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                 Milk Paint

arly settlers in this country and rural folk for years thereafter used this homemade product

to protect and decorate some of their furniture.  Though milk paint is not widely available

commercially today, it may be made more easily in home or shop than it could in the days of

our ancestors.  As the name implies, this paint is made from milk, natural or dehydrated

powder or crystal, the latter being far simpler to use.  Though the ancients used clay or blood

or berries for color, modern packaged colors are more convenient.

ilk paint, ancient or modern, dries to a very hard, almost cement-like coating that is impervious to commercial paint removers.  At any rate, purists will certainly want to use it to refinish or restore pieces that originally had this finish.  Milk paint is a very tough opaque finish.  In effect, it is more like a coating of glue than paint.  Ordinary paint and varnish removers will not touch it, though it can be stripped.  Since original milk paint has potential value in it's own right, careful consideration should be given to restoring it.  If it is not worth restoring, it may be removed quite easily with plain household ammonia.  One generally finds it today under other finishes and recognizes it because the remover stops working on reaching it. 

n the early days, milk paint was made with whole milk to which color was added, usually blood, clay, or berry juice.  Fortunately, we can make our own milk paint with less exotic ingredients. 

ehydrated milk powder or crystals is mixed with water until it has the consistency of paint.  This may be used "as is" for a white finish, or it may be colored first.  A wide variety of colors is available as a dry powder at larger paint stores.  These may be mixed to any desired hue in the dry form or added, one at a time directly to the milk paint.  Mixing color for an entire piece presents no problem but attempting to match an existing color can require a great deal of experimentation.  It is brushed on just like the more familiar types of paint.  After drying, it should be allowed to set for several days before abrading in any way.

"Professional Furniture Refinishing for the Amateur", Jessie D. Savage, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1974