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After painting furniture on and off for 25 years, I thought I had lost my touch: Brush marks were visible on a table’s surface and nothing I did made them disappear. I sanded and repainted, checked my brush, adjusted my technique and STILL there were brush marks. The answer, finally, was chemistry. After calling the Benjamin Moore store in desperation, I discovered that, in the time since I had last painted furniture, the formula had undergone further evolution.

Years ago, I consistently used oil-based paint for furniture. It’s durable and self-leveling but difficult to clean up and it takes several days to dry completely. Sometimes, that wait time wasn’t practical—significant improvements to latex paint made it a viable substitute. Latex semi-gloss has worked marvelously for me for years when time was critical so I had no qualms using it again. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that, in the eternal quest for low and no VOC paints, even more oil had been removed from the formula making it easy to use but dry very quickly. It was wonderful on small areas and narrow legs, but miserable on larger expanses like table tops where the ability to paint in and feather are critical and where self-levelling is essential. These techniques are useless when the previous lines of paint are merrily drying before the next lines go down—it’s like painting with chalk. The marginal cure was to add an extending agent to increase the drying time, making the new paint behave a little more like the paint of old—the Benjamin Moore people did this for free when I brought my paint back. I used my own extender as well when I wasn’t completely satisfied. The ideal solution is to not use latex semi-gloss for furniture at all.

Enter another discovery: Water-based oil paints. I’ve used them for canvas painting but was unaware they were available by the quart. Also, in both the Benjamin Moore store and online, they are in a section for contractors and so easily overlooked by the residential painter. It may be that I am the last person in the world who didn’t know about the new paint formula—I’m just relieved to know that my difficulty was not of my own making and hope my experience will prevent some of you from thinking you’ve lost your painting mojo.