Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

December, 2005

Painting Children's Furniture

Q. I am an Artist. I have been contacted by a Swedish company that makes high end childrens furniture. They would like for me to paint thematic custom images on "high chairs." Can you recommend a paint that is environmentally acceptable to use on these chairs. I have completed one chair using "1 Shot lettering enamel. I am afraid that this paint is not acceptable to be used in this way. (I like the way this paint flows and covers) I would really appreciate your recommending a paint that is acceptable. Also, can I use a certain varnish to seal the one chair I have completed?

A. The most commonly used environmentally acceptable and yet durable paints are 2-component polyurethanes. You can purchase these at industrial paint stores (NOT hardware stores), and you can also purchase them at automotive paint supply stores. They are best applied by spray gun rather than paint brush, but you can try brush if that is the only way you can apply them. The coatings are expensive, and the exotic automotive colors are VERY EXPENSIVE to say the least; therefore you will only want to purchase small quantities and mix only as much as you need to do the job.

Now for the words of caution!

Once the coatings have fully cured they are safe and should not pose health or safety problems for children. However, you, the artist MUST take precautions not to inhale the volatile ingredients in the paint. You MUST have a ventilation system, such as a small spray booth or fume hood in which you work, and you MUST wear an appropriate respirator. Do not try to bypass these precautions and be macho or you can experience major lung (breathing) problems.

However, if you follow the vendor's safety precautions and directions, you will be safe. Most automotive painters are currently using these products, and if you have any hesitation, you can visit a body shop and question the paint supervisor. Also, ask them how they do small touch-ups using brushes.

Other than wearing the appropriate respirator it is recommended that you wear protective clothing and keep the wet polyurethane off your skin.

You will find oodles of literature online for hexamethylene diisocyanate curing agent, which is one of the aggressive components from which you need to protect yourself. I STRONGLY urge you to read all of the health and safety instructions provided by the vendor. Do not solely rely on this email.

You can seal the one chair with the same product and purchase a clear coating. Before you start, try it out on a small section of the chair to insure than the previous coat of paint doesn't lift. Here again, you can take the chair to a body shop and ask them to apply a small section of paint to the underside of the chair so that you can see the results.

Best wishes,

Ron Joseph

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