Once you’ve got a box that locks…

…it’s time to figure out how to finish it.


In “The Joiner and Cabinetmaker” young Thomas fits the lock, tacks on an escutcheon and calls it a day. There is no mention of a finish. In the build notes, Chris Schwarz suggests a wiped on finish of thinned oil and varnish which is a very nice choice. I happened to have just enough dark blue milk paint on hand for this project, and I’ve really come to appreciate the look and durability of milk paint, so I went that direction instead.


The color is “Artissimo” by Miss Mustard Seed. It looks very nice when first applied, but wears to an amazing finish. This is also the color I used on my tool chest and saw till.

I have yet to succeed with masking off portions of the wood, and so as I began with the lid I tried a new technique this time. Instead of relying on tape I relied on my own steady hand and a foam brush around the edges.

Honestly it was easier and more effective than any tape I’ve tried and I will use this technique in the future. It does require a bit of “sneaking up” on the edge with the first coat, but on successive coats I painted right up to the edge.

With milk paint I’ve found that there is always the first “dear God, what have I done?” coat. It looks awful and causes you to question everything that is good and pure in the world. But here’s the thing – it is doing it’s job. Trust the first coat to seep into the wood and seal it for further coats.

That said, you should re-coat as soon as possible. That first coat looks awful. Cover that mess up.

I lightly sanded between the second and third coats. After three coats I stopped and burnished the paint with a paper bag.

But wait, there’s more… after the paint had completely dried I coated the entire painted surface with BLO and let that soak in for a day or two before coming back with a home brew soft wax finish.


The end result speaks for itself.





*A word on the lockset.


This box marks my first installed lockset, and choosing the hardware was a bit intimidating for me. I ordered two different locksets to compare them and eventually chose to install this brass lock from Lee Valley. The part number is #00P2325 and while you’re ordering make sure to get some #4 screws to match.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Brian says:

    I really like the paint on this. Thad saying a lot coming from me, I’m generally not a fan of painted woodworking. It makes me want to give this milk paint a try. Do you make your own or purchase it somewhere?


    1. I buy it locally. The brand is Miss Mustard Seed, but there are several good brands available on the internet. Real milk paint is another.

      Liked by 1 person

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