Issue 14 T.O.C. – Michiel Brouns – “Recovering Linseed Oil Paint”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Fourteen. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is to come. 

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First pioneered in the 1930s, synthetic petrochemical paints (often derived from the waste products of the industrial war effort) exploded on the scene when plastics seemed to be the wave of the future. These new, impermeable coatings were almost universally embraced throughout Europe and the U.S., ushering in a novel way of thinking about protecting wood from the elements. But there were problems.

In Issue Fourteen, paint maker and author Michiel Brouns takes us through the history of painting structures and objects to preserve and beautify them, and how 20th-century plastic coatings that create hard barriers for moisture have actually led to accelerated decay and deterioration in buildings that had persevered for centuries. His research led him to look closer at the historic methods and materials that had been utilized for preservation and found a far simpler, far more sustainable concoction : linseed oil paint. 

Walking us through the processing of flax and natural pigments, Brouns makes a convincing case for the use of linseed oil paint as a more effective and more ecological alternative to modern acrylics, latex, and alkyds. Describing the chemistry involved, the processes of application, and the protection offered by a breathable coating which allows wood to naturally move moisture seasonally, he shows the beauty and elegance of an ancient solution. Sometimes, the old ways truly are the best. 

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