I have painted a ton of furniture over the years and I have learned a lot through trial and error. Mahogany is always one of those woods that has given me a hard time. The first time I painted a mahogany dresser the white paint I applied immediately turned bright pink. After several layers of paint, I’m talking at least six, it was still pink. I was totally baffled. We’ll, since then I have come a long way in my furniture painting knowledge and skills.
For a long time I used shellac to stop the bleeding, which does the trick pretty well, but it is not the most economical. I recently discovered a product from Sherwin Williams that is a shellac based primmer and it is amazing! With shellac I usually found myself applying at least two layers before then applying two layers of a top coat. With this pigmented primer it only took one coat and all stains were blocked. Not only did this product save me time, but it also used less material to achieve a gorgeous finish. The primer is a bit more expensive than most other primers, but not more expensive than buying and using shellac as a base coat.
Shellac vs. Shellac based primer
How to paint mahogany white
1. Clean the furniture really well with TSP. If you are not familiar with TSP, Trisodium Phosphate, you can find it in the paint department at your local hardware store. It is used for preparing surfaces for paint.
2.  Sand the surface with 220 grit sand paper, just enough to rough it up a bit. There is no need to remove the old finish. The shiny surface should just be dulled.
3.  Remove all dust particles using a vacuum or forced air from an air compressor (this is especially helpful if the piece has a lot of carved details where dust has a tendency to stick).  Then wipe with a damp cloth.
4.  Apply one coat of Sherwin Williams white pigmented shellac primer.
5.  Sand really well between coats of paint using 220 grit sandpaper.
6.  Remove all dust once again.
7.  Apply two layers of the top coat of your choice. I used Sherwin Williams Kestrel White in a Satin finish.



2 Responses to How to paint Mahogany

  1. Jo says:

    Hi there, I came upon your article when researching on how to deal with my built-in mahogany closet.

    Currently it’s just finished (but it’s red undertone is too strong for my liking). I am considering stripping it and then (1) restain to brown/yellow to get the final effect i want or (2) paint it

    if i paint it, but paint it to more on walnut brown color’s end, rather than white, do i still need to use the SW Shellac primer? is the tannin/pink bleed only a problem if you decide to paint mahogany white? or is it a problem no matter what paint color you choose?

    Also, i dont have the industrial sprayer like you do. can a rustoleum spray can work for something like this? i know rustoleum however has the problem of having only limited paint color….

  2. Deana says:

    Hi Jo, the bleed through is a problem with just about every color. The only color that would hide it would be black. I would definitely recommend using the shellac primer.

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