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I'm building a large built-in bookcase system for a home office (floor to ceiling). The bookcase is black walnut plywood with poplar trim and a 1/8" tempered hardboard backing. Bookcase will be painted a low gloss white to match the trim in the rest of the house. I'm assuming two coats of white primer followed by one or two top coats of white, with appropriate prep work between coats. I'd like to do a hand apply with a water based paint, primarily to ease cleanup. I'm not intending to use spray (no good way to deal with overspray here.)

A few questions:

  • What type of water based paint makes the most sense for durability and ease of application? (Acrylic? Latex? Waterborne Enamel? Waterborne alkyds? Something else?)
  • I've got 2000 drilled holes for the adjustable shelving pins. The holes were drilled with a plunge router with a downward cutting bit. The holes are all crisp with no tearout, but they are slightly charred black from the process.

charred shelf holes

What do you do with regards to painting these holes? Q-tip dip into paint, then into the hole during the initial priming? Note the holes in the attached image are shown without any post drilling sanding. The black ring on the surface sands / scrapes off pretty easily.

  • Anybody been here before?
  • You don't want to paint into the shelf-bracket holes, if you can avoid doing so; the latter of paying will make the holes smaller and have to be removed before the pins will fit. – keshlam Apr 5 '16 at 23:56
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    The bookcase is black walnut plywood...will be painted a low gloss white to match the trim in the rest of the house. Round where I'm from, painting over black walnut is a cardinal sin. – grfrazee Apr 6 '16 at 15:21
  • I hear ya. But... I've got 10' ceiling in this house. The bookcase is 9'6" tall. I had intended to purchase 4x8' birch panels, and then scarf the boards longer... no easy task. Before I made the purchase, I thought I'd check craigslist to see what's available. A guy had 11 sheets of 4x10 foot black walnut panels available less than half price retail. Wow. I jumped on that deal. No scarfing saves me lots of time. The only bad news, is I discovered I'm very allergic to black walnut sawdust. – zipzit Apr 6 '16 at 16:22
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What type of water based paint makes the most sense for durability and ease of application? (Acrylic? Latex? Waterborne Enamel? Waterborne alkyds? Something else?)

Yes. Sorry, couldn't resist. The truth is that nearly anything will work for this, from the old-school choice of milk paint to the most modern waterbased formulation. There's no need to overthink here, because this isn't a project in need of high wear resistance or with other specific performance requirement I think you should just pick the product you're most comfortable with in terms of cost and ease of application that gives the surface gloss you're looking for.

In terms of application tools I would highly recommend foam rollers for the large flat expanses, with small synthetic brushes for corners and detail zones. You could use small paint pads in place of the brushes, these can work well but I've had very mixed results in how well they hold up to use and washing so I can't recommend them without reservation.

What do you do with regards to painting these holes? Q-tip dip into paint, then into the hole during the initial priming?

Painting every hole would be a chore, no doubt about it and using a Q-tip to do the job is good OTB thinking on how to do it, but I wouldn't recommend it. Obviously you want to but I think it's sure to be more trouble than it's worth.

Firstly when you paint you reduce the diameter of each hole enough to make for tons of trouble with over-tight fit of the pins, making them hard to insert (even if they have a chamfered leading edge) but sometimes nearly impossible to remove. At least without resorting to pliers.

Even if the fit is not very tight you're sure to have wear or paint lifting inside the holes if and when you move a shelf and take out its corresponding pins, which will leave visible dark brown/black peeking from those holes. Now you could touch those up each time but I presume this is something you'd want to avoid.

So instead of going for your Tedium Award, Class 1 by painting each hole I suggest you get it by doing the opposite, masking off each one as you paint :-) Appropriately sized dowels, slightly tapered towards their tips, are perhaps the ideal mask here, but if you went with bare wood you'd need a large number because you won't easily be able to re-use each dowel after wiping off the wet paint without risk of slight paint transfer. So one thing you might try is making a few specifically for this by sanding your dowel lengths lightly (to reduce their diameter just a smidge) and giving them a couple of coats of shellac or varnish to seal the surface. That way the paint will wipe off much more easily and thoroughly and with luck you'll be able to re-use each one immediately without a problem.

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    A pencil tip might do the job as a tapered dowel you already have on hand. – keshlam Apr 6 '16 at 12:45
  • One thought... what if I painted the holes, wait exactly 30 minutes for paint to start to dry, then inserted an actual pin into each hole, give it a spin, move to the next? Oh, and for the Tedium award, I've already won that drilling the doggone holes using a plunge router with downward cutting bit. Cut five holes, stop, clean up bit, repeat... until 2000 holes are drilled. – zipzit Apr 6 '16 at 16:29
  • @Graphus... definitely a plus one for letting me know the Tedium award even exists. – zipzit Apr 6 '16 at 16:33
  • @keshlam, good thinking! – Graphus supports Monica Apr 7 '16 at 7:10
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    @zipzit, yes you've definitely already won the Tedium Award doing 2,000 holes. That's... a lotta holes O_O – Graphus supports Monica Apr 7 '16 at 7:17

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