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Distressing a Finish

wood finishing

by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher

Distressing a new piece of furniture to appear old and used is an art in and of itself. I often see examples of this in the homes of my clients and can tell instantly that they are fakes because of the methods and tools used in the process.

Here are nine tips and techniques you can use in your shop for a more natural effect:

  1. Take into consideration the function of the piece.
  2. Consider the period the piece represents. "Older" pieces should be more distressed.
  3. Think about how the piece would have been used and where it would most likely have come into contact with the user.
  4. Use other antiques as a guide for wear patterns and finishes available at the time.
  5. Pay special attention to the areas of the feet, legs, tops, edges, knobs and pulls.
  6. Worm holes and other insect damage is usually found on the lower areas such as the feet, legs, and moldings.
  7. Try to imagine what would have been placed on the piece. This will also give clues to the normal wear and tear.
  8. Some of the tools we often use are clumps of concrete with rocks rolled about the surface, keys, screws, nails, awls/ice picks, burning candles and inks.
  9. Finish sand and then stain the piece and apply a sealer. Distress the piece after the sealer has dried and then lightly sand with 320 and stain again with a darker color to accentuate the distressing. Wipe off the excess and let dry. Apply a sealer again, let dry and then complete with your finishing schedule.

Visiting Atlanta? Attend one of Alan's upcoming highly informative Highland Woodworking wood finishing seminars:

Antiques Show and Tell , October 8, 2011

Finishing the Finish , October 26, 2011

Spray Finishing , November 19, 2011

Visit Highland Woodworking's Online
Wood Finishing Supplies Department

Alan can be reached directly via email c/o Alan Noel Furniture Refinishing at anoelfurniturere@bellsouth.net .

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