by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher

Throughout the many years I've been restoring/refinishing furniture, I've often worked on pieces whose surfaces had been "distressed" in order to achieve a well-worn aged appearance. These were for the most part factory pieces that had been distressed/faked on a production line. On most of these pieces it was very evident that the same tools and techniques had been repeatedly employed throughout the distressing process over the entire piece. If you repeat the same techniques in this manner, it will not be hard for your distressed workpiece to be recognized as a fake. Here are some tips to help you avoid the obvious.

1. Look at examples of furniture that you know to be older and pay attention to the natural wear and tear. The top and front will usually have the most wear from everyday use.

2. Ask yourself how these marks were made: silverware, plates, cups, jewelry, keys, shoes, cleaning tools, insects, knives, bayonets, a thrown plate or candelabra, carburetor/auto repairs etc...

3. Choose tools that will convey many different marks, such as chunks of concrete with rocks in it. Roll these on a surface to get many different-shaped marks at different depths. Stand back and throw darts at the piece, or stand WAY BACK and shoot it with bird shot on an angle, then throw it off the roof and repair it.... my favorite!

4. Leave no sharp edges. Sand all edges a little to soften. Sharp edges are a dead giveaway.

5. If you wish to make the finish appear to be worn off, use very fine wet/dry sandpaper and wet sand the finish off using mineral spirits or water. This will appear much more natural than just sanding away the finish. Afterwards always wax over the worn areas to mimic the way that natural oils from your hands appear on well-used furniture.

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

French Polishing Workshop , December 9, 2009

French Polishing Workshop , January 20, 2009

Antique Restoration Workshop , January 23-24, 2009

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

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