The shed, in its Swedish undercoat.

Making Swedish Paint

Swedish paint is the paint used in Sweden to protect traditional wooden houses. It’s an emulsion made with linseed oil and uses rye flour to make it strong and to create the emulsion.

We are making a small Print Room or workshop in the garden so I thought I would make Swedish paint and test the claim that it will protect the building for 10-15 years.

The recipe I used is from the excellent Earth Pigments website http://www.earthpigments.com/oil/traditional-swedish-oil-paint-for-exteriors.cfm

As you will see I adapted it somewhat.

Here is how I got on.

1. Gathering the ingredients. The recipe gives huge quantities in American measures so I adapted it to the European style and a manageable quantity – to make 5 litres of paint.

  • about 5L boiling water
  • 200g rye flour
  • 200g zinc sulphate
  • 800g pigment of your choice – I used La Tienda white, also some Societe des Ocres white and a little yellow ochre. You can prepare a pigment paste the night before (see below).
  • about 400ml linseed oil. The recipe suggests boiled oil but I used Raw because that is what I had.
  • I also added Thermalmix insulating paint additive as this is the easiest way to add some insulation to this wooden shed. Its one bottle per 5L of paint.

Warnings:

  • Zinc sulphate is labelled hazardous (it acts as a paint preservative to stop the paint being eaten so its optional if you dont want Chemicals in your paint)
  • Pigments and the Thermalmix paint additive are both dusty so you should be careful and use a dust mask and a ventilated area when handling these ingredients. Also the rye flour – although mine is very rough and grainy, it should really be fine ground flour.
200g rye flour for swedish paint recipe

Ingredients: 200g rye flour

Zinc sulphate and white pigment

Ingredients: 200g Zinc sulphate and 800g pigment

Linseed oil and the insulating paint additive ready to go into the can

400ml Linseed oil and a bottle of insulating paint additive (one bottle for 5L paint)

2. Put the 5 litres of hot water into a huge pan and boil, then sieve in the rye flour and stir or whisk regularly, while simmering for 15 minutes. This cooks up the flour.

Stir while cooking for 15 minutes

Stir while cooking for 15 minutes

3. Add the pigment. The best way to prevent lumps is to mix up the pigment in a separate container (the paint can will be fine) with a small amount of water to make a thickish paste. You can mix and blend this more easily, and then add it to the boiling pan. The La Tienda pigments suggest you make this paste the night before to slake the pigment properly.

Yellow ochre pigment

Yellow ochre pigment mixing in with white pigment paste

4. Oops! When I tipped the pigment paste into the hot water the whole lot boiled over, creating a monstrous mess. So I recommend you add it slowly and carefully, and take the mix off the heat first!

Swedish paint recipe - boiling over

Oops! It boiled over making a horrible mess

It took about an hour to clean up and I lost some pigment. But the cooker hasn’t looked so fresh in ages!

Once it was cleaned up it was then cooked for another 15 minutes, stirring to get a nice smooth creamy liquid.

5. I mixed the paint additive with the linseed oil to make a paste. The paint additive claims to reduce heat loss by about 20% – we’ve used it all around the house and I am convinced it does work! It did affect the colour of the finished paint a bit, giving a slight greyish tint to the white colour.

I mixed in Thermalite insulating paint additive

I mixed in Thermalite insulating paint additive with the linseed oil

6. The cooked mix is then cooled a bit and added slowly, bit by bit, to the linseed oil. Lots of mixing is needed to make the emulsion. Once its made it doesnt separate out, just a light stir is needed to get the paint ready to use each time.

Cooked pigment mix is added slowly to the oil in the can and mixed to make the emulsion

Cooked pigment mix (on the right) added slowly to the oil in the can (on the left) and mixed thoroughly to make the emulsion

7. Apply to shed! This paint can covered the inside of the building and three of the outsides. The paint was quite thin, so its suitable as an undercoat, I will make another batch in a stronger colour to finish the job with a second coat. The finish is very matt and a bit textured, this is largely down to my rough grain rye flour and also the Thermalmix additive.

The shed, with its Swedish undercoat

The shed, with its Swedish undercoat

8. Cleanup

Cleanup always needs to be factored in to the time and energy of this type of thing. (Especially when you have pots boiling over). Brushes and pots can be washed with soapy water. Always wash your brushes in cold water to avoid melting the bristle glue and damaging the brush.

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