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Paint a Chest with Homemade Chalk Paint

I’ve been planning to re-finish our old Ikea chest for two years, but never found the time or drive to do so. Earlier this month I stepped on one of my daughters toys, setting off a chain reaction of pain and contorted body parts. It was the kind of thing that happens when you try to avoid stepping onto more toys, but stumble sideways into the whole pile instead…at any rate, I’ve never felt more inspired to re-finish a piece of furniture IN MY LIFE! Check out my guide on how to paint a chest with homemade chalk paint.

Old as in…5 years. This chest is a part of Ikea’s Hemnes collection. It’s a nice looking piece, but the black doesn’t really work in our great room.

In previous re-finishing I’ve disassembled the furniture completely, but in the name of time I’m only touching the outside of the chest. First I take off the hinged top.

I’ll be cutting the legs down a couple of inches. I measured and made marks on 3 of the 4 sides of each leg using a small adjustable square. Using a my ryoba hand saw for the first time, I made the most UNEVEN CUTS imaginable…hahah.

This leg was better, but that’s not saying much given how low I set the bar.

LOL! Apparently I’m going to need some practice with this hand saw.

Ah…sandpaper. You never fail to cover up a catastrophe.

diy chalk paint
I’m making my own chalk paint using calcium carbonate powder, water and “Buttermilk” acrylic craft paint. Check out the FAQs at the bottom of the page for more info regarding chalk paint.

Because of the size of the chest, I doubled the homemade chalk paint recipe:
• (2) cups (16fl oz) of craft paint.
• (4) Tablespoons of Calcium Carbonate Powder.
• (2) Tablespoons of water.
• MIX and APPLY using any old brush!

Focus on getting as even a coat as you can, but don’t worry about streaking. This is only the first coat of (3). As you can see I used blue masking/painters tape to mask off the hinges to avoid getting paint on them.

Here’s a close-up of the first coat. Quick but thorough.

The drawers took the paint much easier than the exterior of the chest.

Here is the chest after 3 coats of homemade chalk paint and (2) coats of Minwax Polycrylic Semi-Gloss.

I turned the chest over to paint and finish any of the underside that might be visible.

Here’s the drawers after the (2) polycrylic coats.

To give the chest some nice contrast and help it match the rest of the room, I opted to stain the top. Using a low grit sandpaper with my orbit sander, I sanded the heck out of the lid to get rid of the pre-existing clearcoat and black finish. I went through a couple of orbit sander disks to achieve this nice looking piece before you.

After vacuuming, I used a damp paper towel (or cloth) to remove any remaining sawdust/particles. Using a cheap brush I applied a generous coat of RustOleum Ultimate Wood Stain “Early American”.

After letting the stain dry, I applied (2) coats of Minwax Polycrylic Semi-Gloss.

So here we are all clear and semi-glossy!

Spray painting these knobs will really make everything come together.

I lay the knobs out on a tarp and scrap wood…

And a little spray paint goes a long way.

I allow the knobs to dry and flip them over. While those dry I’m going to jump over to the chest top and attach it to the hinges.

A cool thing that came with the chest was this piece of hardware that ensures the chest top will come down nice and slowly. Similar technology is used in screen doors…it makes that wooosh sound.  Anyway, I marked out where I want it and…

It’s too tight! Hahah. WOOSHHFAIL. Some days I just can’t win.

There we go! And the knobs are dry!

As an added precaution to eliminate crushed toddler fingers and the like, I used self-stick felt furniture pads between the lid and the base. I used these on the legs as well to avoid scratching the hardwood. I was looking for a cool front latch to make sure Maddy couldn’t open it herself, but Home Depot doesn’t have anything with this type of chest lid. Any suggestions out there?

Here’s the chest in it’s semi-gloss glory!

Notice the lack of toys on the ground…and my feet never felt better!

Common questions and misc. info:

Is it necessary to apply (3) coats of homemade chalk paint? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
It really depends on the existing finish and how well it takes the paint. The Calcium Carbonate Powder in your homemade chalk paint acts as a bonding agent, helping it take to pretty much any preexisting finish you throw at it, however I found that only applying (2) coats didn’t quite give me the consistent coverage I was looking for. Take it a coat at a time and play it by ear.

What’s the drying time on homemade chalk paint?
Drying time is going to vary based on the current temperature and humidity. I always go by touch, as in I check if the paint is still sticky or wet. At 50 degrees Fahrenheit in direct sunlight each of my coats were dry within 30 minutes.

What type of stain did you use on the chest top? I LOVE IT!
The stain used for the top is RustOleum Ultimate Wood Stain “Early American”. Applied with an old cloth or cheap brush and immediately wiped off with an old cloth.

Do I have to use Polycrylic? What type of finish do you recommend?
I’ve used many different types of clearcoat applications over the years. Here are a few options and things to keep in mind:

Minwax Polycrylic Semi-Gloss
Dries fast, low odor, water-based and durable. Doesn’t require sanding between coats (though I recommend doing so) and often times only needs (2) coats. I use a simple foam brush to apply this finish (see below).

Minwax Fast-Drying Poly Semi-Gloss
Dries fast, slightly more odor, non-water based but VERY durable. I always sand between coats and usually go for (3). I use a simple foam brush to apply this finish (see below).

Foam Brushes
I always apply my Polycrylic/Polyurethane with a foam brush. I find that by doing so it decreases the amount of streaking and provides a much more consistent finish.

Johnson Paste Wax
More time consuming application, satin —> glossy finish depending on your buffing skills. Needs time to cure. Can mix with oil paint for a tinted finish. Great for antique or older furniture. Applied using a rag/shop towel(see below).

Blue Shop Towels
I use a simple blue shop towel to apply and buff my paste wax. They’re cheap and each sheet lasts a fairly long time.

I want a more distressed look. How can I distress my homemade chalk paint?
Use a low-grit sand paper (80-100 grit) and distress the edges of your piece where it would naturally get some wear and tear. For a totally distressed look, start with the edges and make your way into the heart of the piece. Keep it random!

Anything left unanswered? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to clear things up!


One stay at home dad (to be) conquers DIY and Diapers

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Great job! It looks great, love the stain wood top. Thanks for sharing your Chalk paint receipe, I might give it a try…

    1. Rick

      Thank you Camille! It was a fun and quick weekend project! Give it a go, you’ll be surprised at how nicely chalk paint covers up old finishes!

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