Introduction: How to Prevent Paint Bleed: Grain Sack Stencil Rocking Chair

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When we found this painted rocking chair, it happened to be on a day with hit the jackpot of curb side chairs. While one only needed a little fabric refresh, this one is getting the full monty! In this 'Ible, we're showing you how to milk paint and add a grain sack stencil. Then we’re protecting the hole shebang with hemp oil. But don’t worry, she’ll be just as charming, if not more so, when we’re through!


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Step 1: Milk Paint Selection

There's a brand new milk paint by Fusion that just launched this month. Before it was even available though, I came across a small display in a local store. When I saw Amalfi Coast, I just had to have it for my little rocker so I convinced the vendor to sell me a sample pack. The bright, vibrant colour I chose is impossible to find in milk paint; traditionally the colours are very muted. I'm excited to try it: sometimes when you see something, you just know it's going to be perfect!

Step 2: Prep Work

With a creative direction for the chair behind me, Hubs got to work sanding the old paint finish on our rocker with 220 grit sandpaper.

Underneath the wooden seat we discovered it used to have caning!

I wiped away the dust with a damp rag. Keep going over until it no longer picks up any dust.

Step 3: Mix Milk Paint

Grab your favourite paint brush and gather your materials.

I tend to only mix small batches that I can comfortably use in the time I have to paint. Since the chair is small, I used a measuring spoon to measure quantities. Mix the milk paint in a glass jar - equal parts powder and water.

Stir with a craft stick or mini wisk. The advantage of using a wooden craft stick to mix is that you have record of the paint colour when you're done because the milk paint will stain it as you stir!

If you like, you can pop on the lid and shake the jar. Then let it sit for 15 minutes to half an hour so the milk paint powder is fully absorbed. Note that with shaking, you may notice bubbles even after settling. Just skim them off the surface before starting.

Also check out my ‘no mess’ milk paint hack on Instructables for another method on how to mix milk paint!

Step 4: Paint the Chair

After mixing, but before using the milk paint, be sure stir up up again. Occasionally during use, remember to give it another stir. The powder tends to settle as the paint sits.

I prefer using an angled brush for applying paint to furniture. This Wooster brush (2nd picture) has a short handle which I find very comfortable to hold for long periods of time.

If you apply light coats of milk paint, and sand lightly between coats, you’ll get a flawless brush-stroke free finish.

I only hit the highlights of the wood carving with the tip of my brush because I want the black to show through in the recesses (3rd pic).

For the remainder of the back slat, I only paint the sides and back leaving the face the original black paint (4th pic). I have something special planned for the slat. The black background is a jumping off point for a stencil I’m going to add.

Everything else gets 3 light coats of milk paint. One thing to keep in mind with lighter colours of milk paint: you will need more coats than usual. I barely squeaked by with the 50g package. For that reason, next time I milk paint a chair with a light colour, I’ll buy a larger quantity!

Step 5: Grain Sack Stencil

As pretty as the milk paint is, a little red ‘lipstick’ will catapult this chair makeover over the top. So I’m embellishing the slat of the chair with this Grain Sack Stripe Stencil from Funky Junk’s Old Sign Stencils.

See those narrow pin stripes along the edges of the grain sack stencil stencil above? Those can be tricky to paint. There are six tricks I use to prevent bleed through under a grain sack stencil like this (or any stencil, for that matter).

Step 6: 6 Steps to Prevent Paint Bleed

Watch the video at the beginning of this 'Ible to see some of these steps in action.

1. Prep Surface

Before applying the stencil to the back slat, first prep your surface with 220 grit sandpaper so it’s completely smooth. There should be no rough texture or uneveness that would cause the stencil to ‘float’ above any areas along the edge.

2. Let Gravity Be Your Friend

Instead of keeping my chair upright and applying the stencil in a vertical position, I lay it down on an adjustable height work table so it’s horizontal instead. Because of that, It’s much easier to work on (it’ll help save your back too, once the table is adjusted to the perfect height). The fact of the matter is that curved rockers will still cause the chair to incline (as you see below). That incline happens to give us a much better vantage point to photograph and film. But feel free to raise the lower end of the rocking chair, if you prefer to put something underneath, so it’s perfectly horizontal.

3. Lie Stencil Flat

Whenever a piece I’m working on has an uneven surface, like the raised portions at the top and bottom of the slat, I’ll tape down my stencil at a point where I can lie it as flat as possible. For instance, notice that the bottom edge of the stencil is even with the bottom edge of the slat. If I line up the bottom edge of the stripe with the bottom edge of the slat instead, that will result in a gap, which is what you don’t want. You can always fill in the missing portion of the stripe by taping the edges with painters tape.

4. Use Painters Tape

Once the grain sack stripe stencil is positioned on the slat, tape it down with painters tape. Notice that in the middle the tape goes right through the narrow stripes on the side. That will help hold it down. When all other parts are complete, just lift those two pieces of tape and finish painting those areas.

5. Keep the Pressure On
I use my fingers to apply pressure to the edges of the stencil where I’m painting. Then I move along to the next spot keeping consistent pressure. You’ll see that in the video.

6. Dry Applicator

The last trick I use to get a great result is to make sure the applicator is dry before painting. I dab the paint applicator onto papers towels to offload most of the paint before stencilling. Easy does it: apply a few light coats instead of a heavy one and you’ll get crisp, clean lines.

I happen to love these foam daubers for applying paint to stencils. There are lots of conventional and unconventional options you can use to apply paint to a stencil. I’ve even had success with sponge makeup applicators. Try a variety of different applicators to develop your own preferences.

Step 7: Painting Around Carved Details

To get into the details like the carving at the top of the slat, stop stencilling at least an inch short of the carving. When you’re happy with the density of the paint, carefully lift the stencil and set aside to dry.

Apply some painters tape as shown to continue the stripe. I use a stiff bristle brush to get into the details (again make sure it’s dry). Because the brush is stiff, it’s easy to pounce toward the carving to fill in against the edges. Again, you’ll see exactly what I mean in the video. Lift the tape and you’re done.

You’ll notice that the grain sack stripe still stops short of the bottom. No, I didn’t get lazy. I was going to fill it in as I did with the other end – and even had it taped, but Hubs really likes it this way. I think it’s quirky and once in a while I let Hubs think he actually gets some input into the design process 😉.

Step 8: Sand and Seal

Once all the painting is complete, I lightly sand the milk paint with 320 grit sandpaper to knock back any rough spots. This is optional, but I also ‘wet sand’ the hemp oil too.

While you’re sanding a painted piece that still has it’s original paint underneath, feel free to distress the edges in a few spots so the original colour shows through. I love seeing some of the original black finish peeking through, but it’s totally up to you.

Hemp oil is an all natural product that, if applied like I’m doing here, will make your milk paint finish feel silky smooth. Like butta!

You can use a natural bristle brush to apply hemp oil or a cotton rag (I’m using a rag). I also wear a glove because it can get messy working with oil.

I'm using hemp oil by Homestead House. Pour a little into a container, dip the rag, then spread the oil onto the surface. There’s no need to wipe in the same direction as the grain. Then take a clean piece of 320 grit sand paper and rub it through the oil on the surface to burnish the milk paint.

Use a microfibre cloth to wipe away any excess oil.

Once dry, reassemble. I reuse original hardware whenever I can. These tacks help cover the hole in the seat left after the removal of the caning.

Step 9: More About Hemp Oil

I wondered if hemp oil would change the colour of the paint. Yes and no! It will deepen slightly and make the colour pop. Notice how much richer the chair seat looks against the surrounding milk paint that hasn’t been oiled.

However, the next day after applying the hemp oil, I did get red bleed through that you see in the second picture. I'm not sure what caused that; it's likely a reaction with the original finishes on the chair. Funnily enough, I actually love how that random red effect looks because of the red grain sack stripe on the back slat. It's like it was meant to be!

Hemp oil will fully cure in a month. Check on the piece every week and if you notice any ‘spots’ showing up in the finish, that’s just excess oil that the piece won’t absorb. Wipe it with a clean microfibre cloth, then check back again up until it’s cured.

I think on a small piece of furniture like this chair, you can probably get away with reapplying the hemp oil every three years or so. It really depends on the use and also how dry the environment is.

Step 10: Reveal

I added a chair pad we have kicking around just to show you that a cushion can make the rocking chair more comfortable and inviting. Are you into the plaid this autumn? Or maybe you prefer a crisper look sans the seat cushion like the last picture?

I don’t know much about this particular little vintage rocking chair. But I do know that it really rocks now, in more ways than one! If you know anything about the origins of this sweet rocker, please leave us a comment!

If you enjoyed learning more about milk paint, hemp oil and how to paint a grain sack stripe without paint bleed, please consider voting for us in the 1000th Contest!

You can check out Funky Junk's full line of Old Sign Stencils here if you'd like to try your hand at stencilling a chair.


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