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Aging is so Distressing - Techniques for Antiquing Furniture

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Pretty Handy Girl: Aging is so Distressing - Techniques for Antiquing Furniture

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Aging is so Distressing - Techniques for Antiquing Furniture

Well, despite the fact that I am starting to feel my age, this post is actually about achieving that well worn, loved, aged and antique look on furniture and decor items.

Check out the beautiful sights (some from the Painted Cottage, take the tour here):

Weathered paint worn thin and rubbed off.

Aren't these layers of paint, scratches and wear marks art to your eyes?

Nothing shows character like chipping paint and multiple revealed layers on metal.

or paint splotches on an old ladder.

And you can't forget rust, love that beautiful brown patina!

I have been experimenting with several techniques to add age to "newer" pieces of furniture.

Throwing the chain in:
These are some of my favorite distressing tools:

Throwing a chain at wood gives you those elliptical dents. And, I like to drag the sharp edges of a pry bar across wood to give it some deep grooves. Finally a few random hammer marks here and there finish off the worn look.

 This is the exact same technique I used on my mudroom bench.

Sanding through the years:
The easiest way to add some age and expose layers of paint is to pull out a power sander. I use 150 grit sand paper (but use whatever you have on hand). Then go to town on the furniture, a good example of this can be seen on my Trashy Coffee Table.

My table was previously painted white, I added a beachy blue layer of paint on top of the white. You could always add another layer if you want more colors showing through. I sand beyond the layers of paint down to the bare wood in spots. The challenge with a new piece of wood is that it lacks the deeper darker color tone of antique lumber. When I exposed the wood, it looked blonde and – well – brand spankin' new.  As opposed to some old rustic wood that has aged to a deep rust color or furniture that has been previously stained.

Faking age with stain:
I have a trick up my sleeve for creating those darker wood tones in seconds!
Simply paint some wood stain onto those blond wood spots. And wipe off immediately. If you desire darker wood, re-apply.

I prefer the Minwax Red Mahogany, but another dark color stain would work just as well.

Darker wood showing through adds instant age.

Staining Tea Stains:
You can also use the same stain to give your object a "tea stain". Take this antique gold 80's mirror for example.

I spray painted the frame Rustoleum's Heirloom White. And used Oil Rubbed Bronze for the inside decorative design.

Then, I hand sanded some of the edges to expose the stained wood beneath.

Next, I use a dry brush technique* to brush on the stain and then wipe the excess off immediately. *Keep your brush dry by dipping in the stain and wipe off your brush on a rag before using it.

It is important to use a dry streaky brush. The rattier the brush the better because anywhere the stain lands is where it will remain.

The end results are pretty tea stains and peek-a-boo dark wood below.

A totally new look for a sad 80's mirror.

Glazing the surface:

Did the permanency of the tea stains scare you? Well, have no fear. One of the most forgiving ways to give your object an antique tone is to use a glaze.

I recently tried some glazes by Valspar. This is the mocha glaze.

You simply brush on the glaze, again use a ratty almost dry brush.

The glaze stays wet and can be almost completely wiped off immediately. Therefore you need to either let it dry a little or wipe very gently.

Here is a peek at the mocha glaze on my coffee table legs:
Wipe on...

...Wax off (err, I mean dab off).
Sorry Mr. Miyagi. No wax off today.

I made sure to push more glaze into the gouges and crevices to show off the details.

Using the Valspar Asphaltum glaze ( use the same technique of wiping on and blotting off), gives you more gray tones and gave this picture frame a dirty distressed look:

It may take a while to build up the glazing. But, you can end up with a decent final result. Not my favorite aging technique, but is is very forgiving if you are new to glazing.

A spattering of interest:
Another technique I like is adding stain spatters. This is easy enough to do, but if you aren't wearing protective clothing you might get some freckles added to your body.

Dip your brush into the stain and wipe off any excess. Then gently tap the brush on a stick or handle of something sturdy. A large screwdriver or other solid object works well. This time I didn't wipe the stain off. I let it dry a little then dabbed up the excess.

With these techniques, you can turn a plain painted side table from this:

To a more sophisticated antiqued older sister:


Final Coating:
Once you have achieved the antiqued look you like, be sure to put a protective coating of polyurethane over the whole object. I like to use an old can of oil based polyurethane that has already started to yellow. This added the perfect age to my coffee table. (If you use new oil based poly, it will yellow in a few years time.) If you don't like the yellowing effect, stick to the water-based polyurethane.

Now, don't be distressed, grab some sandpaper and a brush and give your furniture an age boost!

Spice turn table turned rustic! Chalkboard lids tutorial here.

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At September 7, 2010 at 9:46 AM , Blogger katie @ the copper coconut said...

Thank you for sharing all those techniques! I am new to this whole thing and have wondered how some of these techniques work.

At September 7, 2010 at 12:11 PM , Blogger Jennifer said...

Thank you for sharing you tips!

At September 7, 2010 at 2:58 PM , Blogger Rhiannon said...

love it! thanks for sharing :-)

At September 7, 2010 at 5:54 PM , Blogger Brandy said...

Thanks for the great tips! I always want to distress things, but then I get so nervous about it!!!

At September 7, 2010 at 6:41 PM , Blogger Pam said...

Great tips. I have that same spice carousel in my kitchen (hiding in the cupboard). I think I'll try painting it this weekend - thanks for the idea.

At September 7, 2010 at 9:35 PM , Blogger kathie said...

It is amazing how there are always more things to learn about painting & distressing furniture. Thanks!!!

At September 8, 2010 at 8:18 AM , Blogger Green Willow Pond said...

Thank you for the great tips. I've bookmarked this page!

At September 8, 2010 at 2:32 PM , Blogger Su said...

I am one of those blog readers that scans the pictures first and then goes back and rereads. I love the turquoise side table and spice turner thing. . . beautiful!!! Can't wait to read the post and see how you did it!!!

At September 9, 2010 at 11:30 AM , Blogger TheVirginiaHouse said...

I have found that wet coffee grounds rubbed onto the wood also give an aged look. I've used it on signs to give them a "dirty, old" look. I'll try anything once...or five times until I get the "look". Thanks for all your tips!

At September 9, 2010 at 10:27 PM , Blogger Herself said...

Amazing what a little "distress" can do to a cheaper piece! Very impressed!

At September 13, 2010 at 5:10 PM , Blogger Korrie@RedHenHome said...

I love your tour of different aging methods! I will definitely be trying the spatter method (I have freckles already).

At September 13, 2010 at 11:16 PM , Blogger Mandy [Mandy's Yellow Corner] said...

I'm featuring this fabulous tutorial on my blog tomorrow!

At September 14, 2010 at 10:37 PM , Blogger said...

These are great! I'm loving your latest posts. I'll be linking.

At September 15, 2010 at 5:36 PM , Anonymous John said...


I had to chuckle at your distressing techniques; they're the same ones I heard about years ago
from a friend who worked for a company that turned new furniture into "instant" antiques.
Another good technique: tie one end of a rope to a piece of furniture you want to "age",
tie the other end to the bumper of a truck and drive around in a gravel parking lot!.


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