best techniques laid out in a very formative format that made things super easy. Which in return, help me create quality craftsmanship and long lasting treasures. I was compelled to share this great site with others, in hopes this would help further your woodworking ambitions so you too, could start being proud of your projects.

  2. April 4, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    I was also nervous the first time I had to mix milk paint. But the results are great. I had to paint my kids room this milkshake pink and it came out great. I had to give mine about 3 coats for decent color and even added a sealer to protect it from scratches. Yours turned out nice, well done.

  3. January 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    Looks great, Chris. I’m sure Izzy will love it for years to come. She’ll probably even dance on it, some day.

    • highrockww
      January 31, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

      Well at least it is built strong enough to dance on…..

  4. Jeff Branch
    January 27, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    Chris, the table looks awesome. I like the design very much. I have never worked with milk paint, but want to some day. Izzy certainly looks pleased with it. :)

    • highrockww
      January 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

      Thanks Jeff. She love it and I hope she get many years out of it.

      BTW I look forward to seeing you this weekend.

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