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Distressing Techniques

wood finishing

by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher



I can remember the first piece of furniture I built for a client who wanted it to look "antique" or "distressed". Needless to say I had a hard time distressing all of the hard work I had put into it. I looked to the real thing for inspiration and reproductions for ideas and technique. Here are a few tips I learned along the way.

  1. Nothing looks worse than unnatural wear. Look at old furniture for natural wear patterns.
  2. Pay attention to the top, feet, hardware and lower sections of the piece.
  3. Gently round over sharp edges with sandpaper.
  4. Never use fly specking. This always looks cheap and fake.
  5. Mimic worm holes/bug damage using a sharp awl (my tool of choice) on the lower parts with a few sprinkled in on other areas.
  6. Hardware should not be bright and shiny. Darken hardware with darkening solution. Be sure to remove any lacquer on the brasses first then gently rub brass with fine steel wool for a softer more natural look.
  7. As always, practice on scrap first.


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


June 8  Secrets of the Scott Antique Show

June 15  Finishing 101

June 19  French Polish Workshop

June 29  Spray Finishing

July 3  Coloring Wood with Alan Noel





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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