How can I preserve this flaking-paint, wood sign?
May 3, 2011 1:31 PM   Subscribe

I have an old, painted wood sign (pics inside) that I'd love to hang in my house, but the paint is flaking very badly. Is there any way to keep it from deteriorating (at least enough that I don't end up with a pile of paint flakes on the floor) without doing a lot more damage? The (probably non-existent) monetary value of the sign is not of importance. Thanks!

Some pics to illustrate here
posted by SampleSize to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
A few coats of a matte clear coat sprayed on will bind things flaky paint a bit but may visibly alter the appearance of the paint. Several very light coats over the coarse of a week or so and spraying from the sides as well as the top to get betweeen the curled up paint and the substrate. Also Krylon sells several products specifically for sealing art work that might be worth trying.
posted by Mitheral at 1:45 PM on May 3, 2011

Spray it with a can of spray polyurethane. Several light coats. You can get poly in a variety of finishes . . . you would probably want to use something non-glossy.
posted by Lone_Wolf at 1:45 PM on May 3, 2011

It's beautiful!

I've worked with antiques for ages, and have lots of stuff like this myself. I know it's not the best or right thing to do - but unless you want a lacquer, varnish, or polyurethane finish, using paste wax will hold it together, just a bit, with a nice patina. It won't stop deterioration, you may lose a few flakes in the application and it will get sticky and dusty and need wiping down and re-applying and may eventually discolour a bit - but it will keep the nice chippy look minus the painty dandruff. Used right, you can keep the dimensionality of the paint, which is harder with the other finishes. The Shabby Chic-style books and blogs and sites often use this after deliberately distressing things.
posted by peagood at 1:46 PM on May 3, 2011

You could get a sheet of thin plexiglass and cover the sign with it.
posted by chazlarson at 2:03 PM on May 3, 2011

Be aware that it's probably lead paint. Not good for children or pets who might eat flakes. Probably OK for you if you're not sanding it and breathing the dust from it.

I disagree with the plexiglass suggestion on multiple counts: it hides the real surface with a shiny veneer; if it touches the paint it could further damage it, especially through condensation of water vapor on the inside of the plexi; if installed with an air gap, it still won't stop the ongoing flaking.

I like Mitheral's suggestion best, and I think that would be a museum's choice. Rubbing paste wax seems like it would remove more than just a few chips, if it's flaking as badly as you imply. So spraying something clear and matte is the way to go.
posted by beagle at 2:15 PM on May 3, 2011

You want to use a spray lacquer like Permalac with multiple coats until you get a very thick surface coating. You will also want to make sure that the sign is fully stabilized so that the boards do not flex. I would screw a same size hardboard backer board to the reverse side to prevent any flexing. Otherwise at each joint you will continue to have cracking.
posted by JJ86 at 6:52 AM on May 4, 2011

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