The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

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Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Milk Paint Revisited

If I am not mistaken, my previous posts on milk paint probably discouraged an entire generation from using it. I hope this post may make you reconsider.

My first two attempts at mixing milk paint (milk paint powder + water) left a lot to be desired. The first batch was probably mixed correctly, but, since I jumped the gun on mixing it up, it sat too long before it was used. The result was something akin to a bucket full of snot, not pretty or fun to use.

My second attempt was even worse. Hoping not to make another bucket of snot, I used warm water and added a little extra. It was usable but too thin. It took about eight (more?) coats for full coverage.

Fortunately, I didn't actual have to use either misbegotten batches of paint. My mother-in-law and wife did. See, I've always told you that I'm not nice, but you never really believed me. Now you have conclusive proof that I am evil. However, in my defense, they did ask me to mix it for them.

The stars were right last Sunday so I decided it was time to paint the vent hood. Here is the correct process, step by step:

First, here is a before picture of our lovely vent hood. All the nail holes, seams, etc have been filed with wood putty and sanded smooth.

And, here is our milk paint. Fortunately, we stored it correctly so the powder is still nice and dry.
The basic formula for mixing milk paint is 1 part powder to 1 part water. Yes, I am moronic enough that I screwed this up twice.

Here is the random amount of powder (1 1/4 cup or so) I scooped up in a plastic cup. I used a Sharpie to mark the powder's depth on the inside of the cup.

I poured the powder into a plastic bucket and added an equal amount of lukewarm water.

I stirred the powder and water until they were thoroughly mixed. The powder has a tendency to clump, so keep at it until the mixture is nice and smooth.

Since all the prep work had already been completed, I gave the hood a once over with a tack cloth and it was ready to paint. Milk paint is meant to be applied to unprimed wood so no primer is necessary.
This is the vent hood after nearly one full coat of milk paint. If I'm lucky, it will only take two full coats (if unlucky, three) for get full coverage. Including set-up, mixing the paint, and prep (tack clothing), the it only took a little over a hour to get this far. Compare this to the neighboring cabinets which received the 8+ thin coats from batch #2 over a six hour period. The milk paint darkens as it drys if you are wondering why the vent hood looks more white than buttermilk.

So, if I scared you away the first or second time, please reconsider. Using milk paint is easy if you are not stupid like me. Really.


Anonymous Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Looks really lovely. Okay, I am game for milk paint.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

I have a recipe for milk paint. It is lime, skimmed milk and color. Should I post it on my blog?

10:33 AM  
Blogger John said...

Maryam, thanks.

Gary, I'd love to see it.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Allison said...

I was one of the ones that got scared away - I think I even linked to your 8-coat milk paint nightmare on my blog... you've made me reconsider

11:49 AM  
Blogger John said...

Here are Gary's recipes:

Here are two recipes from the 1909 book as they are written;

Lime Paint.- A mixture combining the qualities of paint with those of whitewash may be made with slaked lime as a basis by the addition of various materials, as milk, whiting, salt, alum, copperas, potash, ashes, sand and pitch. with or without a small portion of white lead and linseed oil. These mixtures are more durable than whitewash, but have less finish than white lead and oil. The cost is intermediate between the two.
To prepare a lime paint, slake lime with water and let dry to the consistency of paste. Thin with skimmed milk to the proper thickness to lay on with a brush. Add color matter as desired.
Or slake 4 ounces of lime with water to the consistency of cream and stir into it 4 quarts of skimmed milk. Sprinkle the surface through a sieve 5 pounds of whiting. Let this gradually sink, then stir and rub together thouroughly and add coloring matter as desired. The casein or curd of milk, by the action of caustic lime becomes insoluble and produces a paint of great tenacity suitable for farm buildings, cellars, walls, and all rough outdoor purposes. Apply with a paint brush. Two or three coats will be necessary. The above quantity is sufficient for 100 square yards.

To read the full post, go here:

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Jay from Boston said...

Just surfaced after a few days of insanity at work, and caught up with you and the Queen. I thought I'd put in my two cents...

John -- hang in there, man. Banks are truly the devil's spawn but what you are doing will, I hope, be worth the pain. If karma has any basis in reality (and it seems to me that it does), then this period of deep darkness should be followed by sweetness and light. But damn, sucking it up is never, ever fun. I really feel for you.

Everyone else -- we'd all like to help, right? No-one likes to see others suffer, particularly not a good guy and fellow old-house lover like John. So BUY HIS ART! I'm telling you, people, I had the great fortune to buy some pieces from him a few weeks back, and they are even more beautiful than their photos. The man is talented and his work is more than reasonably priced. For those with a gift-giving occasion right around the corner, what better gift is there than an original painting??

Also -- the milk paint looks fantastic. I love the purple and buttermilk together. You rock, and so will the Queen when you're done beating her into submission.

Good luck, and best best wishes to everyone for a happy thanksgiving.

9:18 AM  
Blogger John said...


Wow! Thanks! If you are not doing it already, have you ever thought about going into PR or sales?

Thanks a lot and hope you had an excellent Thanksgiving.

11:07 AM  

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