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Episode 50 S2-15

Paint & Wood Preservation


Special Guest:

Without Land Ch 15

Sara Hathaway

In chapter 15 of the Without Land story, Erika tries to convince her mother to join the rescue squad and go out on the rescue mission with her. Erika finds her mother carefully applying a coat of lacquer to an antique sofa. Today, I will present an argument on why paints and wood preservatives will be important to a post collapse society and give you some recipes on how to make your own.

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Webster's Dictionary defines paint as a mixture of a pigment with oil, water, etc. used as a covering or coloring. Wikipedia defines paint as any liquid, liquifiable or mastic composition that after application to a substrate in a thin layer, converts to a solid film. It is mostly used to protect, color or provide texture to objects. 

Paint is very important to our modern world. For example, The Golden Gate Bridge would quickly deteriorate without constant application of paint by employees. In your home paint and wood preservatives protect your structures from insects, mold, and weather shifts. Currently this paint must be maintained every few years to ensure its effectiveness. This is no problem. A quick trip to the hardware store, some beads of sweat later and you have it all taken care of. This may not be the case in a post collapse society. Pealing and flaking old paint actually speeds the rate of deterioration because water droplets get suspended in the crevices made by the pealing paint.

Paint is over 100,000 years old. Pigments were made by early man out of ochre, hematite, magnesium oxide and charcoal. They used them to express their creativity. Paints made appearances in large scale applications to the ceilings of Egypt's pyramids and Roman Cathedrals. Steam powered mills allowed for mass production during the industrial revolution. Linseed and zinc oxide made an effective interior paint that prevented interior rot. Sherwin Williams invented an easy to purchase product by using metal cans to contain the paint in 1866. During World War II there was a linseed oil shortage and artificial resins or alkyds were introduced to fill the void. These artificial materials held color better and lasted longer.

The concept of applying a material to preserve wood also has a long history. The engineers in ancient Greece applied olive oil to wood used to make bridges to preserve them longer and the Romans used tar on their ships to preserve their quality. The industrial revolution provided a boost to wood preservation methods as well. Scientists made breakthroughs in applied solutions and processes. They treated railroad ties with creosote to extend their longevity. Ever wonder why treated wood is often green in color? This wood is treated with an ammonial copper quat formulation which penetrates Douglas Fir and other hard to treat wood and gives it the greenish hue.

How does this apply to survival? Without constant maintenance our structures of the modern era wouldn't last forty years against Mother Nature's constant assault. Plus, most of us in the United States have gotten used to living in clean, insect free, and mold free dwellings. Anything that you build in a survival situation will immediately begin deteriorating without some type of preservative and all your hard work, blood, sweat, and tears will go right down the drain. Also, living in a structure without these safeguards from the damp, insects and molds in unhealthy.

The good news is paint has a fairly long shelf life. The shelf life depends on the type of paint and if you have unsealed the can or not. A solvent based oil or alkyd paint will last about fifteen years. A water based acrylic or latex paint will last about ten years. To test old paint you should stir it well and then test it first. If it is lumpy you should not use it. This means the compounds have begun to separate and it will not adhere to your surface well. 

It is possible to make your own paint but you have to have the right materials. Bill Steen refers to The Natural Paint Book by Lynn Edwards in his article Make Safe Natural Paint published in Mother Earth News. He explains that there are a few elements of paint that you will need to include in your mixture. Pigment or color can come from plants, insects, iron oxides and minerals. Binders or the glue that suspends pigments can come from starches (flour), casein (protein in milk), and linseed oil (pressed flax seed). Fillers create texture and add bulk. A whiting filler comes from chalk. You can also use talcum, limestone, silica, and marble. Clay and flour are great together because the clay reinforces the starch in the flour. This is great if you live in an area with lots of clay soil. Solvents are thinners that help your paint reach an applicable consistency. Natural sources of these thinners include citrus and natural turpentine. Commercial paints also include many additives. Some of them may include plasticizers, foaming and anti-foaming agents, driers, biocides that inhibit mold growth and ingredients that reinforce water resistance. Visit  Make Safe Natural Paint to see what paint to use on interior vs exterior environments and different types of surfaces. They also have some great recipes there.

There are also many wood preservatives you can make on your own. Here are a few recipes that I like. On I found out that linseed oil can be used all on its own. The author of this article, Gareth, suggests that the least expensive way to buy a lot of linseed oil is to buy it packaged as a horse feed supplement. You must exercise caution when using linseed because old, soiled rags with linseed oil on them can spontaneously combust. Gareth states that you will have to apply two to three coats. For a more robust formula Gareth mixes his linseed oil with beeswax. One liter of linseed oil to 25g of Beeswax, melted on the stove top and then strained.  

Bob Silk shares another recipe on Home, DIY & Stuff. He suggests treating wood with a 1/4 vinegar to 3/4 canola oil mixture. You will have to shake it well to emulsify it.  Heidi Hunt states in her article Best Wood Preservation Methods that a mixture of boiled linseed oil and turpentine in a 2:1 ratio is a great mix for preserving wood. A commentor on this article who has been working with both old and new wood for over thirty years, Agnes Conway, states that she loves this mixture and includes apple cider vinegar into her mix for a more effective solution.

Go out and get those creative juices going or stock up on your wood preservation solution today!

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Without Land Ch 15

Sara Hathaway

Author Sara F. Hathaway is an individual with an insatiable urge for learning. She grew up in the woods of Michigan, fishing, hunting, gardening, canning, and horseback riding with her family. She loved to learn about the stories of times past from her great grandparents and grandparents. She learned about a time much different from our own when a trip to the grocery store was not all it took to make sure your family was fed. She delighted in the outdoors and learning how to survive there without the trappings of modern life.


After moving to the rural mountain landscape of California, she attended The California State University of Sacramento and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in General Business Management. She managed many businesses, all while working on the manuscript for her fictional novel, Day After Disaster. Eventually she realized that her passion for the outdoors and learning about survival techniques outweighed her passion for the business world. She took her marketing skills and applied them to launching a successful platform for her first novel, Day After Disaster and its sequel, Without Land.


Sara still lives in Northern California with her husband and two sons where she is at work on The Changing Earth Series. She delights in helping other authors find the same marketing success and enjoys her time that she gets to spend honing her survival skills while teaching these skills to her sons. For more information and a free copy of “The Go-Bag Essentials” featuring everything you need to have to leave your home in a disaster visit:

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