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The painter’s waltz

January 6, 2013

A few weeks ago, you’ll recall, I was bemoaning the results I was getting from my paint. No matter how careful I was, it was sticky and draggy. Mixing in a paint additive didn’t really help much (if at all). I was desperately disappointed with the finish. After all, this paint is going to cover a lot of our kitchen. People WILL notice. WE will notice.

It’s not that I’m a perfectionist. I’m more of a high-expectationist. I know I can’t achieve a factory finish because I’m not using a sprayer or baking it on. But I wanted it to be smooth, and smooth it was not. Then, in the depths of my despair—This Old House to the rescue! I chanced to be watching an episode where the guys were evaluating cabinet finishes for a high-end kitchen. They decided to go with the one that was hand-painted: “Look, you can see the brush strokes! You know this has been hand crafted.” What?? Brush strokes are good? Even desirable? Hey, if a few brush strokes are good enough for Norm Abram, that changes everything. I had been pardoned.

So I consulted the TOH website for advice about paint. I needed something that flowed better, more like oil-based enamel.  Why not just use enamel? It’s winter. Drying time would take forever, and we have very limited space to lay pieces out to dry. Also, I didn’t want the clean-up mess. This is a big painting project, so there’s going to be a lot of clean-up for weeks to come.  TOH recommended a few brands, one of which was Benjamin Moore’s Advance, according to their website, a “100% alkyd formula water-dispersible alkyd, developed with proprietary new resins that keep VOCs low even after tinting.  It flows and levels like a traditional alkyd with the extended open-time required to achieve high-end finishes.” I didn’t even know what an alkyd formula was, but thought I heard angels singing. Sounded ideal. And expensive.

Advance Halo

Lots of stores in our area carry Benjamin Moore paint. Do you suppose any of them sell the Advance line? Heck, no! Off we went to north Seattle … and home we came, proud owners of a $52 can of BM Advance in Glacier White, and two adorable little mohair rollers.

Did it make a difference? Holy cow … YES. Sometimes you do get what you pay for.

If I ever worried how the Shaker-style doors would turn out, this upper-cabinet door frame (which will hold a glass panel) shows what an awesome job Eric is doing. They are perfect—it’s almost a shame to paint them. (By now, you know that Eric is the secret sauce that makes this renovation possible. Without his talent and diligence, none of this would be happening. I would be reduced to haunting various Home Depots, hoping to run into the crew from “Kitchen Crashers.”)

Cabinet door detail

Down in the shop, Eric created mounds and mounds of fluffy shavings with the router. This stuff is weightless, like a handful of wooden feathers! It’s everywhere, including on our wine collection. It must be good for something … if only we had time to think of what that might be.

feathers and wine

Back upstairs … I enjoy painting; it’s almost a meditative thing. But all the prep, well … it’s just plain tedious. Sand-prime, sand-prime, paint-paint, repeat. Sand-prime, sand-prime, paint-paint, repeat. Got it? It’s a waltz. And, like dancing, it can be physically demanding. Lots of bending and reaching, holding awkward poses and my breath as I roll on the paint, then following with a light brush stroke, up and back, following the construction of the door: vertical on the stiles, horizontal on the rails. Mopping up the edges with a little foam brush to prevent drips. Oh, my aching back! I can break a sweat standing in one place. It’s like working at a ballet barre … but with more comfortable shoes.

And did I mention? My Kit-Cat paint room has expanded to take over the entire kitchen. The doors are big, and the Kit-Cat Room can barely accommodate two of three. It’s the attack of the zombie doors! Eric has simultaneously begun construction of another cabinet across the room (more on that in a future post). I mean, who could function in this chaos? We sometimes try to restore order before we go to bed, but when we wake up, the zombie doors have left it looking like this (what this photo doesn’t show is the ever-present boxer standing right where we need to walk):

kitchen chaos

The doors must cure for several days before we can deliver them to the glazers. (We figured, let someone else cut and break the expensive glass.) Patience. In about a week, I should have something gorgeous for show-and-tell.

Norm Abram would be pleased.

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2 Comments
  1. That’s great you found the right paint! I’ll have to remember that a water based paint that acts like enamel exists. My biggest problem is dealing with the toxic chemicals of the enamel. My front door needs to be painted and I do want it smooth.

    • Hi Anita,
      For your front door, you’ll need an exterior paint … something that’s not only smooth, but durable under outdoor conditions–fade, blister, and mildew resistant, for instance.

      This was the first time I’ve had trouble with tacky paint, but it was also the first time I painted raw wood. I’ve found the surface you start with makes a big difference in paint performance. This was also the first time I used a low-VOC paint, and I was impressed! Good luck!
      D’

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