Renovating a church door

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original church door

church door completed

church door during preparation



On the left you see the original Church door, it was in a bit of a sorry state as its many old coatings weren’t adhering correctly due to previous poor preparation!

Mark my right hand man set about the transformation task, there was only one real course of action to bring this old door back to life, he first removed all previous coatings manually, it was an arduous task using paint stripper, glass and sharp scraper blades. Using a blow torch wasn’t an option as our plan was to end up with a door we could stain, hence couldn’t risk scorch marks. After eight hours work the door had been fully stripped. abraded and cleaned as in the middle picture.

Finally to create the correct look we ended up hand mixing stains to get the right colour before finishing with wood oil and then highlighting the ironwork with black.

Now it looks like a Church door should do.


Vertically challenged, painted lines!

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painted vertical lines

My customer had seen this effect in a design magazine and wanted it recreated on her living room wall. So after stripping the existing wallpaper off and preparing the surface to accept a lining paper as a base.

I was only too happy to oblige, firstly I needed apply a base coat of the grey emulsion to all the dry lining paper, then I had to measure the wall and divide it equally, which in my opinion gave the best look, striking lines vertically and painting the other two colours as seen. #interiordesign #featurewalls #decorating #painting


#askapainter Can I paint my furniture

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Mainly most surfaces can be painted, the key is always good preparation and the use of the correct products. I’m sorry I’m not a fan of the “shabby chic” look in my opinion its just a poor excuse to half paint something and get away with it when it wears off quickly.

Yes I’m aware that done correctly, with a base colour, followed contrasting top colour systematically “worn back” to create the desired effect you can seal the whole thing in with either a wax coat or simply varnish, but it still doesn’t impress me sorry.

We have done several items of furniture over the years both for customers and some more adventurous items for Ideal home shows or Grand Design live exhibitions, the process is basically the same. Wash of any contaminates, abrade surface to remove defects, old runs or sags wont look good on your newly painted chair legs.

Do any minor repairs, tighten legs or table tops fill any minor holes or cracks that have appeared with age. At this point it depends on the item your painting, some may require a good adhesion promoting primer to allow your paint to adhere properly. If its a factory finished item or laminated surface I would recommend this certainly.

Then finish with two or three coats of your favorite paint, current trends go towards various chalk paints at the moment such as Annie Sloan or Rustolem. Which these can create a pleasing finish to the eye and occasional touch, if used for higher traffic items I’d recommend a finishing wax on top at least. Or perhaps paint the item in a modern water based eggshell finish which will give you more durability providing your substrate has been prepared correctly.

Old Card table

Modern twist

TV Cabinet

Don’t sit there, their still wet

Painted plant stand




Free estimates

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Naturally the term “Free Estimate” can be used in many context’s, it could just be a verbal agreement between two people, or a fully written specification itemized and priced to customers requirements.

There is a broad difference in the customer service you may receive. If you accept a free estimate usually verbal or via a text message format, which is woefully cheap I do not imagine much customer service will be given.

From experience these are usually people who price things well below the minimum wage as often its a supplementary form of income, either from their primary job, or more than likely the benefit system. Their expectations in this scenario is usually limited to turning up and applying whatever materials you have spent your spare time sourcing. Sadly more often than not because this is operating within the grey areas, once they have money in their hands they will disappear and if faults occur you’ll have very little comeback.

I am not suggesting that legitimate businesses wont offer estimates via text or messages, but more often than not its backed up with some form of paperwork. The important factor here is to explain why there is a price difference between the two.

Even a lone owner operator trades-person will command a living wage, enough to cover the cost of living, insurances, taxes and minor business expenses. Although that is only half the story, any half decent trades person will advise on best products for the specific job. Most will source the products on your behalf and ensure they are delivered to your job on time.

Admittedly this is viewed as trades persons buying cheaper “trade” products and placing a huge mark up, which once again I can refute as predominately “trade” products are made to a superior quality than retail ones, . What I will say is the added value of customer service that is gained from employing a professional trades person far outweighs the minor mark up the trades person would gain on material costs, considering all the work of actually sourcing materials and getting them to your property would eat into your valuable free time it makes sense.

If choosing a trades-person to work in you Home, or premises first point of call is word of mouth or personal recommendation, if a business has built a good reputation over a few years it will wish to maintain it, so repeat customers are a good starting point.

Also do a little research, if your trades-person is visible in your local area, they may have social media presence or a website. Another good research tool is “TrustMark” one of the government endorsed schemes  .

There are various other schemes around where tradesmen have to “bid” to provide quotes, while these schemes still offer a customer voice in terms of feed back, still be wary choosing the cheapest quote via this route and I would always recommend never just choosing solely from that route, without knowing exactly who your getting.

I hope this has enlightened readers that entrusting your home to the cheapest option isn’t always the best as customer service doesn’t usually come as standard at bargain basement prices.



Should I PVA new plaster before painting?

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#askapainter.  Many times I have been contacted by customers with newly plastered rooms. In their misguided wisdom they are happy to inform me “oh to save paint I have given the new plaster a coat of PVA”

Sadly despite what many DIY books suggest this is never the correct system. PVA is essentially a bonding coat prior to applying plaster, cement or any two porous surfaces together. I think this fad of applying PVA was imported from our cousins across the pond in USA as they term their emulsion paints as Latex, which gets mistaken for PVA over here .

Best practice for most new or well prepared plaster surfaces being made ready to accept Emulsion paint is to apply a ‘mist coat’ or thinned coat 15% – 25% water of the same Emulsion you’re going to finish with. You can purchase Contract emulsions for new plaster with less Vinyl content to allow the plaster to breathe more, but the process is still the same as you want that first coat to bond with the surface of your wall or ceiling.


Second part of more thoughts

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  • At times being self employed can be a roller coaster ride, this last 18 months has been an emotional journey for me in many ways with some real low times and some memorable events as well. Hopefully these little blogs will help others see whatever life throws at us, we can be resilient.

Following on from my previous blogs here is my, fingers crossed, some closure to this current journey then I can get back to posting about decorating things. So after July’s surprise hospitalization once again I was recovering, this time only four to five weeks as instructed and I was soon back on the tools.

I was even more determined to make 2017 a special year in many ways, first of all it was my wife and I’s 50th, secondly our son graduated from Glasgow university, our daughter had her prom and the dance school she attends had been invited to dance on Broadway in New York.

Things were going good, daughters prom went well, despite initial reservations I had ordered a new van for work, we attended sons graduation and then I noticed a small lump on my pacemaker scar.

Sadly after several courses of antibiotics, no improvements had occurred even when we went away whilst travelling home from New York unaware to me the lump had actually burst at some point, I only realized  once we were home and went to change my shirt. Misguided treatment by a locum GP didn’t help and once a pacemaker nurse seen me on a regular check up I was admitted immediately back into Carlisle hospital.

Stronger intravenous antibiotics where given and doctors discussed with me the need to remove and replace the pacemaker due to the fact infection can easily travel down its wires to my heart, or infect my blood system. At this point I had not felt ill, I had assumed the infection was only surface based, my wife and family have since told me I was a different person, short tempered, no patience and quite nasty, for which I’m truly sorry.

I was allowed home for a few weeks until appointments were arranged at Freeman’s in Newcastle where my surgery would take place. I’m ashamed to say my temperament didn’t improve, plus I was frightened of going through surgery so soon again afterwards.

Thank heavens for the close family ties we have and good friends I have around me, my wife and family took everything I threw at them and gave me so much support, Mark who has been with me 14 years kept the work going and always remained in touch with bit of light hearted banter to try and boost my grey mood, I am grateful to Riah from the Dulux Select office for her much needed assistance when I was in incapacitated.

I had my first operation, or procedure the day after I was admitted into Freeman’s early December, then I had to wait for blood results to be all clear, after 10 days there was hope the second operation would be following day, only to be told they had ran out of theater time and couldn’t guarantee when time was available over the coming days.

Once again I was at a low point, my wife had spoken to the nurses before she went home that day, early afternoon one of the surgeons came over to chat, he said “you’ll be fairly pee’d of are you?” but promised I was second on the list for Monday 18th December. true to his word on Monday at about 11 am I was sitting on the ward when another of the surgeons appeared and simply said “would you like a new pacemaker?”

My wife was there as I underwent both operations, she stayed over in Newcastle as much as she could, returning home at weekends, she would let me know about messages from friends that had heard about me in hospital and I always felt humbled, I don’t think I could have went through this without her.

I cant explain the feeling I had after the operation, one of the nurses brought toast and tea, my wife was there and I felt a huge weight had been lifted off me. I was told after a few tests I would be discharged the next day. The next day after X-Ray, ECG and Pacemaker checks had been done, we waited for a course of antibiotics to be made up and my son had traveled over to drive us home.

Anything at all like this is emotionally and mentally draining, financially difficult especially if your self employed. I would suggest definitely speaking with your suppliers, explain the situation, pay what you can when you can until you get back on your feet. Yes you can have personal sickness policies and if your lucky money for a rainy day, there is government assistance for being temporary unemployed or off work through illness, although you need to have patience to negotiate through the paperwork and bureaucracy. It might take me a few months to get my business back on level footings, but without being too dramatic at least I’m here to do so.

The most important lessons learnt is no matter what life throws at us, although work is an important part of our lives, don’t let it over shadow the bond between your family, friends and those who you cherish. I’ve said it before I was truly humbled by the support I received, not just from family and local friends but from friends made via my trade from all across the country, customers, suppliers, fellow tradespeople too numerous to mention but they know who they are.

2018 is another big year not only is V. Wilkinson and Son celebrating 50 years in business, but my good lady and I will have been married 25 years also, so I’m now looking forward to getting back to my old-self and continuing delivering Quality Professional Decorating to our customers and maintaining a good work/life balance.

Thank you all

View from Empire State Building

Luke Graduates 2017

Cowper School of Dance, 42nd Street on Broadway NYC 2017

Toyota Proace Van 2017









Truestar MF review

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Gone are the days when one brush did all, now there is so much diversity and not every brush suits every decorator so these are my personal findings.

I first became aware of Truestar as a company at the

National Paint and Decorating show in Coventry November 2013. Where I was actually given a free MF brush to try, being a big fan of another major brush brand Purdy, if I am honest I didn’t take this new pretender seriously.

Short description

Over the next few months the Truestar MF remained in my van, but gradually I found my existing brushes where not creating the desired finish in many water based trim products so I began to use a variety of brushes. I believed I had come to a solution with another new brush firm but still found their bristles a little course meaning more care was needed laying off.

Until one day I gave the MF a try, its bristles felt too soft and floppy although once they were actually in the paint the weight feels just right. Over next few weeks I flirted between both manufactures products until the latest Dulux formulation of water based trim came out. Here I found the MF far superior than any previous brush I had tried so it became my brush of choice for the next 6 months. I purchased more and began to use them every day pushing them to the limit.

Never during this time have any of my MF brushes shed a bristle. Most manufacturers recommend washing your brush out every two or three hours when using water based trim products to prevent clogging. Whilst I agree this is best practice on a couple of occasions I have worked eight hours without the MF clogging or needing a wash. Then at the end of each day, washed out lovely, combed and stored in its protective cover and it was ready for the next day. The MF is like most synthetic brushes used in water based, dependant how hard you treat them there lifespan will be between 6 – 12 months.

Even after this because the bristles still maintain their edge you could still use the brush for light duties for some time.

The MF is ergonomically designed slimmer than many major brush brands, but the natural handle sits nice in your hand and remains comfortable for long periods of work. With the design of the bristles being long and thin you will find you can cut in precisely with a wider brush than you normally could of some others.


Outstanding build quality

Comfortable design

Precision bristles

Excellent value for money


Not widely available

Sadly as with all synthetic brushes lifespan is shorter than traditional bristle.


This is one of those companies you should not judge for their interesting marketing because behind the glitzy promotion is a genuine professional product, which has been designed and manufactured to the most demanding standards.

After quite a lot of research the MF is my preferred choice of synthetic brushes in water based products. I would recommend lightly moisten the bristles before use and ensure it’s thoroughly cleaned after use before putting it in a protective sleeve to store ensuring maximum longevity.

Build quality 96/100

Design 90/100

Value for money 90/100

Foot note: This review was written in 2015 and its content is still relevant in the current market.


More thoughts

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Once again in too short of a time frame I find more thoughts appearing in this little decorating blog. After last years sabbatical,  I had hoped for a year of recovering and getting gradually back to work properly from 2016’s events

Things were going great I got the all clear from the bowel surgeon and was back full time working by February 2017, just steadily at first, but wasn’t finding any restrictions in my ability. Just when you think you have things sorted another surprise comes along.

It was late July 2017 I was working alone on a small motel, changing the colour of feature walls on the first floor, after carrying steps, sheets and decorating materials up there I noticed a shortness of breathe, forcing me to stand for a minute and recover. Once I had done so I felt fine and continued with my days work without further incident.

Carrying my things back to the van at the end of my day I had similar breathlessness but soon recovered so didnt think it was too serious. I arrived home and during our evening meal I mentioned it to my wife, saying perhaps an appointment with my GP might be in order.

Immediately she suggested we visit the local Primary Care center at hospital, so we got into the car and drove through. After chatting with the Doctor she suggested she’d like to run a couple of tests an ECG was first, having had many in the past at this point I wasn’t concerned at all as they connected the sticky pads and wires to me. Only when she ran the test and looked a little surprised at the result, showing it to her colleague before coming to inform me of the diagnosis.

Apparently I was in full heart block, no wonder I was a bit breathless when my heart wasn’t behaving its self properly, so I was told I was to be transferred to Carlisle Hospital, with likelyhood of getting a pacemaker fitted.

To say I was a little surprised is an understatement although having said that with my previous history it was only a matter of time before it caught up with me one way or another.

So I was in Carlisle for several days, the procedure as they like to call them these days was initially scheduled for Thursday, but postponed due to my unusual body layout shall we say, the doctor just wanted to double check with another test and confirm his findings with cardiologists at Freeman’s hospital in Newcastle.

So Friday morning came and the Dr ensured me it would be later that morning once he had spoken to his colleagues over in the cardiac unit in Freeman’s again. Despite me saying for her not to my wife had got up at the crack of dawn and was already in the hospital as she believed I was first on list for that mornings procedures.

As 11 am approached the nurse came and said I was to go down to have the pacemaker fitted. In Carlisle its an odd experience as you get pushed into theater  past the coffee shop and there was my wife. So I was prepared on the operating table, given a local anesthetic in my left shoulder and once it was numb, the Dr, who by now we had built up a bit of a rap-our over several chats we’ve had previously started. Yes it was uncomfortable at times, even a little unnerving but on the whole manageable and we even managed to chat a little as he carried out the procedure.

I was back on the ward by 2 pm, that first cup of tea and toast is always welcome after any procedure. Thank heavens I was no longer attached to a heart monitor, I was told need three tests, an ECG, and Pacemaker test was done on the ward, followed by a quick trip to X-Ray.

Then Amazingly I was good to be discharged and I was home by 7 pm that evening. I honestly cannot fault the Nurses or Doctors at Carlisle hospital, they all showed so much care. After leaving hospital I thought a few weeks recovery as I’d been instructed to take care using my left arm so as not to dislodge anything, then I should be back to normal.

Once again I believed, things will improve now, sadly fate had a hand in things again and my journey wasn’t over yet….






Mural installation

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A short video made via stop frame pictures showing a small mural installation job recently carried out at our customers in West Cumbria.

The mural was Glasgow Skyline, supplied by as you will see it came in six panels. As we were installing it to appear above a desk and headboard in a bedroom after installing the panels I needed to trim the lower edge to suit the height we desired. The width was determined by the heigh we were working at so as not to distort the image we requested the original proportions when we ordered.


Why wont my water stain go, with Emulsion

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If you have ever had a water leak on your ceiling leaving a brown mark, you’ll know how untidy it can look. Also if you’ve tried to redecorate just by covering it with several coats of Emulsion paint you’ll realize that is not an ideal solution to the problem.

Sadly there are very few water bourne products that will successfully trap and prevent a water mark bleeding through till finished coatings. Traditionally oil based undercoat would be used to seal the stain. There was also products such as Gulttonglass or Stipptick sealers which were faster drying, but unfortunately didnt work best with emulsions.

Nowadays there are various priority stain sealers in brush and spray applications which perform the task very well and enable you to successfully prevent the stains reappearing.

A word of warning ensure the source of the stain has been cured fully first as no stain blocker can actually hold back a persistent water leak

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