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What Primer To Use & When

What Primer To Use & When 

A detailed guide on what products to use, when painting furniture.

One of the most frequently asked questions in our workshops, upcycling courses and online is this :

What Primer To Use & When .

I also hear ‘ Do I really need to prime?’ ‘ Does YOUR paint need a primer or can I go straight in?’

I talk about this all the time in my instructional videos and blogs, but I decided to do a full blog post today on this subject. Now you have a reference guide to look back on when starting each new project.

First of all, lets cover what a primer does and then you will understand why its recommended so much.

A good primer prepares the surface for the paint and gives you a longer lasting, more durable finish.  It also allows you to paint surfaces that otherwise would simply not accept paint ( more on that later) and it seals-in raw wood like MDF ,that otherwise would soak up your good paint. These are just a few of the reasons why we prime.

You have TWO choices of primer – undercoat.

1. Oil or Shellac based

2. Water based

And its the wood or surface you are about to work on, that decides which way to go, not the paint.  And if you are regularly painting furniture, you really should have both in your kit.

But how do you know which is which, when looking at them on a shop shelf ? Well here’s one easy way… read the clean up section on the back of the tin. If you can wash your brush in soapy water, you have a water based primer in your hand. If it says use an appropriate cleaner ( like white spirit) you have oil based primer in your hand.

So lets break it down.

1. OIL or SHELLAC based primer

I know many of you simply do not want to use oil/ shellac based products and I hear you, believe me, BUT there are certain times when you simply have no choice , as you need them for certain pieces of furniture. And once you learn how to apply them, you will appreciate what they do for you .

Oil based primer BLOXX – IT  and the shellac based TERMINATOR . Both of these have two mayor qualities that we need when painting furniture.

a. They seals in the tanins used in the stains of mid century pieces

b. They have much better adhesion than the water based equivalent

So the types of furniture I would recommend you use this primer on are, Raw Pine, Laminate, Gloss or Lacquered Pieces, Mid Century Mahogany and Teak.

Raw Pine … the knots in raw pine WILL bleed through any water based paints, in time , if not sealed in before painting and the piece will need to be repainted in no time. Mexican pine is a perfect example of raw pine

Laminate…. is known as a ‘difficult’ surface . That means paint will not adhere well and wear /chip off,  if a good primer is not used. The primers above are known for their adhesion properties and are  ideal primer to use on laminate. You can check out how I painted a Laminate Kitchen HERE… please watch me do the scratch test after the primer is dry. There is no point in continuing , if your primer has not adhered, as your finish will fail and the scratch test is one way to check.

Highly Varnished and Lacquered pieces…. again adhesion will be your main priority here, which is why you need to use the right primer

Mid Century Mahogany and Teak… below you will see a quick video of painting teak windows. These would have bled through my water based paint and changed the colour of the white to a dirty off white. In the video I used Fleetwood Terminator, the shellac version , but you can also use Bloxx- it .

Two things to note :

  1. Bloxx- it can only be tinted into a limited amount of colours but grey is a good choice and you can sand this primer before applying your top coat of paint. You cannot sand Terminator.

So now look at your furniture and see if it fits any of the categories above. If it does, you know what primer to use .



2. Water Based Primer

I used my water based primer on pretty much everything else. Pre finished pine ( shop bought modern pine with a varnish) because although it is varnished , the knots are sealed in and with a scuff sand the water based primer will adhere well and dull the surface enough to give a nice finish. Oak paints up very well and a water based primer is perfect. This is one I use. There is another version call PURE GRIP and I would recommend both.

Remember you can get your Fleetwood primer tinted to exactly the same colour as your paint. Just ask at the paint counter in your local store. This is a great idea if you are facing a bigger project and or you are using a darker colour paint. Even if you can get the primer in grey , this is a much more neutral colour than white . Here is a link to the primer.

Your prep and your products create the your finish folks and if you want a perfect durable finish, its worth putting a little effort in and learning the right products to use.

To learn how to clean and sand the furniture before you even think of primer or paint , have a look at this free beginners course in upcycling ( click here ) . It has a few short videos that will give you the confidence to start.

Happy Painting !








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