A Tale of Two Side Tables…
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…Yes, chalk painting can feel like that but it doesn’t have to. This tutorial demonstrates some little steps that are well worth the effort. Join me as I revive these two side tables from their season of darkness to a season of light.
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Welcome to the wonderful world of chalk painting. If you are new to this finish, you will find its texture much different from other paint products.
It has a cake-batter consistency in the can and has a fine sandpaper-like surface when it is dry.
The brush strokes it leaves are part of its inherent quality. Take a look at my close-up shots and make sure this is a look you want because it will never be a smooth finish.
Having said that – let me tell you – with the proper prep, application, and finish, there is nothing quite like it!
Hall of Shame
The above picture shows how chalk paint chips off when the project isn’t sanded before the first coat. Definitely this table’s “season of darkness” as Dickens might say…
It was my first attempt with chalk paint years ago, so I was excited about the “promises” that it could be used over any surface without sanding or prep and wouldn’t chip.
I should have listened to the small voice in my head that told me to just sand it anyway.
The previous paint was an oil melamine, so without a good sanding the chalk paint just didn’t adhere properly.
Chalk Painting the Better Way
This bench in my front entrance was one of my more successful attempts that redeemed chalk painting in my eyes. I learned much about handling the product from this experience. So, I will apply the same steps with the side tables.
Three Extra Steps to Achieving Professional Results
There are a few important things to check before you dive into a chalk painting project.
If you have a piece you would like to paint, consider whether these issues might affect your success. Next to them, I have included possible solutions to improved your results:
Please note, I am not compensated for purchases you make from these links.
Always do a test patch in an inconspicuous area with any new product.
Also, read labels and follow manufactures instructions and warnings.
- Getting paint on hinges, glass or mirror – remove the parts that you don’t want paint on before prepping your piece. If not possible, either use painters tape or paint it carefully with removable masking liquid. A glass scraper can also be used to remove paint from glass and mirror, but not hinges.
- Bleed-through from current surface and underlying layers of paint or wood – two coats of a shellac-based primer like Zinsser’s BIN should seal it. They also have a spray for spot priming.
- Excessive roughness or sheen – diligent sanding with 120 grit first, followed by 220 grit and steel wool. Remove the resulting dust with a vacuum and then tack cloth.
Meet My Crew
I like to use sanding sponges in 120 grit for the first sanding and the finer 220 grit for the second sanding. For the final sanding, I recommend a clean 220 grit sanding sponge so you don’t get dirt or residue from a dirty sponge or steel wool.
I use steel wool between coats. Just make sure you don’t use it on the last coat of chalk paint as it will leave the steel colour on your final coat. I like to use a fresh 220 grit sanding pad after the final coat.
The brand of chalk paint I already had is Aspire, purchased at our local Benjamin Moore dealer. The colour is Prestige, a lovely warm grey to bring my sweet side tables into “a season of light”.
I had a little less than half of a litre (quart) left, so I was holding my breath, hoping I had enough. Well, the Lord blessed it – I had used every last bit after two coats of paint on each table. #miracle 🙂
My brush is from Bennet. It’s a sash brush, not technically a chalk painting brush. I just find chalk painting brushes to be too pricey.
Chalk paint is not usually applied in straight smooth lines like regular paint. It is more of a slip-slap motion in all directions to achieve a more textured effect.
A soft, round brush is better suited to this technique, so if you use this motion and want a very textured look, purchase an actual chalk painting brush for its softer bristles.
For this project, I painted in straight lines because all the areas to paint were thin and narrow. So you can break with tradition depending on what you are painting.
This wax is a dream to apply – like a spa product. 😉 It is from the Aspire line of products and creates a soft gloss after three coats, and a good buff.
Sanding Off the Old Wax
The first goal is to sand the layer of wax off the surfaces so it doesn’t repel the first coat of grey chalk paint.
Using a 220 grit sanding sponge, my hubby/BFF sanded off the old wax for me (My shoulder injury has flared up recently). He switched to 120 grit and then steel wool to ensure a “tooth-y” finish that will grab the paint.
Sooo…my tables looked like this after sanding the wax off. Not too pretty. Yet.
Remove the Dust
I’m usually strict about using tack cloth to remove dust under smooth paint or protective coats, however chalk paint has a gritty texture so a little stray dust isn’t going to show.
The main concern is to remove as much as possible because paint won’t stick to a surface that is coated in dust.
Applying the First Coat of Chalk Paint
If you need to – want to – apply a primer, use a regular paint brush and let it dry according to label instructions.
Before painting the first time with chalk paint, be aware that it will dry very quickly, especially if the air is dry (low humidity).
Keep working on one plane or surface at a time, and from one side to the other. This will keep what painters call a “wet edge”. This prevents the edge of your painted area from drying as you paint.
Also, avoid going back to fix areas. It will just make the problem worse. Let it dry and sand rough areas between coats, if needed.
The first coat will not cover completely, so no worries if you see the base colour through.
Between coats you can wrap the brush with plastic and seal the air out with an elastic band to keep the paint from drying on the brush. Also, when you are ready to wash out your brush use cool water and mild soap, rinse and air dry before storing.
This is a close up of the first coat coverage. My goal was not full coverage, but a smooth stroke. If you want a traditional slip-slap texture, have fun with it! 🙂
Sanding Between Coats
When the first coat is dry, it will feel like sandpaper, so give it a light sanding with steel wool before the next coat and wipe off the dust with a cloth. It will look something like this.
There will be some small flaws – embrace them! They are part of the charm of chalk paint. 🙂
The Second Coat of Chalk Paint
The second coat will look nicer because it will cover everything. If you have difficult areas to paint like knobs, painting them first and immediately correct the texture strokes so they look nice and consistent.
For example, I had to fight a little to get the back of the knob covered, so I painted the front surface of the knob after messing with the back.
Before it had a chance to dry, I painted the smooth strokes out from the knob keeping them as straight as I could.
Making a Paint Sample
I like to keep a sample of the colour for shopping later, so before I close the paint can for good, paint a stir stick with the chalk paint and let it dry. Note the stir stick in the photo above.
I label it front and back with information like type, colour, brand, and what I used it on. I also paint a sample on sturdy card stock to keep in my wallet.
The Final Sanding
Sand the final coat of paint, with a fresh 220 grit sanding block, until smooth to the touch.
Chalk paint will always have texture due to it’s characteristic thickness.
Without sanding the piece it will have a gritty texture that will trap dust and show finger prints. Trust me – I learned the hard way.
The Distressing Step 😉
If you prefer to sand some distressed areas of wear into the last coat, try to limit them to areas you naturally touch when using the piece, like handles and outside edges.
For example, I grabbed the knob and paid attention to where my fingers made contact. These are the areas I sanded.
The outside edges are also natural areas of wear so just hit them in random spots along the edges so it looks natural. A little here…a little there…with restraint. You’ve got this!
Damp-wipe the rest of the dust off and you’re ready to wax!
The Waxing Process
After the dust is off your final paint coat, open your jar of wax.
Have a lint-free cloth or Swiffer dusting cloth ready and start applying the wax in a circular motion across your piece in one continuous step. I used an old flour sack tea towel for this project, however I prefer the Swiffer dusting cloths and used them in this chalk paint tutorial.
The circular motion helps the wax get into the chalky textured surface of the paint.
If you stop and do something else midway across a surface, it will leave a dark mark that is hard to fix. Complete each surface before you move on to the next.
Apply two more coats allowing to dry (harden) for a few hours in between.
Buffing will bring up the shine a bit and make it easier to clean later.
I did three coats, mainly because I wanted it to be a durable easy to clean surface.
Heavy Duty Clear Coat Option
If you want a super-durable finish for a table top or any horizontal surface that will receive some abuse, replace the wax step with a satin finish in Varathane’s Diamond Clear Coat. This product never yellows and stands up better than the wax. My tables are used by our bedside and won’t get the wear that tables in our main living space will.
Need to Recharge?
Here’s a bonus tip. I like to recharge my phone in the drawer at night so it is off the table surface and won’t scratch it with repeated use.
I simply drilled a hole through the back corner of the drawer bottom just big enough to slip my cord through from the underside, where the wall plug is, and plug it into my phone. Easy-peasy.
Oh, and yes that is the original paint colour inside the drawer front. Pretty bright!
That is probably the reason we got such a great deal on these cute little tables.
They were handcrafted by a local carpenter. #treasuredpieces 🙂
Are you all set to revive a much-loved piece of furniture? These are just some little steps that are well worth the effort.
Too busy for a large project? For a smaller project to get you started with chalk paint, check out this post about reviving an old hat box with chalk paint and a stencil.
Wishing you “the best of times”. 🙂
My favourite thing is hearing from you!
Which piece have you settled on for your own furniture revival?
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