Saturday, August 3, 2013

American Paint Company ~ Chalk Painting in Miniature

I know! A new post from me! Don't everybody faint!

I cannot believe it will be almost 2 years since I had anything to say but I have discovered something I'd like to share so this is a good time to jump back in.

Flashback... Summer 2012.  My friend Cheryl, a decorative furniture painter as well as miniaturist, used some left over ASCP on a few pieces of vintage miniature furniture.

"You should try this," she said. "You would really like it for your miniature furniture re-dos".

"Sure", I reply.  "I'll put it on my list."

Fast Forward... Summer 2013.  Cheryl now has her own brick and mortar business. One of the things she stocks is American Paint Company's Clay/Chalk/Mineral base paint (aka "chalk paint").

“You should try this,” she says. “You would really like it for your miniature furniture re-dos”.

"Sure", I reply.  "Send me some sample jars."  And so began my love affair with chalk paint.

I have been rehabilitating miniature furniture for several years.  Sometimes it’s decent furniture that simply needs a breath of fresh air:  lovely Bespaq but oh so boring...

Sometimes it’s damaged furniture that is beyond hope of looking like it once did:  One leg gone, two others wobbly

And, often, it’s inexpensive (often tacky) stuff that needs a complete re-do:  yeah...sad, really sad.

 I like experimenting with different styles and finishes. Frequently, they end up quite fanciful and would be uniquely stylish pieces in real life homes as well as miniature ones. 

However, I was never really happy with the paint I was using, be it latex from the hardware store or acrylic craft paint from the hobby store.  I didn’t always like the coverage, or the sheen or the way it sanded/aged or took varnish, yada, yada.  I had heard of chalk paint and milk paint and knew that furniture painters lauded them both, but I had used milk paint before and wasn’t a fan.  There wasn’t a retail outlet for any kind of chalk paint near me plus I heard it was quite expensive ($40/quart) and one could only purchase it by the quart or gallon.  My friend's situation afforded me the opportunity to try it.  

What is "Chalk Paint"?
Chalk paint, in one form or another, has been around for centuries.  It is made from water and color pigments and some sort of binding agent, such as natural clays or the mineral in chalk.  Traditional gesso is a type of chalk paint; so is whitewash.  There are no oils or synthetics in it whatsoever.  It is completely organic, extremely easy to use and clean up is soap and water.

Don't Try This At Home... 
While there are lots of “recipes” on the Internet for homemade chalk paint, I wouldn’t waste my time and money. Mixing Plaster of Paris with water and latex paint usually results in a slowly hardening, gloppy mess that doesn’t begin to produce the beautiful results of commercially made chalk paint.  Also, don’t confuse this with “chalkboard paint” which produces a surface on which one can write with chalk… totally different animal. 

Why Do I Love This Paint?
1.  No odor. None. Ever.  Solvent free. No acrylic co-polymers. No ethylene glycol. No fungicides. No VOC.  Just water, pigment and minerals.  As a result, it does have a shelf life of 2 years but I expect mine will be used up by then. 

2. Texture.  Thick, smooth and creamy. Goes on like silk off a spool and thins easily with water.  I just dip my brush in water and then into the paint. No gloppiness or stringy-ness that I always see with latex or acrylic.  They don’t recommend stirring or shaking and I’ve not felt any need to do so. Because I do not want to contaminate the paint in any way, I transfer a small amount to another container (like a lid) with a clean craft stick. I am then free to add as much or little water as I feel I need... and it dilutes almost immediately, similar to watercolor paints.

3.  Ease of preparation of the wood or other substrate.  The company says it will stick to any non-oily surface without sanding... and it seems to.  I used it on a resin pedestal that had been coated with what appeared to be high gloss tinted varnish and the black, used undiluted, covered in one coat. I usually give everything a light sanding… just because.  Most importantly, you need to degrease the piece.  You can use TSP, if you have it.  Even soap and water like Simple Green works. I have used Greased Lightning Cleaner with success. Obviously, the better the prep, the better the outcome.

This table was factory-painted that white coating that nothing ever seems to cover, like the bench in the photo.  The top of the trestle table was stripped and then heavily sanded to the bare wood; the base was not.


All I did with the base was lightly sand and apply two coats of Beach Glass, which I allowed to dry thoroughly in between. Then I lightly sanded with super-fine sandpaper and applied another thinned coat. When that was dry, I buffed with a white pad and the finish was very smooth.  I decided to add a coat of Vintage Wax to the base when I waxed the top and I loved how it turned out. 

4.  Coverage.  I read that some users get great coverage on raw or heavily sanded wood with a single coat and that has been my experience as well.  I needed only one (undiluted) coat of Dollar Bill on a small wooden plaque I intend to use as a vignette base. 

For the furniture, I’ve been using several light coats with fine-grit sanding between coats 2 and 3.  On darker stained wood, I have needed a thicker coat for the second coat.  But it all depends on the look you are going for.  The bottom line is that the more coats with sanding, the better the look. This chair will have a “shabby” look so I don’t care if it chips…in fact, I want it to.

A Word About Distressing...
Most of the time, distressing it is achieved by sanding, but that can leave scratch marks on the painted surface.  A better way is "wet distressing" which is possible due to the nature of the paint.  After the little plaque was completely dry (about 4 hours), I applied an undiluted coat of Lincoln's Hat. I waited a bit for that to dry up and then went in with a wet cloth and gently rubbed away the black paint where I might normally sand for wear. Voila!  Beautiful distressed/worn finish... no scratch marks! The results are remarkable.

Speaking of Wax... 
I mentioned that I waxed the top of the trestle table as well as the base.  I've used paste wax on real life furniture... my "farmhouse" dining table came with a can. But I never considered using it on miniature furniture before.

"Try it," said Cheryl.  "You'll like it".   I did.  I do!  
Wax doesn't lend itself to every miniature furniture application but when it does, it produces an absolutely silken finish. Love it!

 ... And Colors...
 No, they're not Sherman Williams or Folk Art.  They don’t have a bazillion colors. 

As a matter of fact, they only have about 30 at the moment and easily 1/3 of those I’d consider “neutral”.  But they are rich, clear, vibrant colors.  Plus I love the names … Beach Glass, Wild Horses, Dawn’s Early Light.  I can mix my own colors because the paint is so pure it is easy to do.

Why American Paint Company Chalk Paint...

Three reasons. It's made in the good old US of A and has been for 25 years. By buying it, I am supporting their business, the business of my friend who sells their paint, and my business.    

All US based business.  Win-win-win all around!  

Here are links to my friend's business and the American Paint Company websites:


Marsha @ Tattered Chick said...

Well hello there!!!! So I take it this is the same as Annie Sloan? I'd rather buy an American made product and I just checked and a store nearby sells it, whoo-hoo!

I have been using chalk paint for a couple of years but not for minis (don't do minis any more)!

Thanks for the info!!! Going to get some this week!!!


otterine said...

So nice to see you! I had never heard of this paint before. I'll definitely have to check it out! :D

Tabitha Corsica said...

Hi Marsha... I guess it's been so long that I'm still using the old format and cannot reply on individual comments.

So, to answer your question, it seems to be. I've never used ASCP because until recently, it was not easily or widely available in the US. Certainly not in the boonies of Florida. Therefore, I have no basis for comparison. They certainly are both " chalk paint". My understanding is that APC catered mainly to professional painters in the States and started several years ago to expand their line to hobbiests.

Norma Bennett said...

Great to see you popping up here Tabitha! This is really interesting, I've been using a paint for a while that seems to have very similar qualities, it's Derivan Matisse background paint, made in Australia. It'd be interesting to try this APC paint but I expect there would be issues with getting it here - so many restrictions on sending paints by air freight.

Tabitha Corsica said...

Brae... you should definitely check out this paint. :-)

Norma... I think that paint you are using is acrylic. APC is not; and yes, it might be hard to get in Australia. ASCP might be easier as I think Annie Sloan Unfolded has International stockists.

Norma Bennett said...

Yes, you're right it is acrylic but very 'chalky' and never has to be stirred, etc. There are stockists of ASCP here, I never thought of enquiring whether or not they had 'sample' sizes of it (I don't think I'd use a normal size can of it in a million years on mini stuff), but you've motivated me to find out.

burygardeners said...

Would you consider decanting it into smaller container and selling some at a show or on line? I don't do masses of things, so a quart is pretty unusable - always my problem with paint!!

Cheryl said...

Great post my friend. So glad you came around its like painting and waxing with butter.

Unknown said...

Miniature stuff are all about experiments especially when you want to do some make-over. With the right tolls and paint, you change the whole design into whichever era you would like your dollhouse to be. :)

Oberon's Wood said...

Hi Susan :o)
I see you are a 'return to blog' girl too! he he
Do you know if this paint is sold over here in the UK?
You can never have enough paints ;o)
How are you by the way? :o)

Tabitha Corsica said...

We are all fine here :-) Sprocket sends his fondest regards. I think this paint may not yet be available in the UK...but Annie Sloan's paint is similar and I am positive you can buy it there. I have heard she now sells sample sizes also.

It's hard to keep up with blogging and, well, everything else, isn't it? :-)

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