Even when the paint and brushes are top quality, applying a smooth coat of glossy paint to woodwork is one of the more challenging things any painter has to do. Here are some key steps and techniques to make your brush-painted woodwork look like it was done by a pro.

1. Smooth the surface. Sand pristine, unpainted wood with 120-grit paper. For previously painted woodwork, inspect the surface first with a bright light held at a low angle. Remove bumps, drips, and runs with a sharp pull scraper. Fill depressions and divots with a no-shrink spackle like Red Devil's Onetime. Sand everything with 220-grit silicon-carbide sandpaper pushed in the same direction as the wood grain.

2. Dust. Vacuum the woodwork with a brush attachment, then wipe down the surface with a tack cloth. Open the cloth all the way to take full advantage of its dust-grabbing stickiness.

3. Check the weather. As temperature and humidity go up, paint set-up time goes down, making it harder to smooth. To help paint level out, mix in small amounts of Penetrol (for oil) or Floetrol (for latex).

4. Distribute the paint evenly. Brush in the same direction as the wood grain using long, parallel strokes. Don't let paint build up in corners where it can run and drip. With latex, you have only two or three strokes before it starts to dry. Oil is more forgiving.

5. Tip off. As soon the paint is distributed, unload the brush by slapping it against the inside of the bucket. Then hold the brush at a low angle to the surface and gently drag the bristles' soft ends over the surface of the wet paint, as shown at right. This step levels out brushmarks and sets the stage for even drying.

6. Leave it alone. Disturbing paint after a tip-off gets you the opposite of smooth.

Where to find it:

Paint additives:
Penetrol and Floetrol, Flood Co.
Hudson, OH
800-321-3444
flood.com

Spackling:
Onetime Lightweight Spackling, Red Devil
Tulsa, OK
800-423-3845
reddevil.com
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