When we found this painted rocking chair, it happened to be on a day with hit the jackpot of curb side chairs.
You might remember this chair we found on the same day. A little fabric refresh was all it needed.
On the other hand, our little rocker is getting the full monty! It will still be a painted rocking chair. But we’re milk painting and stencilling it. Then we’re protecting the hole shebang with hemp oil. But don’t worry, she’ll be just as charming, if not more so, when we’re through!
Using Milk Paint on a Painted Rocking Chair
My eyes went immediately to that gorgeous blue colour in the middle of the pack when I came across this new line of Milk Paint by Fusion.
At that moment, I had to have Amalfi Coast for my little rocker. Milk Paint by Fusion doesn’t officially launch until sometime in October (don’t quote me on that), but the proprietor let me buy one of the sample packs on display.
Prep Work for Painted Rocking Chair
With a creative direction for the chair behind me, Hubs got to work sanding the old paint finish on our rocker with 220 grit sandpaper.
Underneath the wooden seat we discovered it used to have caning!
I wiped away the dust with a damp rag.
Keep going over until it no longer picks up any dust. After that, we had some repair work to do.
Making Repairs to a Painted Rocking Chair
One of the dowels in the stretcher was completely broken. You could take every piece apart just to replace the dowel, but there’s an easier and faster way. If you ever run into the same situation, check out this post on how to fix a broken chair leg.
Time to paint!
(By the way, not all the links in our posts are affiliate links, but we love sharing where you can buy the products we use regardless. However, when you click on the bold Amazon or Old Sign Stencils affiliate links below, we may receive a small commission for referring qualifying purchases. If you purchase a product through those links, you don’t pay a cent more! Thank you for helping to support our little blog).
Materials for Painted Rocking Chair
- Wooster 2″ ShortCut Angle Paint Brush
- Adjustable height work table
- Funky Junk Old Sign Stencils – Grain Sack Stripe
- Milk Paint By Fusion
- Accent paint (we use PPG Break Through)
- Measuring spoons
- Craft sticks for mixing. You can also use a mini wisk for mixing).
- 320 grit sand paper (this is for sanding the milk paint. We also used 220 grit for the initial sanding of the chair.
- Foam dauber
- Bristle paint brush (for getting into details)
- Hemp oil
Mixing Milk Paint by Fusion
Grab your favourite paint brush and gather your materials.
I tend to only mix in small batches what I can comfortably use in the time I have to paint. Since the chair is small, I use a measuring spoon to measure quantities. Mix the milk paint in a glass jar – equal parts powder and water.
Stir with a craft stick or mini wisk. The advantage of using a wooden craft stick to mix is that you have record of the paint colour when you’re done because the milk paint will stain it as you stir!
Milk paint by Fusion has been re-formulated to mix far easier than milk paint I’ve used in the past. I didn’t realize that, so I also gave it a shake, but that’s not even necessary. I used to mix milk paint this way, but now you don’t have to worry about skimming off bubbles!
I still let it sit for 15 minutes so the milk paint powder is fully absorbed then gave it another good stir before starting.
I used a mini wisk, instead of the craft stick, to mix the last batch!
Stir Milk Paint Occasionally
After mixing, but before using the milk paint, be sure stir up up again. Occasionally during use, remember to give it another stir. The powder tends to settle as the paint sits.
I prefer using this angled brush for applying paint to furniture. This Wooster brush has a short handle which I find very comfortable to hold for long periods of time.
If you apply light coats of milk paint, and sand lightly between coats, you’ll get a flawless brush-stroke free finish.
I only hit the highlights of the wood carving with the tip of my brush because I want the black to show through in the recesses.
For the remainder of the back slat, I only paint the sides and back leaving the face the original black paint.
As you’ll see later, I have something special planned for the slat. The black background is a jumping off point for a stencil I’m going to add.
Everything else gets 3 light coats of milk paint. One thing to keep in mind with lighter colours of milk paint: you will need more coats than usual. I barely squeaked by with the 50g package. For that reason, next time I milk paint a chair with a light colour, I’ll buy a larger quantity!
Grain Sack Stencil
As pretty as the milk paint is, a little red ‘lipstick’ will catapult this chair makeover over the top. So I’m embellishing the slat of the chair with this Grain Sack Stripe Stencil from Funky Junk’s Old Sign Stencils. You can check out Funky Junk’s full line of Old Sign Stencils here*.
* Funky Junk’s Old Sign Stencils has generously provided us with a complimentary stencil. Of course, all opinions are my own.
How to Prevent Paint Bleed Under Stencil
See those narrow pin stripes along the edges of the grain sack stencil stencil above? Those can be tricky to paint. There are six tricks I use to prevent bleed through under a grain sack stencil like this (or any stencil, for that matter).
1. Prep Surface
Before applying the stencil to the back slat, first prep your surface with 220 grit sandpaper so it’s completely smooth. There should be no rough texture or uneveness that would cause the stencil to ‘float’ above any areas along the edge.
2. Let Gravity Be Your Friend
Instead of keeping my chair upright and applying the stencil in a vertical position, I lay it down on an adjustable height work table so it’s horizontal instead. Because of that, It’s much easier to work on (it’ll help save your back too, once the table is adjusted to the perfect height). The fact of the matter is that curved rockers will still cause the chair to incline (as you see below). That incline happens to give us a much better vantage point to photograph and film. But feel free to raise the lower end of the rocking chair, if you prefer to put something underneath, so it’s perfectly horizontal.
3. Lie Stencil Flat
Whenever a piece I’m working on has an uneven surface, like the raised portions at the top and bottom of the slat, I’ll tape down my stencil at a point where I can lie it as flat as possible. For instance, notice that the bottom edge of the stencil is even with the bottom edge of the slat. If I line up the bottom edge of the stripe with the bottom edge of the slat instead, that will result in a gap, which is what you don’t want. You can always fill in the missing portion of the stripe by taping the edges with painters tape.
4. Use Painters Tape
Once the grain sack stripe stencil is positioned on the slat, tape it down with painters tape. Notice that in the middle the tape goes right through the narrow stripes on the side. That will help hold it down. When all other parts are complete, just lift those two pieces of tape and finish painting those areas.
5. Keep the Pressure On
I use my fingers to apply pressure to the edges of the stencil where I’m painting. Then I diligently move along to the next spot keeping consistent pressure. You’ll see that more clearly in the video.
6. Dry Applicator
The last trick I use to get a great result is to make sure the applicator is dry before painting. I dab the paint applicator onto papers towels to offload most of the paint before stencilling. Easy does it: apply a few light coats instead of a heavy one and you’ll get crisp, clean lines.
I happen to love these foam daubers for applying paint to stencils. You can also find mini daubers you can wear on your finger to get into tighter spaces – like the pinstripe. There are lots of conventional and unconventional options you can use to apply paint to a stencil. I’ve even had success with sponge makeup applicators. Try a variety of different applicators to develop your own preferences.
Painting Around Carved Details on a Painted Rocking Chair
To get into the details like the carving at the top of the slat, stop stencilling at least an inch short of the carving. When you’re happy with the density of the paint, carefully lift the stencil and set aside to dry.
Apply some painters tape as shown to continue the stripe. I use a stiff bristle brush to get into the details (again make sure it’s dry). Because the brush is stiff, it’s easy to pounce toward the carving to fill in against the edges. Again, you’ll see exactly what I mean in the video. Lift the tape and you’re done.
You’ll notice that the grain sack stripe still stops short of the bottom. No, I didn’t get lazy. I was going to fill it in as I did with the other end – and even had it taped, but Hubs really likes it this way. I think it’s quirky. Besides, every once in a while I let Hubs think he actually gets to have some input into the design of our pieces 😉. In all likelihood, it won’t get seen anyway; I’m planning on making a chair cushion in a future post!
Sand the Newly Painted Rocking Chair
Once all the painting is complete, I lightly sand the milk paint with 320 grit sandpaper to knock back any rough spots. This is optional, but I also ‘wet sand’ the hemp oil in the next step too.
While you’re sanding a piece that still has it’s original paint, feel free to distress the edges in a few spots so the original colour shows through. I love seeing some of the original black finish peeking through, but it’s totally up to you.
Seal Painted Rocking Chair with Hemp Oil
Hemp oil is an all natural product that, if applied like I’m doing here, will make your milk paint finish feel silky smooth. Like butta!
You can use a natural bristle brush to apply hemp oil or a cotton rag (I’m using a rag). I also wear a glove because it can get messy working with oil.
My favourite hemp oil is this one by Homestead House.
Pour a little into a container, dip the rag, then spread the oil onto the surface. There’s no need to wipe in the same direction as the grain. Then take a clean piece of 320 grit sand paper and rub it through the oil on the surface to burnish the milk paint.
Use a microfibre cloth to wipe away any excess oil.
How Often Do You Have to Apply Hemp Oil?
I think on a small piece of furniture like this chair, you can probably get away with reapplying the hemp oil every three years or so. It really depends on the use and also how dry the environment is.
How Long Does Hemp Oil Take to Cure?
Hemp oil will fully cure in a month. Check on the piece every week and if you notice any ‘spots’ showing up in the finish, that’s just excess oil that the piece won’t absorb. Wipe it with a clean microfibre cloth, then check back again up until it’s cured.
Will Hemp Oil Change the Colour of My Paint?
Yes and no! It will deepen slightly and make the colour pop. Notice how much richer the chair seat looks against the surrounding milk paint that hasn’t been oiled.
However, the next day after applying the hemp oil, I did get red bleed through that you see below. It’s from the original wood underneath. If you want to avoid that, just add a stain blocking primer first before you milk paint.
Funnily enough, I actually love how that random effect looks because of the red grain sack stripe on the back slat. It’s like it was meant to be!
I reuse original hardware whenever I can. These tacks help cover the hole in the seat left after the removal of the caning.
Painted Rocking Chair Video Tutorial
Want more details about how to stencil and apply/wet sand hemp oil? Watch this video:
Antique Rocker Reveal
Just as I was about to take a photo, a little red autumn leaf blew into the shot. I think that must be Mother Nature’s way of thanking us for saving this little charmer from a certain fate in the landfill!
I added a chair pad we have kicking around just to show you that a cushion can make the rocking chair more comfortable and inviting. Are you into the plaid this autumn?
Or maybe you prefer a crisper look sans the seat cushion?
We’ve had so much fun upcycling our recent chair bonanza. I don’t know much about this particular little vintage rocking chair. But I do know that it really rocks now, in more ways than one! I assume it’s for a child or it could be a nursing chair; women were a lot shorter back in the day.
If you know anything about the origins of this sweet rocker, please leave us a comment!
Subscribe and Pin
If you enjoyed our painted rocking chair project, please pin. Pinning is always welcome and appreciated :).
Interested in more painted furniture projects? Check out our Paint Techniques category to browse our DIYs.