The path to building the Real Milk Paint Company began when I started working for antique dealers restoring and repairing antique furniture. Many of those pieces had a painted finish that I needed to fix or touch up. Working with available paints proved useless. If I made a paint with a shellac base, the results were too shiny. A couple of attempts using acrylic paints didn’t hit the mark, either. I needed something more in line with what was originally used on the furniture, so I began investigating other paints. That led to an in-depth look at milk paints sometime in late 1993 or early 1994.
I was very close to my grandfather and I remembered him talking about lime-wash he used to paint barns, so at a family event, I asked if he could tell me how he made his paint. I used his mixture as a springboard, and I picked up a copy of “Henley’s Formulas for the Home and Workshop” (Hiscox). In that book, I found a rudimentary formula, which included casein (which helps to bind the paint).
Perfecting the Formula
At my local grocery store, I picked up powdered milk and experimented even more. I called manufacturers to ask questions and order materials. Slowly I developed a milk paint that had the properties I was looking for. It had to be easy to mix, easy to use and have a dull or dead-flat sheen when dry. After nearly a year of part-time work and 30 to 40 tweaks to the formulas – I’d adjust the casein-to-lime ratio and make other adjustments – I developed my version of milk paint. Milk paint is the safest paint on the planet, and we have held true to the age old recipe of using lime, milk casein, and iron oxide pigments. These pigments are all colors you would find on the earth’s surface, and we combine the pigments to give you a complete and beautiful range of hues.
After using my real milk paint for a while, I began to think that other furniture restorers might appreciate the product, too. To test my theory, I set up a small booth – it was actually a table placed in front of some of the furniture pieces I had restored – at a three-day craft show. The weekend was a success, and our product was introduced to customers who had finally found a paint to fill their needs.
Unique Package Concept
One of the things that has changed within the business is the packaging. We started by putting the powdered paint into cloth bags, but have evolved to now offering Real Milk Paint in paint cans. The package comes with a mixing marble, so all you have to do is add water to the can, shake it up, and let the marble do its magic. You’ll have a smooth, ready to apply paint in just five minutes. Once you’re finished your project, you can then reuse or recycle the attractive can your paint came in.
The positive feedback from both repeat and new customers speaks for itself, and we’re having just as much fun providing the perfect paint for your project as you are at working on it! We’re looking forward to many more years of helping customers’ creative visions come to life.