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Shabby Chic

wood finishing

by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher

A decorative finish can dramatically reinvent a tired old piece of furniture. There are many businesses that are buying up old furniture and "stylistically re- purposing" them for the marketplace. In my experience, the "off white" Shabby Chic look is by far the most prevalent, but any color will do.

To create this look there are as many methods as there are folks doing them. For instance, if you are painting a chest, you can then simulate wear and tear by sanding away some of the paint around the handles, pulls or feet. While this method does work, it doesn't have the feel of real wear because of the scratches from the sandpaper. The ol' elbows can get quite a work out as well. Here are some tips to not only speed up the process, but to help to help save the elbows as well.

  1. Stand back and locate the wear already present for a guideline.
  2. Be sure to probe the feet, legs, skirt or whatever is in touch with the floor as well.
  3. Give the entire piece a good rough sanding with 100 grit paper and then sand the areas to be worn with 100 again and then 220 to smooth out the worn areas.
  4. On the areas that you have sanded to appear worn, stain with a dark walnut stain and let dry for contrast later.
  5. Now paint the entire piece with acrylic latex paint and let dry.
  6. After the paint has dried and wearing gloves, use a rag saturated with denatured alcohol to wipe off the areas of wear to reveal the worn/used look. The alcohol will actually melt the latex paint immediately and then dry just as fast.
  7. For added depth and a more convincing job, wax the entire piece with a light brown or clear paste wax or you can glaze the entire piece with an oil glaze or a thinned out latex or oil paint.
  8. With a little practice and imagination the possibilities are endless.

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

French Polish Workshop , July 13, 2011

Coloring Wood , July 27, 2011

Gilding & Gold Leafing , August 10, 2011

Antiques Show and Tell , August 13, 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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