Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mailbox, part 2

I finished the new mailbox for the house last weekend. What took so long, when the carpentry was knocked out in a single day weeks ago? Some bad experience with paints is what happened. I'll start with the good:

Yes, it looks rather nice if I do say so myself. My better than what it replaced, certainly. Roomy enough even for one of those occasional 5-magazines, 2-netflix, and a pile of solicitations mail days.

The reason it took so long to finish off was due to a serious disagreement with the paint. I had wanted the paint to match the shade of green used for the woodwork of the new porch. It is, more or less, a dark, foresty green. So, at the local hardware store, I perused the color cards, decided on "Billiard Green," and had a quart mixed up. However, after two coats, it was pretty clear that the color wasn't even close. Instead of a sort of forest green that showed on the card, I got something more like the bright new leaves on our maple tree out front, or the green felt of a vegas table under the harshest light. Photography doesn't quite do it justice in terms of lighting and exposure, but even in this crude shot you can see it just doesn't match up:

Plus, after the two coats and a few days' drying time, the paint was still tacky to the touch. WTF?! So I too it back, along with the painted lid, and was able to swap it out for a new batch of a darker shade: Black Spruce. I thought about stripping the mailbox down to bare wood and starting over, but decided to take my chances with just painting over the first two coats (the alternative was many evening spend scraping away the old paint - it would have been faster and easier to just make a new box!) This was closer to what I was aiming for, and more closely matched the color swatch, but didn't quite match.

Somewhat defeated and very ready to move on, I deemed it "close enough" after two coats.

But a few days later, I discovered that this paint, too, was still tacky to the touch. I did a little digging and discovered why: many water-based latex paints, particularly thick exterior grades, are forever tacky even after fully curing. Something about the paint being flexible enough to expand with the wood. Many DIY pages warn specifically against latex paints for bookshelves and the like because of it. To which I respond: why the hell would you put a whole class of paint on the market that never actually dries? An oil-based paint would have yielded better results, I'm told, but I really didn't want to deal with fumes from the paint and mineral spirits, especially since I was doing this work in my basement. Plus, painting oil-based over layers of water-based latex is a recipe for disaster.

In the end I opted to put a clear-coat acrylic over top of the now four layers of green paint and hope for the best. This dried tack-free and, in this first week of use, seems to be doing alright. Another coat to the interior surfaces that those glossy magazines contact may yet be in order.

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