Finishing Touches

Traditional Windsor chairs were painted, not stained and varnished. Because these chairs are made of several different types of wood it is impossible to stain all the parts to match. They just do not look good. In addition a clear finish emphasizes the grain or figure of the wood and diverts the viewer's eye from the graceful strong lines of the chair.
The lines of a Windsor chair are its most important visual element. The curved lines of the seat contribute to its three-dimensional, sculptured form. The legs and arm stumps have bold, turned outlines and are set at pronounced angles to support the chair visually as well as physically. The spindles, bent bows and bent arms are strong lines carefully placed to achieve symmetry and perspective. A paint finish coalesces all these lines, separates the various parts of the chair from the background and allows the viewer to see the strong, graceful line of the chair.
The finish applied to any piece of furniture is as important as the construction itself. Yet a lot of chair builders, after having spent days building a chair, simply slop on some paint in an hour or two so they can hurry the chair out of the shop. I will not do that. I pride myself in my finishing techniques and believe it is one of the things that set my chairs apart from others. I spend almost as much time finishing the chair as making it. Counting drying time my finishes can take over a week to complete.

Milk Paint Colors

I paint my chairs with Milk Paint. This is a completely non-toxic paint made from milk proteins. It is used because it closely approximates the colors and texture of the hand made paints the early chair makers used. Milk paint wears to a marvelous patina. It is like leather; the older it gets the more character it acquires.
Depending on the finish desired I usually start by applying one or two coats of dye first. This acts as a base color which transmits through the paint giving it a wonderful aged glow. I then follow with one to three coats of milk paint (once again depending on the look desired). The paint is meticulously rubbed between each coat. It is then sealed with several coats of a homemade wiping oil/varnish mix and buffed again. It is then waxed and polished to a wonderful sheen.