It all began some 40,000 years ago when cavewoman pointed at the soot-covered walls of her domicile and made it clear to caveman in the universal language of feminine displeasure still spoken today that she was not pleased with the appearance of her abode.
That proclamation was likely met with a shoulder shrug from caveman who felt pigmentation spreading was very low on his agenda when there were mastodons to slay and it was poker night with the boys. But after some repeated cold glances and cold shoulders and probably a few kicks for additional emphasis, even old caveman understood who wore the animal skins in the family.
So with the mixture of some earth pigments, charcoal and calcium and probably some spit and primitive swear words still in use today, caveman created the first emulsion consisting of pigments suspended in a liquid medium for use as a decorative coating. I suspect there was also a mild disagreement over whether there was a need for a second coat.
Thus began the history of paint, which has come a long way from gathering minerals, plants or vegetables for color. According to the American Coatings Association website www.paint.org — and trust me, it is a more interesting website than watching paint dry — the paint industry took off after the Industrial Revolution.
Thomas Child started the first paint mill in America in Boston in 1700 and in 1867 D.R. Averill of Ohio patented the first prepared or “ready mixed” paints in the U.S. And when the Sherwin-Williams Co. — which was founded in 1866 — perfected the formula for suspending fine particles of linseed oil in 1880 — the paint revolution was on.
I have been a major participant in the paint revolution for nearly 40 years. I have painted several houses, hundreds of walls, ceilings, sheds, trim, furniture, a few towns and nearly anything that you can think off. It’s a reflection of the houses and projects that my wife Sherry and I have embarked upon over the years.
Perhaps my crowning paint achievement was the one summer and fall where I stripped the asphalt shingles from the side of our former house, scraped and sanded all of the siding and applied a four-color painted lady Victorian-inspired palette. I was a night editor at the time, so I would work on the house all day before going to the office for my 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift.
We discovered there was a good reason why previous owners had covered the clapboard siding with the shingles — much of it was in pretty tough shape. That did not deter me from filling and repairing and painting. But after a couple of years there were spots starting to peel. So one Saturday I got up at 5 a.m. and for the next 16 hours I was up and down a 32-foot ladder with a can of paint and a brush. I recoated the entire house — with the exception of the trim — in one day. I could barely move the next morning.
Last week the call of the acrylic came again as I followed the first consumer education campaign from the Paint Manufacturers Association in 1916: “Save the Surface and You Save it All.”
I took a week’s vacation and embarked on various painting projects around the homestead. I spray painted some metal patio furniture and stained five picnic tables. But the biggest project was to repaint the woodwork on our two porches.
When we remodeled the house in 2006 we built two porches with cedar floors, wainscot ceilings and wooden spindles and posts. The floors need to be restained every year to protect them from the sun and rain.
The spindles and posts are treated wood but we painted them ivory in 2007. I’ve repainted them at least twice since then but they were a couple of years overdue and looking weathered. Ivory is also a poor choice of color when it comes to the dust and dirt you get from living on a farm in sandy soil.
So we (I should say “she” since I would not have the temerity to select a paint color without spousal consent) went with what I call dark tan, although it probably has some fancy name like Latte Mocha Java Caramel Sepia Taupe. I had power-washed the porch previously to remove as much dirt and loose paint as I could.
The only efficient way to paint spindles is with a good old-fashioned brush. Unless I tarped everything off, a sprayer would be messy and waste a lot of paint. So I pretended I was an aged karate grandpa and did my best brush on, brush off strokes.
A good chunk of three days was spent on the project — longer than I had anticipated — but I also had to time my painting to avoid the direct sun. There are 129 spindles, 17 posts, the railings that connect them and six stair treads that required two coats of paint. I also had to remove some jungle-like vegetation in the form of climbing plants to clear the path.
It’s a good project to have finished and it required most of the gallon of paint. Unfortunately the next time I need to recoat I’ll have to take the leftover paint to the store for a computer match because I forgot to write down the color and the label is now buried under a layer of puce-colored paint.
It’s just as well. I’d never re-umber it anyway.