Small gift projects for those you love are a lot of
fun to make, and (hopefully!) a lot more fun to receive than things
that are simply "purchased".
As an example, I recently finished a small stool
that I picked up at a garage sale for $4. It was an ugly orange-y
colored maple with a deep scratch and some water rings on the top.
But it was perfectly sound and strong. I spackled the scratch and
gave it a quick scuff sanding before base-coating it with an
off-white latex that was left over from some other project (who
knows which one?).
Since I wanted some fine cracking, I next I put a
few touches of hide glue here and there. It was thinned with lots of
water to keep the crackle small. Then I put on a fairly bright
yellow glaze. In the spots where the glue had been, the cracks
appeared, and I rubbed in some light brown artist's acrylic so they
would show up a little better. Normally I would use artist's oils so
as to not re-wet the cracks with a water-based product. But these
were small areas that I could work quickly, and wipe off the extra,
and it would be dry in a few moments.
Next came some quick pinstriping freehand in a
green (that was left over from the videos) and a small rose stencil
on the top, done in just two colors. It took longer to pick out the
stencil (and cost more money, $6.00!) than the rest of the project
Still, the whole thing was less than twelve dollars
or so, took less than three hours, and looks great in a country sort
of way. The hardest part will be deciding whose tree it'll go
Try something like this, -you'll love it, and
somebody will love getting it! Other quick and easy projects might
be an old picture frame, maybe with a favored photo or mirror in it.
Small boxes (available at hobby stores) or small clock kits work
Are you on the other end of this; wanting a gift
for your favorite finisher? Here are some ideas:
A bundle of disposable brushes such as "chip"
brushes (wooden handles with natural bristles) or foam wedge brushes
wrapped with a ribbon. (I won't be getting too Martha here, make up
your own wrapping ideas.)
A box of rags, available at most paint stores. Ah,
what luxury! (Probably best to give this to guys, who will genuinely
appreciate the thought and usefulness; women don't seem to find the
same romance in things this practical.)
A set of artist oils or acrylics. Usually 6-12
tubes of the most useful colors in a box, and usually selling for
less than they would separately. Prettier to look at than the box of
rags, -equally useful.
A good brush. Though you don't really NEED a whole
lotta nice brushes, everybody always likes one more. It doesn't
matter if it's a bristle or synthetic, generic housepainting brush
or specialized artist's or faux finishing brush. If it's high
quality, the recipient is gonna be very happy with this gift. You
can't go wrong, and you can name your own budget.
Okay, one last wrapping idea. Whether it's paint
and varnish related or not, empty paint cans make great containers
for presents. I don't mean your slopped up used cans, I mean shiny,
bright, brand new empty cans in pint, quart, and gallon sizes
available cheap at most paint stores. Pop some surprise into it,
press the lid on, and stick a label on it. (They're even legal to
mail like that!) And after opening the present, the container is
And of course, one last gift idea. I admit to being
biased, but think a copy of my DVD's would make a great present!
From Dorian, some nice comments (thank you!) and a
very good question about her whites turning yellow, -and we're not
talking laundry here.
"The problem is, when working with white or
near-white colors in oil-based paints, after clear-coating them with
varnish, they turn yellow(ish). What's happening here?"
White (oil) paints have always had a tendency to
yellow over time. Usually that's not a big problem, -it's a pleasing
enough color itself. It is magnified in locations that receive low
light, the oil in the paint needs sunlight to keep it light colored.
You may have noticed this effect when removing a picture from a wall
and discovering a darker colored patch left behind. (This happens
less often now because most walls are painted with latex paints
which don't have this problem.)
At any rate, furniture or trim or walls that are
painted white and indoors will yellow with time. A room on the north
side will have more trouble than a brighter south side will.
Now let's switch to talking about varnish for a
moment. We're talking about the oil-based varnishes here; alkyd,
urethane, or polyurethane. Although they're called clear-coats,
they're not really clear. Just stare into a can of product and see
if you can see the bottom of the can. You'll notice that it's
anywhere from a little amber to a murky brown. Of course if you're
looking through a full can, that's the equivalent of thousands of
layers of brushed on finish, -but still, there's obviously a color
to it even in the few coats we would actually use.
So now you can see that if we add a couple of
"clear" coats of something that has an amber cast on top of
something that ambers in low light (the white paint), we'll be
doubling up on our ambers. But wait, it gets worse!
Even the "clear" varnish cuts down further on the
amount of light reaching the paint beneath, making it yellow even
more, especially a few weeks or months later.
What about top-coating (clear-coating) the white
oil paint with a water-based varnish instead? Water-based products
don't yellow, in fact, some of the clear products have a slightly
blue tint to them. So the problem is lessened some-what, but not as
much as you would think.
The water based "clears" are slightly more opaque
than oil-based "clears," so they cut down a little more on the
amount of light reaching the underlying white oil paint, which of
course makes it more yellow...
Enough already, you say!? How can we win?
Well, some of the time, we can't. If you're highly
desirous of creating a white white, faux marble (or other effect) in
oil, try to change your mind. Learn to want and like a warmer,
Or switch to water-based products, which will give
you no trouble staying white.
The only problem you'll have is if, like Dorian,
(and I've been in this position, too), you want to do a floating
marble style in pure white. You'll remember that you can't really do
a floated technique in water-base, only oil. So just do as I do when
I see a shiny new tool that I don't already have; just try not to