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    I am working on some built-in bookcases, which I would like to paint. Trouble is, this is only my second time trying to paint furniture, and I wasn’t thrilled with how it worked before (I made some mistakes, hope I won’t repeat them :)).

    Since these built-ins would be quite visible, I’d like them to look nice, so I’m prepared to experiment on scraps I already have. So far, I have the following steps:

    – sand glued piece with worn 150 grit
    – seal with a spit coat of shellac (1# cut)
    – sand with 240 grit
    – prime with an alkyd primer (Benjamin Moore Advance, for instance)
    – sand with 240 grit
    – paint with an alkyd paint (BM Advance eggshell, for instance)
    – repeat the painting step, if needed

    The key issue here is that I’d like it to look nice and smooth.

    So, I’m considering adding some Penetrol to the primer and the paint. A second variable is whether to use a brush or a roller. I would prefer to use a brush, but, like I said, my previous attempt was not as good as I wanted it.

    I’m willing to experiment on scraps.

    Would anyone have other suggestions or point out anything I may have missed?

    Many thanks in advance!

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 2 months ago by aanghelescu.
    • This topic was modified 2 years, 2 months ago by aanghelescu.

    This will probably elicit lots of strong opinions, so here’s mine.
    1. Sand with the 150 grit, vac and tack rag the surface.
    2. Sand with the 220 grit, vac and tack rag.
    3. Skip the Shellac
    4. Both the primer and paint are going to be too viscous to use directly from the can.
    5. Thin both with the solvent listed for cleanup (probably Mineral Spirits).
    6. Buy a high quality white china bristle 1 1/2 inch angled sash brush.
    7. Using a couple of boards prepared in the same fashion as the bookcase, test the brush out and leveling as you progressively thin the primer and paint. You want the “Goldilocks” viscosity, easy to flow out evenly without drag and self leveling but not “runny”.
    8. Prime the bookcase and allow the primer to THOROUGHLY dry, then sand with the 220 grit, vac and tack rag.
    9. Apply the finish coat.

    Penetrol will extend the wet edge time some. Your choice.
    Important:!! Provide positive air flow and exhaust for the solvent vapors. Eliminate all sources of ignition etc. etc.
    The keys here are a high quality brush, proper viscosity and a practiced “touch”.
    A roller will work for large areas but you’ll end up with a rippled surface.
    Hope this is somewhat helpful.
    When you’re done—We all like pictures.

    SW Pennsylvania


    what wood species have you built the bookcase out of?

    I have different methods for different species, one thing I will say though is that de-waxed shellac at 1/2lb or 1/4lb cut, makes the best sanding sealer from my experience, as it works with virtually any finish.


    My bad. Since you used the term Alkyd, I was assuming a solvent based paint/ primer….should have checked the product first.
    Skip the white china part. And the fans.
    Keep the thinning and testing the brushout and self leveling.
    Penetrol would not be suitable for a waterbased material. Consider Floetrol.

    SW Pennsylvania


    @Craig & @btyreman – thank you both for your suggestions and for the fair warning that my question may elicit some strong opinions 🙂

    I will experiment with Floetrol – it seemed more correct to me (since alkyd paints are waterbourne), but I read a lot of (strong) opinions online favouring Penetrol instead. I can attest from my own experience that diluting the BM alkyd paint with water alone makes it nib horribly.
    I may still try both -etrols, out of curiosity 🙂

    As about the wood: black cherry (Prunus Serotina); the scraps are off cuts from the boards for the bookcases, so they are very close to what I need to paint.

    Happy to hear more suggestions, and when I’m done I’ll write up a summary of what I will have learnt from my experiments.

    Jim Braun

    I recently refinished a built in wall unit and wanted a smooth and velvety finish. I choose General Finishes Antique White Milk Paint and top coated with their Flat out Flat. Once dry these products sand easily. I was going over dark red stain so the sealing and primer steps were important, you may not have this issue.

    General Finishes has loads of how to information on their website. I followed their suggestion:

    I used a foam roller, whizz velour roller and foam brush for all coats

    1. Clean with Scotch Brite pad and 50/50 mix of Alcohol and water
    2. Sand to 150 grit
    3. Two coats of GF Stain blocker Primer sand lightly with Klingspor Ultraflex Sand Pad 220 btw coats
    4. Three coats GF Antique white Milk paint sand lightly with Klingspor Ultraflex Sand Pad 220 btw coats
    5. Three coats of GF Flat our Flat top coat sand lightly with Klingspor Ultraflex Sand Pad 220 btw coats

    Monmouth County, New Jersey


    After quite a lengthy break, I finally found a moment to post my findings.

    I used the following materials, very much in line with what I mentioned in my original post:
    – sealing coat of 1# shellac
    – BM Fresh Start primer
    – BM Advance eggshell paint
    Floetrol or Penetrol – will discuss the findings
    All paints were applied with a Corona Excalibur brush broken in with a couple of smaller projects around the house (and very carefully cleaned).
    Applying the paint with a roller was a disaster. I think throwing the paint at the wood Jackson Pollock style would produce better results, and I’m only half joking.

    The sealing coat of shellac led to slightly less nibbing in the paint, but not a huge difference. I will likely apply it in the future, but consider skipping it if I were in a hurry.

    Floetrol vs Penetrol vs no additives.

    Short story: using the minimum amount recommended on the bottle of either Floetrol or Penetrol improved the work and the results by a small amount. Don’t expect miracles.

    The long story.
    I used as a test unit the minimum amount recommended on the bottle of additive. In both cases this minimum amount produced the best results: slightly easier to apply, less nibbing, good coverage, fewer brush marks.
    Without additives brush marks were a bit more visible, and some small spots were left uncovered, requiring a second coat. Not a big deal, since I was planning on a second coat, but worth noting.

    Larger amounts of additives were counterproductive. Penetrol was harder to apply, but after it dried it looked very similar to the ones above. So it would be wasteful to use more than the minimum recommended. Floetrol produced increasingly worse results (a surprise to me) – nibbing, somewhat random dispersion issues – definitely do not pour it indiscriminately.

    The biggest problem, ‘though, was that I wasn’t able to paint without brush marks. Good enough for trim paint, perhaps, but not for furniture.

    So, much as I would have liked to do it all by hand, I still ended up with a sprayer, because I found it easier to understand its quirks and produce a nice finish.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 11 months ago by aanghelescu.

    @jimb you mentioned a foam roller. Which did you use? I tried a foam roller with GF milk paint and found it tended to froth up the surface and the bubbles never really leveled out. I switched to a 3/16″ nap Sherwin Williams roller, which is likely similar to the velour roller you mentioned. This was much better. It left a little texture, but I actually liked the effect for what I was doing. By the way, I thinned the GF “milk paint” a little with water. Like you, I put on a couple top coats.

    what happened when you tried a roller and what type of roller was it?

    After fiddling with rolling the last piece, I decided that next time I’d spray. For some things, like cabinets, I’d want a perfect surface like you’d get from spraying, but for other things I’d prefer the little bit of texture that is left by the 3/16″ roller. But, I found it very difficult to keep from getting thick edges at corners and details when using even the 3/16″ roller, so I’ll spray the next one.

    Jim Braun


    I used the white foam rollers from Home Depot : https://www.homedepot.com/p/4-in-x-3-8-in-High-Density-Foam-Mini-Roller-Cover-2-Pack-HD-MR-200-2-4/202097450, Wooster and Whizz make similar rollers and I may have used some from those brands depending on whether I was nearer to the paint store or HD when the need came up.

    I am no expert but I was very happy with the end result. I did put on thin coats and lightly sand btw those coats that, and the flat out flat top coats helped to minimized/eliminate any texture. I really love the GF Milk Paint and top coats, they sand so nicely.

    Regarding the frothing, perhaps working the paint too much with the roller might have caused it?

    Monmouth County, New Jersey

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 11 months ago by Jim Braun.

    Thanks, Jim. Those were the foam rollers that I tried, too. I’ll try them again some day. Did you thin the GF milk paint at all? Did you sand / level your final paint coat? In other words, did the paint look sanded and scuffed when you went to your first top coat? I’ve done a bunch of house painting, but not much furniture painting, so I’m glad to learn what you guys did.

    Jim Braun

    You are welcome Ed. I did not thin the milk paint. I did a very very light sanding of the final coat of paint. I used the worn sanding pads for the final sanding, they are very fine at that point.


    Monmouth County, New Jersey


    Oops, forgot to answer your question, “too much working the paint?” Yes, that’s possible, but I tried not to. It was more a matter of pressure. If I used too little pressure, the foam roller just skidded. If I used enough pressure to make the roller roll, and this was quite a small amount of pressure, then the paint frothed as it came off the roller. The froth happened on the first pass, not on later passes reworking the paint. I had thinned the paint at this point according to the label, perhaps half to three-quarters of the allowable thinning with water.

    Kurt Schultz

    Hi Ed,
    I suggest taking a view at chairmaker Curtis Buchanan’s videos on milk paint. Very informative. I used his techniques on a Poplar wood wall shelf with great results. Here is a link to one of them. The others are easy enough to find.
    Curtis Buchanan

    Rhode Island


    @ed – see the attached photo – I think it matches your description pretty well, doesn’t it?

    I used this roller cover:


    @aanghelescu yup, that’s the one I used before switching to the SW 3/16 mohair mini roller. Your photo looks even worse than what I got! Mine went down as a fine frothy film. Most of the bubbles went away and I thought it would be okay, but a few never did. The ones that remained were not as big as yours. I thinned with water, though, not with an extender. There is a real chance that leveling with paper and repeating a couple times would have given me a good surface, but I didn’t pursue it. By the way, Benjamin Moore technical support is really good and they do reply. You might want to ask them which of Penetrol or Floetrol to use with Advance. I’d have thought just Floetrol because Advance is water borne, but they’ll know for sure.

    Thanks, @1boardatatime. Curtis’ stuff is excellent. Didn’t know he went over this! I’ll have a look.

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