Fixing Painting Problems – A Naughty Table

Picture 14

Have you ever had a piece you were painting that just wouldn’t cooperate?

I have been painting for about 2 years, and until now, I have never had an uncooperative piece.  In fact all the horror stories I have heard from friends, clients, and even other painters I have worked with, working with all types of paints, I just assumed they did not prep and clean the piece properly.

Well that was until I had it happen to me.

I inherited a small drop leaf table when we expanded our shop and moved into a bigger spot.

The previous renters had just left, and when they did they left all their furniture.  And there was this sweet small drop leaf table I couldn’t take my eyes off.  Now it needed work, lots of work.  It had liquid stains (of who knows what) all over the top, and the finish was pretty rough.

Step 1:

I started by cleaning it with American Paint Company’s Prep and Brush cleaner.  After cleaning I decided that wasn’t enough because it had been in such rough shape so I pre-sanded it to get the finish smooth, and then cleaned it one more time.

Step 2:

After this I decided it was time to paint.

The week I decided to tackle this project was the week American Paint Company had a Tip Tuesday Blog post on Painting White over Dark furniture.  This table was dark and I wanted to paint it with a lighter color, so I wanted to try the Tip Tuesday out for myself, but instead of white, I wanted to use one of my favorite American Paint Company colors, Plymouth Rock, which is a very light grey almost white.

The Tip Tuesday says to use grey as a base coat when painting white (or light) colors over dark furniture, so my first coat on this table was Smoke Signal.

As the Smoke Signal started drying, I was horrified to see all the stains bleeding through the paint.

So I whipped out my can of spray-on Zinsser shellac and sealed the top.  I have run into small bleed through problems before with many paints and shellac has always done the trick.  So once the Zinsser dried, I put another coat of Smoke Signal on, and to my surprise it still bled through.  In fact it looked no different. I could not believe it, so I thought maybe it needed two coats, so another layer of Zinsser went on, and another coat of Smoke Signal and still no change.

At this point I was pretty baffled, so I posted my issue in an American Paint Company group, where other retailers can collaborate and get and give advice.  This is one thing I LOVE about this company.  It is all about sharing, collaborating, teaching, and helping.  The retailers that American Paint Company chooses to sell their products not only are a wealth of knowledge, but they are eager to share the knowledge.

It was suggested I use the brush-on Zinsser, not spray.  For really tough stains she has always used the brush-on kind.  So two coats of the brush-on Zinsser was put on, and another coat of Smoke Signal, and still to my dismay, no change.  I just could not believe it.  Then it was said “Try our Top Coat!”

Now I have to be honest, I was pretty skeptical our Top Coat was going to fix my problem, but at this point I was desperate and figured I didn’t have anything to lose.

So on went the Top Coat, and another coat of Smoke Signal…voila!  

It worked!

After the smoke signal dried, I put a coat of Plymouth Rock on the top, and our Limited Edition Gun Powder (a very dark gray) on the legs.  I distressed the legs a bit, and it was ready for a finish.  So the last thing I did was put some American Paint Company Clear Wax on for the finish, and buff it with my buffing brush drill attachment.


I was about ready to give up, but the suggestion of Top Coat gave me even more faith in this company.


  1. That is a beautiful little table!!! And love that our topcoat can provide that kind of sealing power over nasty stains!! Awesome!!

  2. I have just recently started following you on facebook and looking at your blog. Reading this post I wondered what Zinsser was, where to find it, and when you typically use it. Love all the pieces you paint and the tips you have AND the paint colors!!

    • mm American Paint Company says

      Zinsser shellac is a product found at any big box home improvement store. It normally will help block older, damaged pieces from bleeding through to a new finish. Obviously in the case of this user, it did not do the trick. I would suggest the brush on, not spray.

  3. i have heard that it’s best to seal the paint coat FIRST with Top Coat and THEN use clear wax and dark wax. Is this true?

    • mm American Paint Company says

      You do not need to do all the finishes on one piece. You can choose, either Top Coat or Wax. Some people like the protection Top Coat provides, but want the look of Dark Wax, so you can wax after Top Coat if desired. But you do not need all three.

  4. Aren’t APC products awesome?? Beautiful little table.

  5. The table came out beautiful!
    Thanks for sharing your story!! It is great to know what to do when potential problems arise. I love that American Paint Company is so helpful…nice to know they will help you get the best results from their products.

  6. Thank you for sharing this! I am so glad to know that the Top Coat will do this and will definitely be sharing this with my customers! I, also, am thrilled to be a part of this company; I have always been eager to help people and teach them new things about painting, so it makes me incredibly happy to be among kindred spirits!!!

  7. What top coat do you use to seal it? I have a small table that I’m having the same issues with.
    Also, when waxing you said you have a buffing drill.. What drill and what buffer do you use. I’ve always hand buffed and I hate it because it’s hard and takes forever, so I never wax anymore. I want to wax but I need an easier way of doing it 🙂 thanks!

    • mm American Paint Company says

      We used American Paint Company’s Top Coat to seal the table top. Top Coat is an easy to apply finish that dries crystal clear and you can find it your local authorized APC retailer. The buffing brush is round bristle brush that is applied to your drill and it makes buffing a simple task!

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