I generally finish a piece over the course of a week, doing a step each day, working a few hours each day. Here are my steps:
Day 1: Prep
This is such a hugely important step that it really needs a day all in itself. Prep doesn’t have to take all day, but dedicating time entirely for prep means it has time to be done right.
This is the time I will fill any damage, divots, holes, etc. with mud or wood filler, Repair any lifting veneer with wood glue, sand any scratches or uneven spots that would show through in my paint finish.
I remove all of the hardware and put it in a dish to be cleaned. If I am doing a wood stained top, this is the point I would strip and sand my wood bare.
Once I’ve created all of the sanding dust, its time to clean my piece. I use Furniture , mixed into a spray bottle and with a scrubby sponge, I go around the whole piece, getting into cracks and crevices, cleaning away finger dirt, decades of furniture polish, and whatever other nasty muck happens to be there. After a once over with cleaner, I repeat with plain water, to rinse away my cleaning residue. I vacuum out the inside, where dust tends to gather, sweep away cobwebs from under the feet, and repair drawer glides if they need it.
Only now, after a few hours of work, is my piece ready to start building up its new finish. Don’t skimp on your prep!
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Day 1.5: Priming
This deserves its own step, but it’s not always necessary, so not a full step 2. Evaluate your piece to see if it requires a base or primer under your paint?
Is your piece an old wood, rich in tannins, that are likely to bleed through your paint? If so, add a base coat of Stain blocking primer (Blocks odors, stops stains). If you are painting white or another light color, I ALWAYS recommend a base of stain blocking primer under your paint, whites are the most likely to discolor over time, you won’t regret it! Some serious bleeders can take 2, even 3 coats to encapsulate those oils with full coverage.
Is your piece a slick surface? Most high gloss woods can be given a scuff sanding and gone over with primer, but if your piece is a laminate, plastic, or glass, you need a coat of Gripping primer under your paint. gripping primer, made for painting on slick surfaces, it gives your paint something to bite onto.
Now, lets get to the pretty stuff!
Day 2: The Pretty Stuff
The pretty stuff is the paint of course! Your piece is clean and primed, you can start building up your finishes with a beautiful base coat of paint. Most paints take 2 coats, if not more, so your base coat is the foundation to your finish.
I also use my base coat to conceptualize my finish. This is a great time to test out the concept you have in your head, because it will be covered by a second coat no matter what. Do the colors you chose work together? Do they blend well? Does the pattern or flow make sense? Decide what you like and don’t, and you can perfect it with your second coat.
With my base coat, I get as much coverage as I can, being careful to minimize brush strokes because your base sets the tone for every layer above. I use minimal water on a base coat, to get max coverage from the paint. A 2″ flat brush is my favorite brush for laying paint on, it’s definitely being used here.
Day 3: She’s Got the Look: Second Coat
I’ve nailed down my concept in my base coat, so the second coat is where I will perfect the look of my finish. I start with a fine sanding, nothing more than a 220 grit, the Surf prep Sanding Sponges are perfect here. The fine sanding will take down the chalky feeling of your base coat and any nubs or dust that might have settled in your paint. Perfect the layer under, before going onto your next step, always! Be sure to remove any sanding dust, and paint once you have finished this step.
My second coat is usually thinner. This Paint gives such great coverage, that with most colors, I can focus a second coat on perfecting the look without worrying about coverage. Whites, some yellows, and reds might be an exception and require extra coats.
I use a mister bottle with water on my surface or brush to help the paint glide over the base without sticking, to minimize texture and brush strokes. I will perfect any blending with silky smooth transitions, making sure to get inside the frame of my piece, under the lip and behind any legs. Look at your piece from different angles, get down under it, and make sure you didn’t miss any spots. This coat is your final look, so you really want to get this step right
Day 3.5: Got Transfers?
If you are doing a transfer, this is the step to add it, on top of your raw paint, once dry. Apply your transfer with the transfer tool provided then use a Finishing Pad to burnish the transfer, making sure every little edge is adhered to your piece and no air bubbles remain underneath. Air bubbles or raised edges can allow clear coats to seep underneath and that is where you see lifting happen.
Day 4: Clear Coat
I’ve put so much work into my beautiful finish, a perfect 2nd coat, now I want to protect it. Some paints do not require top coat if you like the matte, chalky finish, but because I’m sending my pieces home with customers, and don’t know their level of use, I always prefer to give them the added protection of a top coat.
I do use a sprayer for the majority of my clear coats. I do a lot of multi color, decorative finishes, so spraying the paint is tough, but spraying clear coat gives the most flawless finish. I do however still prefer to brush or sponge my wood tops. The bare wood absorbs clear coat differently than paint, and I like the smoothness of brushed coats better there.
If you don’t have a sprayer, the Application Sponges are great for easily wiping a clear coat over top, using a brush to clean up drips and get into crevices and corners. Satin Clear Coat is my favorite of the clear coats, easy to apply, good working time, and a low sheen finish.
Clear Wax, hemp oil, or Salve is also an option. I apply all over wax with a big, full, soft, and floppy wax brush. Its is like waxing your car! I prefer not to use a rag because many can leave lint. Massage the wax into your paint, just enough to see the color difference, any excess will build up and stay feeling sticky if you apply too heavily. It really takes very little wax, enough for the paint to absorb. Wait about 15 minutes and come back and buff the wax to a sheen.
The most amazing part of Dixie Belle waxes is they are water based, meaning they can be used in any order with the clear coats. Wax DOES NOT have to be last with Dixie Belle
Day 5: Decorative Finishes
Now that my paint is finalized and protected, this is where I can add decorative finishes like dark waxes, glaze, or Gilding Wax. Layering these products over paint really makes the finish come alive, adds interest to details. Chalky style paints are porous, adding clear coat before your decorative finishes allows you to control their application. The paint is sealed, so you can wipe back as much or as little, of anything over top, as you like now.
I like nice dark crevices, show off the differences in height along the lines of a piece. Use metallics of Gilding Waxes to enhance appliques or details. This is the accessories to your outfit and every fashionista knows, accessories make the outfit!
Day 5.5 Sealing in your Decorative Finishes
If you have added finishing touches that require sealing, this is where you would add another clear coat over top of them, so they are protected as well.
Day 6. Hardware and Finishing Touches
That hardware we put into a dish at the beginning, is most likely clean by now. Right??? Did you forget to clean the hardware??
I usually clean hardware by soaking overnight in a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water, then scrub clean with dish soap and an abrasive pad. Difficult hardware, I boil or put in a crock pot with vinegar/water. Ketchup, Coca Cola, and Barkeepers Friend are other household items great for cleaning hardware. Do not put screws in with vinegar, they will rust!
This is also where I would wax my drawer glides. I like Minwax Paste Finishing Wax. It adds a barrier, so wood rubbing on wood will glide easier. I also would use this time to oil my drawer boxes with Furniture salve or hemp oil. It brings out the grain of the wood, it’s the moisture that old wood needs to last another 50-100 years. These finishing touches go a long way to letting customers know you thought of everything! All of our senses are engaged in a piece that looks, feels, and smells good too.
Once my finishing touches are done and hardware is on, I dress my pieces up in their Sunday best and take pics. They are at the top of their game right now. I take cues from my piece in staging, pull out the style and colors in the staging items I choose. If your piece is for your own home, it’s still nice to take finished pics to commemorate your hard work and show off to friends.
Day 7: On the 7th Day She Rested!
Enjoy a day off, you worked hard!!
Just kidding, no rest! You are already thinking about and shopping for your next piece!