Full Chisel Blog

March 1, 2010

Something is missing.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:01 am

Maybe it was what I said about Milk Paint?



  1. I hope not. I rather liked that post.

    Comment by Doug F. — March 1, 2010 @ 9:38 am

  2. where did it go? and why?

    Comment by Scott MacLEOD — March 1, 2010 @ 11:25 am

  3. All posts from Feb seem to be gone. I seem to recall at least one other posting besides the milk paint one.

    Comment by Joe Cunningham — March 1, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  4. Them Cows have a very powerful lobby. Most likely should have used our code names.

    Comment by Don Peregoy — March 1, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

  5. yeah what happened to February ???? I didn’t think the milk paint post was that bad…….

    Comment by Bob Entwisle — March 1, 2010 @ 11:05 pm

  6. Raising the bar for lactose intolerance.

    Comment by ron benson — March 2, 2010 @ 7:33 pm

  7. Ah…ye shall never challenge the reigning kings of All Thynges Pertaining to the Current Practice of Historical Innacuracies.


    Comment by Jeff — March 11, 2010 @ 9:25 pm

  8. From Feb 10, 2010:

    The Myth of Milk Paint
    from Full Chisel Blog by Stephen Shepherd

    “Too poor to paint, to proud to whitewash.”

    I will of course get some grief from bursting this bubble, but here I go anyway. There is no such thing as milk paint. Examining carefully the historical record, in probate inventories, journals, dairies, advertisements and publications of the early nineteenth century in America and have not found one documented case or can or bottle or package of ‘milk paint’.

    There is an occasional reference to ‘casein’ paint made from cheese and used by artists as a light duty paint, but it is not milk paint. Casein is a phosphoprotein that was developed in 1841, so the history is not that old.

    What people believe to be ‘milk paint’ is in fact old oxidized oil based lead paint. Testing in laboratories on old furniture and woodwork invariably come up with the results that the paint is oil based. There are old advertisements for oil paint, exterior oil paint, lead paint, house paint, etc., but not one ad for ‘milk paint’, why because it wasn’t made and sold. What people call milk paint is invariably oil based lead paint that has oxidized, if it is difficult to remove they ‘think’ it is milk paint, it is not.

    If it contains milk, skim milk, dry milk or dry skimmed milk; it is whitewash. Pigments can be added to give it color but it is still whitewash. Linseed oil and turpentine can be added to it for exterior applications, but it is still whitewash. Paint is paint and whitewash is whitewash. There are many old recipes for whitewash and much was used on buildings, woodwork and even furniture but it is whitewash it is not paint.

    It might seem like a fine line between paint and whitewash but I am willing to distinguish that line. The historical record shows that the preponderance of paint in the nineteenth century was paint made from linseed oil and turpentine and pigments and other ingredients not one of which was milk.

    A warm ‘buttermilk paint’ finish on a piece sounds colonial and sweet but it is bunk. It became a bit of folklore, a wives tale and a myth because no one challenged it with serious research. Show me where in the historical record that ‘milk paint’ was manufactured, sold and used by woodworkers to paint their furniture, you can’t because it just didn’t happen.

    Unless and until I receive some convincing documentation of its common use I am going to remove ‘milk paint’ from my woodworking lexicon. It remains a myth.


    Comment by Michael D — March 16, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

  9. From Feb 21 2010 (I can send you the imags if you no longer have them):

    Making Paint
    from Full Chisel Blog by Stephen Shepherd
    1 person liked this

    “using the best materials, and

    executed in a workman-like manner,”

    Furniture has been painted for centuries [never with milk], the earliest modern reference I have found is 1225. People today think that it is a near crime to paint fine wood, but you need to remember that our ancestors were surrounded by wood. Living in the largest mixed mesophytic climax forest in the hemisphere was overwhelming at times. Trees were cut and burned to open land for farming and many of the trees were too large to harvest for lumber, they wouldn’t fit in the saw mills. Most of their homes were made of wood, everything around them was wood so painting furniture and woodwork brought a little color and variety into their lives. They needed a break from wood and chose to paint their woodwork and furniture. Painting was done on Windsor and Hitchcock chairs to cover up the fact that they were constructed of different woods. An elm seat with hickory spindles and beech legs gets a uniform appearance by painting a solid color. In the nineteenth century ‘fancy painted chairs’ were popular and many fine polychrome examples have survived with dramatic coloring, stencils and stringing all painted on the wooden framework of the chairs.

    It costs extra to paint furniture, so it was a conscious choice to cover the natural grain of the wood with an opaque colored finish. It was considered more cosmopolitan and sophisticated to have painted furniture and that is reflected in the premium price that was charged for adding paint. Careless stripping old furniture of its aged paint to reveal the ‘beauty of knotty pine’ destroys forever the intentions of the originating craftsman and can reduce the price of these antiques by 80%. That’s right 80% of the value of an antique is in that old, cracked and crazed painted finish. It’s alright to paint furniture.

    Paint is a mixture of a vehicle (solvent), a binder (linseed oil) and pigment. There are other additives that were included, sometimes following traditional formulae and sometimes from the experience of the painter. Painters, polishers and finishers were separate trades during the nineteenth century in larger cities. In smaller more remote locations the woodworker would have to paint their own work.

    Paint in the nineteenth century was sold by the pound indicating that it was in powdered pigment form, not a ready to use liquid. One pound of red lead is about a third the volume of one pound of burnt umber pigment. It was then mixed up according to the user by adding linseed oil and turpentine and other ingredients to make an opaque covering. Most ‘paint’ is a mixture of varnish and pigment, with more varnish it becomes glossy and is referred to as ‘enamel’.

    The paint that was sold was very finely ground earth pigments, some innocuous and others insidious. Care should be used when working with these pigments while they are in the powdered form. And some like vermillion (mercury disulfate) and lead (Pb) can be dangerous even when bound up in the vehicle. For very detailed work like fine art oil paintings, the painter would sometimes grind their pigments again in linseed oil with a muller and plate, producing much finer pigments required for this work.

    I do, on a regular basis, make ‘paint’ using liquid shellac with a sufficient amount of powdered pigments to produce an opaque finish. One advantage of this technique is that it dries instantly, works for restoration, touch-ups and for curatorial considerations is reversible. I have used it as a base coat for painting and graining, but isolate it with a coat of oil or varnish to prevent the over graining, if alcohol based, from solving the base coat. The amount of shellac will determine the luster of the finish, less produces a matt or satin finish and more will produce a shiner finish. A fast drying paint can be an advantage when a finishing room is not available or there is a chance of airborne dust or if you are impatient. I thought I came up with this, but after researching the subject for this work I discovered that it has an historic precedence. Not as durable as oil paint but works fine if protected by a good oil varnish.

    Mixing paint can be a simple process depending upon the recipe. Some old formulations require heating, straining, mixing and aging, others are simple mixes of oil varnish and pigment. One characteristic of old paint and shop made paint is the fact that the pigments can settle out of the solution and accumulating on the bottom of the container. The pigment is suspended in the oil varnish and gravity can separate the heavier bodied pigments causing them to precipitate from the liquid.

    I mix up batches of paint as I need them and try and make just enough for the job. It is possible to store extra paint and I will discuss that later. Traditionally containers made of glazed pottery were common and inexpensive. Jars, pots and pipkins made of heavily glazed pottery, red ware should have a heavy glaze, and salt glaze is also good for paint containers. Ceramic containers (refined pottery) also works with a proper glaze. Glass containers were rarer during the period but were available. Glass gives you a visual to make sure the paint hasn’t separated as well as how much paint is left.

    Hot dipped tin (in the nineteenth century it would be sheet wrought iron dipped in molten tin), today tin containers are made of steel sheet and electroplated, hot dipped tin is available. Tin makes an excellent container for holding paint while you are painting, especially a pail with a bail and a lid.

    If you are going to make your own oil paint, I would suggest that you use a good quality boiled linseed oil and add some stand oil or sun thickened oil to help it flow better and dry faster. The more pigment you add to make it opaque can also effect the shine of the paint when it dries. You can also add calcium carbonate [whiting] to thicken light color paints but it will also remove the shine. You can add oil based gloss varnish which will thicken, aid in drying and add a shine to the paint.

    Shop or studio made liquid paints need to be stirred frequently as the heavy bodied materials can settle out, I notice this happening, particularly using iron oxide pigments, so I leave my perforated stir stick in the paint as I am using it and stir the paint every few minutes to insure a uniform consistency, color and intensity of the mixture. Don’t ever use the paint brush to stir the paint.

    It is possible to use fresh made paint, however it does benefit from aging in a tightly stoppered container. The container below on the left has too much air space, the one on the right has pebbles that raise the level to remove excess air. Paints made with minerals that act as dryers such as burnt umber, manganese, iron and lead base will begin their reactions to polymerize the mixture chemically. This is useful as it will help the paint dry faster and storing the paint for a period of time will enhance its drying characteristics.


    Comment by Michael D — March 16, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

  10. From Feb 23, 2010 (not including images):

    Carpenters Nose Auger
    from Full Chisel Blog by Stephen Shepherd

    A friend of mine picked this up at a local flea market, he didn’t pay that much for it and I think he got his monies worth. It is a typical carpenters nose auger but has an unusual split tang. It has a coating of rust and is slightly pitted and I did notice a makers mark but unable to discern a name.

    Aside from the rust and some deterioration of the hickory handle [hickory doesn’t do well in the weather] it is in remarkably good condition. He will probably use electrolysis to remove the rust and linseed oil to stabilize the wood in the handle.

    Just a little attention to the lower lip with a fine knife edge file should make the tool nice and sharp. It needs a starting hole to prevent the bit from walking over the surface, Salaman suggests gouging a starter hole, however I prefer a scrap of wood with the proper size hole drilled through. The scrap is placed over the desired location and clamped or in most cases by ones foot while standing on the scrap. This provides a bearing that the auger can be started in the proper location. Once the hole is started the scrap can be removed. This was intended for drilling in green unseasoned wood.

    I have other nose augers for a bitstock and they work well on dry seasoned woods because they are so small and the larger twist augers including one of the Cook pattern, similar to Gedge pattern and all even the large ones only has a single tang. This has an unusual forked tail tang or split tang, never seen this before. And it was installed into the hickory handle by heating up the tangs and burning them through the handle. There is evidence of scorching as well as it being slightly off center and slightly twisted.

    Interesting auger capable of drilling a deep hole.


    Comment by Michael D — March 16, 2010 @ 6:56 pm

  11. From Feb 26, 2010 (w/out pictures):

    Spinning Wheel repair, unusual
    from Full Chisel Blog by Stephen Shepherd
    1 person liked this

    I am not sure the exact number but I would imagine I have repaired nearly a hundred spinning wheels, not to mention clock reels, kniddy-knoddies, bobbins, whorls and fliers, &c. And I really enjoy the challenge because all of these needed to be restored to usable condition. Although several are just sitting looking pretty in someones home, most of them are made to use.

    I feel the same way about old tools they were made to be used and if no abused can last for several lifetimes. This particular wheel probably dates from the early 1800’s and was very well made. It has been used and in later life suffered a bit, but I am putting it in good order.

    There are several ways to repair a flyer, the U shaped part that plies the yarn to the bobbin. I have repaired fractures with pegs and also with wire, I contemplated doing that to this one, but because the fracture was near the mandrel, I decided against pegs and the wire repair just didn’t seem right in this instance. So I decided to do something completely different.

    I have shown pictures of the repairs in progress to the whorl and bobbin, here they are completed. The whorl fracture has been glued back together after some work to the joint. The metal mandrel had caused the wood to swell and it the maple break. I had to carve away some wood in order to get the break back together again, then glued with hide glue and allowed to sit overnight.

    This repair I deemed causing the least amount of damage to the original and is easily reversed, unlike some other repairs I have ran into in my career. I cut two small pieces of very thick maple veneer and prepared the surface for gluing by gently scraping off the finish just where the external splines will be glued with hide glue.

    Hide glue doesn’t stick to old finishes, which can come in handy for most repairs, but because this is a finished area I removed and roughened the old wood underneath to accept the glue. I glued the maple splines with the grain going across the repaired crack in the flyer.

    I noticed that I still need to repair a strut on the upright and I completely forgot I have to make a pitman to replace the metal rod replacement. Hope to get that done today.


    Comment by Michael D — March 16, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  12. From Feb 9, 2010:

    Angeles Furniture Manufacturing Company
    from Full Chisel Blog by Stephen Shepherd

    I finished up the two chairs that came in for repairs and I have discussed earlier. There is one side chair and one arm chair and my client has 4 more that need work, these first two had the most damage. The chairs are basically the same color, they look different in the photograph.

    They also have labels ‘printed’ on the plywood bottoms of the chair seat boards.

    I had to make a few repairs of splits and had to drill out old broken dowels and replace them. All joints were loose with the exception of the backs. After gluing them back together with liquid hide glue, I gave them a coat of Moses T’s Reviver, applied, waited 10 minutes and wiped off the excess. After it dried overnight I used pigmented shellac to do the necessary touch up work.

    The chairs are made of a variety of woods, African mahogany for the front legs and arms on the arm chair, the back is machine carved oak, the legs are mostly birch but one back leg was elm and the turned arm supports were maple. It had a pigmented varnish to give them an overall fairly uniform color.


    Comment by Michael D — March 16, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  13. From Feb 8, 2010:

    Working Black Palm
    from Full Chisel Blog by Stephen Shepherd

    Most of my woodworking involves gymnosperms and occasionally angiosperms, both of which are dicots, but it is on rare occasion do I get to ‘work’ a monocot. I have repaired bamboo, reed, rattan, cane, even Tonkin cane but this is my first time with this grass. I own two artifacts made with palm wood, the large walking stick, a gift from a friend has a gilded brass knob, the tip is missing and the shaft is made of black palm. The other is a letter opener/ink erasure and it has a red palm handle, the blade is marked MILLER BROS. CUT. CO. MERIDEN. So the material was definitely used in the nineteenth century.

    When I saw this stuff on sale at Woodcraft, I went out and picked up a nice piece 1 ½” square by 18 inches long, they had stuff longer to 24 inches, but I didn’t like the ‘grain’. Too bad they don’t offer it in 36 inch lengths for walking sticks. They advertised it as black palm wood, made me snicker because it isn’t a wood but is technically a grass. But it does work like any malicious wood.

    Just handling the stuff is tricky; it tends to produce nasty slivers that catch on everything including skin. It is very hard, contains high amounts of silica, dulls tools quickly but is very strong and flexible. It has spots that are deadly hard next to spots that are not. It can have interlocking grain with wild eyes that can predominate the wood. Also the end grain has an unusual appearance in that it doesn’t have rings but bundles of ‘pores’ in uniform disbursement.

    It does have a grain and it is possible to work against but it can cause some minor chipping, my limited experience is making the writing pen and I have roughed out some chopsticks after a recommendation from Mike Moore after he saw the pen. I had first thought that it might be too rough for chopsticks, but after working the pen, I decided to give them a try.

    Starting out with rough square blanks I did some creative ripping to get the pieces to the size I need. After ripping down to near one end, I took the piece out of the vice, reversed the wood and saw and continued ripping up the piece until it was through. For the writing pen, I then worried a hole in the end, drilling end grain of palm isn’t easy the drill will wonder, start with a smaller size to get close to the center then enlarge the hole to the size needed.

    Once I smoothed it with a Moxon smoother, I easily scraped it smooth. It was at that point that I knew the wood was tough as I could see chipping on the iron of the plane. It also quickly removed the burr from steel scrapers, but finished up shiny. I then burnished it with a bone burnisher, then finished with a couple of coats of linseed oil (waiting 24 hours between coats), then served the thread around the end. This got a coat of spirit varnish followed by another coat of linseed oil. I also stoved the pen to dry both the oil and spirit varnish. It will get a couple more of coats of oil before I am done.

    Before I applied any finish I decided to raise the grain as I do when I work all woods, being a small pen, I licked it, well that was a mistake, fortunately I could spit but it took me a couple of hours to get that horrible taste out of my mouth. Very bitter, acrid and awful, don’t do this at home. I also started washing my hands after touching the stuff.

    I will find some more utilitarian uses for this material, small tool handles, etc.

    Today is also the 2nd anniversary of the Full Chisel Blog.


    Comment by Michael D — March 16, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  14. From Feb 4, 2010:

    Shellac, one of the top three finishes
    from Full Chisel Blog by Stephen Shepherd

    Shellac is a particularly unusual finish with ancient origins. First used centuries ago, its initial use was as a dye stuff but then when mixed with alcohol made a fine spirit finish. Used as a substitute for real oriental lacquer, it is also a thermoplastic cement used to hold stones while grinding or for stopping, an excellent finish called French polish is extremely high gloss, the first hair spray and a food grade called ‘confectioner’s glaze’ makes candy and pastries shiny.

    Lac Bug

    During the 17th century in Europe it became a popular finish and the first books on its use were published. It was all imported from the east, mostly India, it is still being produced as it has been for millennia. There have been attempts to synthesize shellac but to no avail. A small [the size of an apple seed] female insect Lacca Lucifera, it flies to a fig or acacia tree, finds a suitable branch and settles in. A small needle like mouth pierces the branch of the tree and sucks out sap. It then exudes [read poops] a red sticky substance and gets stuck, where it sits and sucks and poops. At the end of the cycle, the bug lays what is reportedly a thousand eggs and dies. The youngsters hatch, dine on their dead mother then bore their way through the shellac and move on to another tree. Trees are given a few years in between the infestation to allow the trees to recuperate.

    At this point the shellac is harvested by cutting of the small branches and scraping away all of the residue, mostly shellac but with some twig parts and bug parts. Stick-lac is the crudest [read unrefined] form of shellac followed by seed-lac (no stick, but still small woody parts). It is then placed in cheesecloth bags and heated over a fire until it becomes slightly liquid, the bag is twisted and the shellac is squeezed out filtering out the bug parts and twigs. It is formed into round drops called button-lac and sold in that form. Further processing by heating the shellac and pouring it over a large pottery cylinder shaped jar, then warmed in front of a fire and stretched into large thin sheets, which is broken up to make flake shellac. It can also be bleached to make a lighter colored shellac called blonde.

    De-waxing shellac is a popular idea at the moment and it is suggested that the naturally occurring wax interferes with modern finishes. It doesn’t seem to interfere with traditional finishes and there is little evidence that this was done traditionally. I personally think this is a waste of time and shellac, the best parts are what settle out, I always mix it up before use. I think it also contributes to a French polish finish, a simple method of applying shellac with a pad and produces an extremely high shine.

    If you don’t mix up your own, which is very easy, you can also buy commercially available shellac in a can, it comes in orange or white [bleached] and is a fine finish providing it is thinned at least 50% with alcohol. Alcohol is the only solvent for shellac, although it will melt at high temperature. There is a standard called X pound cut, indicating the [X] number of pounds of shellac per gallon of alcohol. Three pound cut being common, it is way too thick to use and must be thinned. Several thinner coats are much better than one thick coat. I have no idea of the pound cut of the shellac I use but I imagine it is around a quarter pound cut, meaning one quarter pound of shellac to one gallon of alcohol and this works fine for me.

    Shellac is reversible, so it is great for restoration work, it is all natural and comes from a renewable resource and is non toxic, although the denatured alcohol is, I use pure straight grain alcohol, just in case. It is easy to use and if you mess up it can be removed. Pigments can be added to the shellac to make a glaze and I even make fast drying paint by adding more pigments. Shellac is a great finish for woodworking and among the top three woodworking finishes.


    Comment by Michael D — March 16, 2010 @ 7:01 pm

  15. … And please feel free to delete my comments if you don’t want those old pasts back! 😉

    Comment by Michael D — March 16, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

  16. Michael,

    Thank you very much.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — March 16, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

  17. […] and I don't know a lot about Victorian furniture and virtually nothing about later stuff. Stephen Shepherd has this to say about milk paint: "There is no such thing as milk paint. Examining carefully […]

    Pingback by authenticity ... milk paint - Woodwork Forums — November 30, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

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