The mantel is actually a mirror from the top of a dresser. When we moved I found a lady who would paint furniture for me. She used chalk paint for this mantel and a few other pieces I took to her. Back then I was too scared to try it myself. I used the excuse that I was too “busy”. But was I really?? We recently painted the basement walls white so I didn’t want the mantel white anymore. After a little research, I learned that milk paint will adhere to chalk paint. I knew it was going to be quite a challenge to get this piece sanded back to the original wood with all the surfaces, which is why I decided to try milk paint.
My First Milk Paint Experience – Faux Fireplace Mantel
It’s been a strange time. Social distancing has definitely changed the way we’re living. But to be honest, this new way of life we’ve developed has been refreshing. We are doing more as a family and we are being far more productive and intentional with our time. I’ve heard it said that “if you don’t have a new hobby, side hustle, or skill on the other side of this, then time was never your issue.” I found it to be quite the smack in the face. It challenged me to stop making excuses which prevent me from doing new things. With this thought bouncing around in my head I decided to try something new. I painted a piece of furniture with milk paint and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out!
120-220 grit sandpaper
Electric sander (if desired)
Miss Mustardseed Milke Paint (water, paintbrush, stir stick, whisk or blender)
Milk Paint Finishing Oil
400 grit sandpaper
The first thing I did was sand the entire piece. Initially I was sanding it by hand with 120 grit sandpaper. But about halfway through my arms got tired. So I pulled out my electric sander with 220 grit sandpaper for the other half. (This becomes really important later on.)
I took the air compressor and blew the mantel off after I finished the sanding process. The chalk paint left a pretty big sandy mess. Once the majority of it was gone, I took a piece of tack cloth and wiped it down to get all the tiny bits that the air compressor missed.
Next, it was time to paint! I’ve never used milk paint and therefore I had no idea I’d be mixing the paint. When I ordered the paint from Miss Mustardseed it arrived in the form of a powder. Just add water. It wasn’t hard to do, but it was certainly a new experience. The directions suggest adding the water to your cup first then slowly adding the powder one tablespoon at a time. The ratio I used for this piece was 1:1. I initially mixed 6Tbs of water with 6Tbs of paint. The painting was easy. I ended up mixing more paint and doing 2 coats to ensure I had good coverage since I was painting black over white.
After the paint dried I noticed one section of the mantel was extremely crackley. I heard that milk paint can do this. But I didn’t intend for it to happen, at least not to that extreme. After talking to Justin, it seems that I probably didn’t sand the wax off that section very well. Remember when I told you I sanded half by hand and the other half with an electric sander? Yeah, the crackling happened on a section I sanded by hand. Milk paint crackles when it’s applied over wax or oil because it is water-based.
Now that I knew what milk paint was capable of, I decided to lean into it. I sanded that section down but I intentionally didn’t do it perfectly. I wanted to have some natural-looking crackles and antiquing. After I was done sanding, I wiped it off and prepped it for paint again.
It doesn’t take milk paint very long to dry. For me it was dry within a couple hours. I waited a little longer before I started antiquing it though. In most of the places where there is antiquing it’s because the paint had crackled and fell off just by me touching it. But in some of the places, I took a small plastic putty knife and scraped off the paint. Since I didn’t completely sand the white chalk paint off at the start of the project it added a second layer. I think it makes it look like it has a history of being paint and repainted. I have a couple pieces that are authentically vintage and they have multiple layers of paint on them. It was a pleasant surprise! I love the black, white, and natural wood!
I learned my lesson about oil and water during the painting process. So I waited more than the suggested 24 hours before I applied the finishing oil. The directions on the bottle of finishing oil said to rub it on with a cloth and then buff it with 400 grit sandpaper. During my research, I watched a tutorial by Miss Mustardseed and she called this technique ‘wet sanding’. She said it gives it a nice velvety smooth finish. The girl wasn’t kidding! I wish you could touch this mantel! It is so soft! I absolutely love the way the wet sanding technique changed the look of the mantel. It had a chalky finish before and now it is definitely velvety smooth!
The left side has the finishing oil and the right side is just milk paint
I’m very happy with the way it turned out, especially in light of the fact that this is the first piece I’ve ever painted! I was afraid I was going to ruin the mantel, which is why I almost didn’t do it. But the crazy thing is, by pushing myself to try something new I learned I actually enjoy it! I keep thinking up new projects that I can use milk paint on haha!
Whatever you’re thinking about trying or starting, don’t live in analysis paralysis. Studying and researching is good, but don’t forget to actually do the thing! I learned more by doing this project than I did by reading about it. Maybe on my next project I’ll intentionally apply some oil or wax to make the milk paint crackle! Thanks for stopping by! It’s such a joy doing this with you!