You may have seen a post I put up earlier where I did up an old needlework box. I think I mentioned that it was covered in the ubiquitous 1940s varnish and that it was a nightmare to prepare. Here’s my second attempt at doing up an old piece of furniture which was covered in the ‘ubiquitous 1940s varnish’ and I have to say it was only slightly easier. However I have learned a lot doing it so will share the trauma with you.
I decided to cover this with Annie Sloane’s Chalk Paint, choosing Old White and Louis Blue. The choice of blue was forced on me when I realised that I couldn’t fit the tesserae on the side without cutting them. By the time I reached that stage I had already lost the will to live, so painted it instead.
I will summarise. ….
1. I washed it down and didn’t sand it this time. Instead contacted Annie Sloane’s shop and asked about bleed through. They recommended I used a knotting solution. I went out and got it to find this……just take a look at the size of the brush! Undeterred I plodded on putting it over the surface. 2. I decided to start painting. It was very hot and the paint was very thick and hard to paint. This was mistake Number 1. I hadn’t used Chalk Paint before so it took me a while to twig that I should water it down. Up until that point is was FAR to thick – causing me difficulty getting a flat surface. I had to sand down and even then it wasn’t really as flat as it should be. 3. I decided to use up some mosaics I had upstairs and of course chose to line them up by eye, as I didn’t want it too mechanical looking and I needed to adjust the tesserae to the size of the top. This was mistake Number 2. This took AGES. The problem was getting the spaces even, if I adjusted one spot then another would look wrongly placed. I can’t tell you how many times I had to keep redoing it. Even when I thought I had finished and started to grout I realised that it was not sufficiently balanced and had to remove some tiles and move them slightly. While I was doing this I consoled myself that Roman mosaics often seem quite irregular when you look at them, and anyone looking at the Colosseum will tell you that their brickwork often left a lot to be desired. ( We are not talking Egypt here in terms of precision. Of course they covered it in concrete I suppose)
What I have learnt ( the hard way)…………….
NEVER use Chalk Paint outside on a boiling hot day without watering it down.
In future use a ruler when doing the mosaics! I usually do things freeform, the discipline of regularity is much harder than I thought! In the end I gave up!
Now, I have since spoken to a woman who runs a shop selling Annie Sloane’s paint. Her secret, when facing the ‘ubiquitous brown varnish’ is to prepare the surface with car paint primer! Bearing in mind it could be sprayed on I am going to give it a try! At the moment I never want to see another piece of brown varnished furniture ever again! However I have got several large pieces I really need to do! I console myself that old furniture is almost always very well built…………….