A New Book About Ancient (and Awesome) Paint

Back in 2022, Michiel Brouns stopped by the M&T shop for a visit. Based in the U.K., Brouns is the proprieter of Brouns & Co, manufacturer of traditional linseed oil paint. And when Joshua and I met him, he gave us an education.

Most modern paints are basically designed to encapsulate wood – to wrap it and seal it in a layer of petrochemical plastic. While giving the appearance of protection, like a leaky raincoat it creates more issues than it solves when things get damp. Now the moisture is trapped inside, in the wood, and rot is the inevitable result. Brouns has a distinguished background in historic building conservation, and he found himself aghast as he discovered, time and time again, newly-rotten sections of ancient buildings which had recently been painted with modern paint. These structures had somehow survived rot-free for many centuries before these modern paints had been slapped on. The evidence showed repeatedly that the ancient methods were far superior to the new ones. And what was the key? Linseed-oil paint.

Derived from flax seed and ground-up earth pigments, linseed paint has an ancient history and offers what has been described as “perfect” protection for wood. Rather than creating an impermeable layer atop wood, it soaks in and creates a protective but breathable layer that helps moisture to move in and out. Wood continues to “breathe,” absorbing and releasing moisture based on ambient conditions, and linseed paint works with this propensity while guarding wood from the degradation of sun and wind. It never flakes, doesn’t require primers or undercoatings, and can last an unbelievably long time. Some buildings in Europe have their original linseed paint intact, 500 years later.

Brouns has recently written a book about linseed paint– Linseed Paint and Oil: A Practical Guide to Traditional Production and Application – and we are thrilled to now offer it in our store. It’s a thorough look at the ins and outs of linseed-oil paint: using it, how it’s made, how it works. You can check it out here. He also has put out videos, essays, an excellent article in M&T, and travels extensively to spread the word about this revolutionary, ancient wood finish. Sometimes the old ways are the best ones.


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