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Painting an old church Pew

RickGreg's picture

After building a new church across the street, our local parish liquidated the old building. We are now the proud owners of a 10 ft. solid oak pew that will become a kitchen bench for use at the table.

The oak has a dark finish with urethane or some type of clear finish. Of course, we need it painted a lighter color to work in the kitchen. I plan to sand the finish to rough it up and smooth some scratches.

After that, what type of primer should I use? And paint?


(post #62941, reply #1 of 17)

I hate to advise anyone to paint old oak--you could strip it and try bleaching the oak and then varnishing it.  If you want light as in pastel, you can "pickle" it--just find a pastel heavy-bodied stain you like, or just white oil based paint and wipe it on, then wipe it off before it dries. You can make it as light or as dark as you want by how much you remove.

The last idea would be to get an "old timey" look by stripping and painting with a light colored milk paint. Then put a coat of boiled linseed oil over ir, or varnish it to give better wear and protect the paint, though it's not really necessary. I like milk paint becasue the color is mottled. I planned for wear on a bookcase I made by painting it with three different colors, so as one color wears off, it exposes the color under it, making it look antique.

You may want to post this on Knots too--they'll give you lots of ideas--probably telling you not to paint it.

(post #62941, reply #2 of 17)

PAINT IT???????????

Like Dan said bleach it if anything

Pickling gives the effect of pig skin....almost pink.

If yer going to paint it use Benny Moore primer and Benny Moore top coats.

I believe tbe Benny Moore primer has better adhesion than even Zinnzer 123

Be well


The secret of Zen in two words is, "Not always so"!


(post #62941, reply #3 of 17)

I would strip it down to bare wood as good as you can and look at the color before you make a decision.  It might clean up quite nicely. 

(post #62941, reply #4 of 17)

By the time you get it samnded, it will be light enough to suit you, then oil it. paint is never satisfactriy on oak. Not only doe sit offend the sensibilities of a craftsman to see it hidden under paint, but the open poers of oak make it hard to ever get a smooth finish


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We did the best we could...

(post #62941, reply #5 of 17)

If you insist on painting it,(I don't care for oak so it wouldn't bother me to paint the thing) leave the varnish on it. I might even make sure it is sealed completely by giving it another coat to get all the areas that the finish may have rubbed through, you know those church goers, always fidgeting around in their seats!

That way if you ever decide to strip and refinish it you wont have any problem. The varnish will protect the wood from the paint getting into the pours.

Take Piffins advice on the pours,  painted oak will telegraph the pours.



(post #62941, reply #6 of 17)

If you insist on painting it, consider having a decorative painter do something with it.  Maybe paint it then give it a glaze, or distress it, make it look old and used like it already is.  If it has a nice patina to it , I would just clean it up (not strip it) maybe with Murphy's Oil Soap or a mild solution of detergent and turps, and then see how it looks in your kitchen.  If the finish is dulled after cleaning just wipe it lightly with boiled linseed oil or Minwax makes an antique oil which comes in a red can.

(post #62941, reply #7 of 17)

I had an old church pew for a kitchen bench in my house as a kid, and the whole family grew to hate it.  It is one of those ideas which seems good at the time, but after using it day after day it becomes a pain, particluarly if it is locked in place (hard to clean underneath especially with kids (since you can't just move the chairs out to clean) and you are always bumping into the arms trying to get in behind the table).

Use it in a hallway or living room as cool piece of furniture.  And why would you ever want to paint it over?  Years of good christian butt cheek patina gone forever.

With all the work to paint it, just buy some mdf and build to fit, it takes paint better than oak anyway

(post #62941, reply #8 of 17)

You should be flogged for even THINKING about painting an old church pew.

He said . . . Since I first laid eyes on you, I've wanted to make love to you really badly.
She said . . . Well, you succeeded!

(post #62941, reply #9 of 17)


(post #62941, reply #10 of 17)

I was half kidding, I guess.

But it seems to me that it would be look horrible painted. When have you ever seen a painted church pew in a church?

Can't tell you how much beautiful woodwork I've seen over the years that's been painted. I hate it.

Why do you think they sell so much paint stripper? People paint stuff, then wish they hadn't. Or people buy old furniture and spend a lot of time and effort refinishing it.

Life is what happens to you when you're making other plans. [John Lennon]

(post #62941, reply #12 of 17)


I know you were not serious about flogging the poor man! After all we don't know what his political affiliation is yet. :)

I agree about painting wood when it was meant to be shown.

I collect antiques and when the 50's and 60's came along everybody thought that they had to paint everything, ruined a lot of other wise great pieces of furniture.

I personally wouldn't paint oak, don't like the look of all the pours showing through, that's why I suggested leaving the varnish on, that way it can be striped some day.



(post #62941, reply #11 of 17)

If you have to paint it, try finding a cabinet shop, or auto body place to spray it with pre-cat lacquer. Wears better than paint, and won't yellow.




(post #62941, reply #13 of 17)

Well thanks all for your thoughts... I think.

I'm still not certain what kind of primer or paint to use, but I have a new appreciation for your collective love of old oak, and for the Boss's church-guilt response [Catholic boss? ;-)]

I agree with most of the repsonses. Unfortunately, this old oak has been stained a dark, dark, dark brown. I'm afraid that those pores are forever dark and all my sanding and stripping won't yield much lightening. I'll experiment with light sanding on the underside and see what happens.

Maybe I should auction this thing to the BT crowd. Seems to be highly valued here. However, I have to answer to a higher authority (DW).


(post #62941, reply #14 of 17)

 I have to answer to a higher authority (DW).

I thiink we can all agree that that takes presidence!

(post #62941, reply #15 of 17)

No, I ain't catholic. Just like old wood.

Reminds me of a joke, though.

Did ya ever watch the TV show: "HEE HAW" ?

Remember the segment where they had two guys laying around in front of an old porch delivering jokes?

One of them says:"Did you hear that the pope slipped and fell in his bathtub?"

The other one says: "What's a bathtub?"

The first guys says: "How should I know, I ain't catholic"

Neutrons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic

(post #62941, reply #16 of 17)

Hee haw!

I wonder how this discussion would have gone had I described the piece as an old beaten-up, dark-stained, utilitarian oak bench...? Would the same sub-conscious God-fearing, oak-loving opinions have emerged. We'll never know.

Thanks as always.

-Rick G

(post #62941, reply #17 of 17)

Since you have to answer to a higher authority (I know where you're coming from), sand the varnish that's on it and prime with a undercoat made for enamel and then finish with enamel.