Creating a Chippy Finish with Milk Paint

I always get a chuckle when I read about other furniture painters who freak out when they use milk paint and it starts chipping.  For me, this is the number one reason to use milk paint.  I get that not everyone loves chippy.  It is a very primitive look.

The pigments in milk paint create a gorgeous aged and layered finish.  All by itself.  (I say milk paint is like using water colors and chalk paint is like using acrylics.)  So some people just want the lovely look of milk paint without all the chipping craziness.

Milk paint always has…potential.  This “potential” drives some people crazy…the unpredictability and not knowing how it will turn out.  After using and playing around with it for over a year, milk paint and I have become so close, that I’ve learned its little nuances and how to make it behave the way I want it to.  Most of the time.

For certain looks it is my Go To.

Let’s take this very, very primitive farm table, for instance.  I wouldn’t even consider using chalk paint on this.  It would be too flat looking.  It wouldn’t look authentic.

chippy farm table milk paint2

As is typical, I don’t have a before picture to show you, but just trust me that this table was very old and the wood was completely dry.  I knew if I used milk paint on it without doing anything else, it would suck right into the wood.  I WANTED chippiness.  Like crazy chippiness.

So I cleaned this piece, very, very well and went over the whole top with hemp oil to revive the wood.  Done!  Easy.

I worked on the legs and apron of the table one section at a time.  First, I heavily applied hemp oil.  (less hemp oil=less chipping).  This did two things.  It revived the wood and also created a “resist” for the milk paint.  Immediately after applying the hemp oil, I painted over it with Old Fashioned Milk Paint in Light Cream.

chippy farm table 1

It looked horrible.  (I knew it would.)

Because I was painting this on my front porch and it was kind of chilly outside, I used a hair dryer to speed up the drying process.  The hair dryer will cause milk paint to crackle.  I got a LOT of crackling and chipping.  I’m wondering if I had not used the hair dryer if it would have crackled and chipped in less tiny pieces?  Sounds like an experiment for next time.

Once it was dry, I brushed on coat number two.

farm table2

Slightly better.  I kept on.

chippyfarm table3

By the third coat, I had The Look. (Please note, I only used that one coat of hemp oil on the very bottom layer.  If you used more than that, you’d have no paint adhering at all!)

At that point, it was lifting and chipping like I wanted it to so I went in with both a scraper and sandpaper until I got that very chippy look.  (I did not do any sanding until I applied all three coats of paint.)

farm table 4

The problem with this finish is it is very unstable.  You could potentially sand the whole thing off, so be gentle as you begin the sanding process.

Once I was happy with how it looked, I used one coat of Minwax Polycrylic and took this baby with me to a market where it ended up as a display piece.  During the market, whenever I went to look at it and brushed my hand over it, more small pieces of white paint would flake off.  Grrr.

So I brought it home and used two more thick coats of Polycrylic, gently sanding in between coats with a 220 grade sandpaper.  It is quite durable now.

So if you’re counting, that’s about seven coats of hemp oil/paint/sealer to get the look of paint falling off!  I may be the only furniture painter out there that would spend time doing that!

But I love it.

milk paint farm table chippy6

This table is for sale up at Palmetto Home and Garden, 2422 Laurens Road in Greenville.  With both sides extended the top is 47″x47″.  Height is 30″.  It will comfortably seat four.  With the sides down, it would make a nice sofa, entry or side table.


  1. I’m with you Mary! I would never have opted for chalk paint on that table either. Love how it turned out!

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