Painting with enamel paint
As I’ve said before, there are still certain jobs where oil-based enamel is indispensable—for example if you’re painting surfaces that cop a few knocks like skirting boards, doors and architraves. If painted surfaces are exposed to heat or are likely to remain in contact with each other— like a window and its frame—acrylic paint will eventually start to stick, no matter how long you leave it to dry. This sticking problem is called ‘paint blocking’ and the proper use of an enamel paint will eliminate it. I also use enamel for the superior shine it gives to feature surfaces.
Here’s how to get a tough, hard-wearing and easy-to-maintain finish with a gloss level that can’t be matched by even the best of acrylics.
WHAT YOU NEED
- 180 and 240 grit wet and dry sandpaper
- oil-based primer
- good-quality brushes, synthetic or natural
- wood filler if required
- enamel paint
WHAT TO DO
- If you’re painting doors, remove them and set them up for painting horizontally in a well-ventilated area that’s free from dust and any falling debris like leaves. By painting the doors horizontally you’ll reduce the risk of runs and will allow the paint to settle more evenly. However, if you’re only painting one door and you don’t want to remove it, make sure you still paint the underside edge. An easy way to do this without removing the door is to use a piece of carpet offcut as a thin paintbrush that will just slide under the bottom of the door.
- Sand the original surface all over with the 180 grit sandpaper; this will create a key for the paint to get a grip on the old glossy surface. Clean away any dust and debris and then wipe the surfaces down with a rag that’s damp with turpentine.
- Apply a coat of oil-based primer. The primer is especially important on fresh timber as it not only seals the timber but creates a bonding layer for the following coats.
- Check to see if there are holes or dents that need filling—I often wait until after the primer to check for these as they’ll be easier to see. If need be, fill the holes then sand and prime again.
- After priming, I recommend using an undercoat; this can be tinted slightly to improve the opacity of your final finish. Unlike the primer, the undercoat has a fine soft texture when dry that can be sanded to a very smooth finish.
- Once the undercoat is dry, give it another sand, this time with 240 grit wet and dry paper. This sanding procedure is the key to a really slick finish and should be repeated between every coat of paint.
- Apply the final finish, at least two but preferably three coats. I recommend thinning the first coat down by about 5 per cent with some turpentine to improve the paint flow. You’ll need some patience, as you’ll have to allow each coat to dry for at least 24 hours before sanding and recoating.
LOOKING AFTER YOUR BRUSH WHILE PAINTING
If painting with enamel and you stop for a cup of tea, don’t dunk your brush in turpentine as it’ll dilute the paint and make a mess. Instead, place it in a container of water. The water will exclude the air from the brush so it doesn’t start to dry out but will not mix with the oil paint in the bristles. When you’re ready to start painting again, just give it a wipe with a rag.
If you are using acrylic, however, the brush can be wrapped with cling wrap and the tray covered in the same way.
Each night when you’ve finished painting, wash the brush out. If painting with enamel, use turpentine and then wash the dirty turpentine out of the brush with warm water and dishwashing liquid. If painting with acrylic, use water in a bucket and dispose of it sensibly. Try to hang the brush by the handle to dry.