Bradford chair finished

I often get requests for an “old” finish, i.e. something that looks like those pieces that are 350-400 years old. Often the look these pieces have is more about their 19th-century restorations than about the years of use & handling. But no matter, that’s what people want to see much of the time.

Finishing is not something I have ever really studied. I can finish pieces so they look new; looking old is harder. This chair was the best result I’ve got on making one look dark/old/used; whatever we might call it. To do it, I finally jumped on the Windsor chairmaker’s bandwagon and used milk paint! I’d done it years ago, and was never thrilled with my results, but now using Curtis Buchanan’s video and Pete Galbert’s book I went step-by-step and got something I was very pleased with. I shot almost no photographs of the process for several reasons. Godawful hot out. It looks hideous in the early stages; and I didn’t want the customer to see anything but the result.

Here’s some of the first two coats of red paint – I tried to show how burnishing it when it dries gives it some polish, and brightens things up. On this first one, the horizontal rails have been burnished, the vertical post and spindles are just the dry, chalky paint.

And on this one, the two spindles on our left have been done, those on the right are still the dry paint. 40 spindles, it was no small job to do 4 coats of paint on this chair. Two red underneath, then two brown over those. Then 2 coats of linseed oil.


I shot no more of the process, it was too messy and sweaty, so I didn’t need another task like running the camera. Jump to the finished product:


Those same spindles:

If you want to learn about painting this way; Curtis’ video series on painting starts with this one:

Then there’s three or four more. Not hard to find…

You know Pete’s book –

And Elia Bizzarri did a video about using milk paint too –

7 thoughts on “Bradford chair finished

  1. Wondering if the burnishing is done between all coats or just after each color, also what are you doing to burnish?

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