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.

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.

Weathered paint worn thin and rubbed off.
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. Here are a few ways to add some character through distressing:

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

Throwing a chain at wood gives you those elliptical dents. Dragging the sharp edges of a pry bar across wood will 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 the 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 this Trashy Coffee Table.

A table that was previously painted white received a beachy blue layer of paint on top of the white. (You could always add a third color if you want more colors showing through.) Sand through 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 the wood is exposed and it looks blonde and – well – brand spankin’ new.  Add some stain!

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 the blond wood spots.Wipe off immediately. If you desire darker wood, re-apply.

My two favorite stains for aging are Minwax Red Mahogany and Minwax Early American, but any 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”. An antique gold 80′s mirror can be transformed easily.

Spray paint the frame with Rustoleum’s Heirloom White. Use Oil Rubbed Bronze for the inside decorative design.

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

Now 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 old shaggy 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 that sad 80′s mirror.

Glazing the surface:

Did the permanency of the tea stains scare you? Have no fear, one of the more forgiving ways to give your object an antique tone is to use a glaze.

Valspar makes a few different glazes. Mocha glaze is great for brown tones. And Asphaltum adds some pretty gray tones.

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 these 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 really nice final product. 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 prefer an old can of oil-based polyurethane that has already started to yellow. This adds the perfect age to furniture. (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.
As a follow up to this post, I shared my top secret recipe for making new wood look old!
Make New Wood Look Old - Aging Wood FAST!
And how to get the true chippy paint look:

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Comments

  1. katie @ the copper coconut says:

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

  2. Thank you for sharing you tips!

  3. love it! thanks for sharing :-)

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

  5. 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.

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

  7. Green Willow Pond says:

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

  8. 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!!!

  9. TheVirginiaHouse says:

    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!

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

  11. Korrie@RedHenHome says:

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

  12. Mandy [Mandy's Yellow Corner] says:

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

  13. Rachel@oneprettything.com says:

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

  14. Brittany,

    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!.

    http://john-pagliuca.artistwebsites.com/

  15. its all about distressing furniture.

  16. catherine says:

    The mocha glaze is amazing!!! It is great especially if you prime with white. I was afraid when I sanded placed down they would look weird white, but i was able to get some wood to show up and then the glaze just aged the whole look!!!

    THank you so much for the tips :)

  17. I have a dilema about my kitchen table. It is 2 years old with matching chairs. The chairs match and have harder wood than the table. My table is a soft veneer wood surface with beautiful dark knots, stain spatter, slight distressing. The problem is the wood is so soft I have homework(letters and numbers – deep) and horrible unattractive and uneven dents and scrapes etched into the entire surface including the 2 leafs it comes with. I would like to keep it the same color, but I don’t know what to do about the dents, some are so deep they can’t sand out. Any ideas on what to do? or how to make all the dents and scrapes even? Help!

    • Jen, thank you for your comment. It sounds like there is no perfect solution to your dilemma, but that doesn’t mean it is hopeless.

      The only way to truly eliminate dents and scratches (too deep to sand) is to fill them with wood putty. BUT, then you have to stain it to “try” to match the original stain. That isn’t going to be easy and you may end up making the scratches and dents more noticeable.

      If you think you can sand out the majority of the scratches, again you will need to try to match the stain. But, it will be easier to stain the sanded wood and have it match then trying to stain wood putty (which doesn’t have the same properties of the wood.)

      If it were me, and I truly loved the table but couldn’t live with the dents and scratches. I would strip and sand down the entire table surface. Then re-stain it so that the whole surface would be the same stain color. THEN, to protect from further damage, I’d have glass or plexi-glass cut to fit on top of the table to protect from future damage.

      I wish I had a better answer for you. Good luck!

      Brittany

  18. I love your blog/site!!! I love the fact that you show how to do things step-by-step!!!! Thank you

  19. Interesting,thank you.

  20. have you checked out Annie Sloan paint? So easy to use and no stripping or undercoats or top coats or primer. Check out drab2fab.com or Anniesloan.com You’ll love it!

  21. Yay! I’m glazing/distressing a desk today, this is perfect! I saw this on pinterest, then saw on your sidebar that you’ll be a speaker at SNAP–me too! Hopefully we get to chat!

  22. …..I am itching to tackle my kitchen cabinets. They are wood painted white (more than once) no clue what’s under the layers. Any experience or advice on this project?

  23. I absolutely love the look of antiqued/ distressed furniture. This tutorial is perfect. thank you!

  24. This is VERY helpful! Thank you so much! I am wanting to redo my dresser. It is an espresso wood stain and i want to make it white washed, distressed. Any tips on that? Thank you, again!

    • Kenzie,

      Thank you for your comment. I think it depends if you want the wood to show through after distressing it. If you do, I would recommend using Annie Sloan chalk paint or a paint that doesn’t require a primer and then sand through it. If you don’t want the wood to show through, I’d use a primer to be sure that your paint adheres well to the stained surface. Regardless of the route you take, you should sand and scuff up the surface to give the paint a surface to adhere to. Take a look at some of my other aging and distressing paint projects here: http://www.prettyhandygirl.com/aging-antiquing-distressing-projects

  25. Hi! love your blog! Question, i have a light wood end table and i want to paint it antique white and add some dark wood stain so it looks like darker wood is showing thru. Your tips for faking a stain are great! Do i paint, then sand some edges and areas, brush on the stain, then wipe? or should i stain first, then paint? Don’t want to mess this up! LOL!

    thanks!
    kelli.

    • Kelli,

      You could go either way. If it was me, I would stain first. Then after the stain has dried, follow up with a paint that doesn’t require a primer like Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. Then sand through to the stain. If you accidentally get down to the wood, you can add the stain afterwards. But, if you want a very aged looking white look, I’d go with the stain afterwards. It will make it kind of dirty white.

  26. This is very beneficial to grab the ideas for painting antique furniture and I like this transformation and distressed furniture So i appreciate this post.

  27. Where is the tutorial for the window preping?

  28. Cherry says:

    Hi,
    Can you tell me how to make metal, (not galvanized) and iron, fresh from the farm, look cool? Right now it is just plain rusty. I would think with all of the unique things I gathered from my dad’s farm, I could make them look very appealing and even repurpose them. Any suggestions?
    Thanks!

  29. Thanks for the tips! I spent a good part of a long weekend last year painstakingly restoring our rather old and large dining room table and all 8 chairs! Last week my 14 year old daughter and her friend dyed their hair electric blue and dropped it (more like smeared lol) on my beautiful restored table!!! Yikes!! So now I am going to use your ideas to distress it and move it into our country kitchen! Wish me luck!!

  30. THANK YOU IMMENSELY for every single one of these tips & tricks… I’ve just recently taken on several projects & this post is going to come in very handy! Thanks again =)

  31. Great post Brittany :-) I’m actually working on distressing more of my pieces these days. Love the tips!

  32. Does this work for MDF (medium-density fibreboard)?

  33. Sandra Williamson says:

    Great ideas. Now I know just how to finish off an old child’s dresser, it didn’t look quite “done” and I will be sure to use some of your techniques to get it to a better place. :)

  34. I love this look and I have been reading tons of blogs trying to figure out how to reach it and by far your way is the best for me. It’s fast and easy and the results are awesome! Thanks so much :)

  35. My friend just did a old cabinet with a glass door ,painted it lime green,then turquoise over it dry brush effect,I look so good

  36. Wow awesome blog!! I just transformed a lime green and teal dresser into a mocha brown (I used some paint from a room I did). I then took your idea form the “Make Me Beautiful” blog you had previously and covered it with leftover white paint I had. I plan on tea staining it with some leftover stain, so ultimately the whole dresser cost me nothing!! It looks fabulous thus far and I’m super excited about trying the other distressed tricks you have provided :)

  37. Catherine says:

    I love this idea. I have a question though. Have you distressed a vinyl table? The legs are wood so that wouldn’t be hard but the actual table top is what I’m worried about. It has that nasty vinyl strip on the edge of it as well that I know could last through an ice age. This table has been in the family since the early 80′s so I don’t think any hard feelings will be touched but if you have any tips or ideas on how to go about this table please enlighten me. Thank you!

  38. Andreea says:

    Hey there! Found your blog just in the nick of time … I have a room divider (raw douglas fir) being put in at my new office and I meant to stain the wood but then made the mistake of painting it with primer … I thought all was lost but it looks like maybe I can salvage it trashy coffee table style. … So – do I just get the sander and go to town on the white primer I just painted on and then stain, or paint with another color, then sand and paint? … I would love for the wood grain to show through but is it too late to go for that? . .

  39. Thank you for this post!I work in the paint department at lowes and had a customer ask me today how to do some of these techniques. I had just browsed over your entry and gave her some techniques but also refered her to it. Also, just an fyi lots of stores are discontinuing the Valspar Asphaltum glaze. My store has already phased it out but the mocha is still a stock item! Lots of colors can be mixed into our translucent glaze mixing base so you can use any color glaze youd like!

  40. Annie Sloan Chalk paint is also a GREAT way to apply different colors, then sand off for varying tones and colors when distressing.

  41. I tried the paint on paint method but found sanding to be difficult. It took such a delicate touch to expose the undercoat of paint rather than the wood. Also, after sanding the paint tends to look a little scratched. But I don’t want to use the poly. Too shiny. Is there something else I can use to buff it up at bit. I’ve heard some people use Minwax but I’m not sure if that is a good idea. I’ve seen some pieces that look more rubbed than sanded. How does that differ in technique?

  42. Geraldine Joseph says:

    Before spray painting your stained project did you lightly sand so the paint would adhere to the stain?

  43. You recommend 2 different glazes and then say they’re not your favorite aging technique. Well, what IS your favorite technique? I thought that was what your article was about…..i’m confused!

  44. You recommend 2 different glazes to use in distressing furniture and then you say that they’re not your favorite aging technique! Well, what IS your favorite technique??

    • Donna, I meant, I’m not a huge fan of glazes. I prefer to sand and stain. However, I recently mixed the mocha and the asphaltum glazes by Valspar to get a darker black/brown color and definitely like that glaze!

      As for a favorite, it just depends on the piece of furniture. Some I like to sand, some I don’t it just depends. That’s why I shared so many in this post so you can choose your favorites ;-).

      • Hi Brittany~Ok……i think i get it!! I think after reading and re-reading your article and your response i’ll try mixing the 2 Valspar glazes……i wasn’t sure which one to use anyhow. I got both and tried them on a sample and couldn’t decide. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for your help……and your patience!!!

  45. Great post! Love the idea’s! Ever tried Webster’s Chalk Paint Powder? It’s a cheap alternative to chalk paint; however, it’s a powder you mix in to any kind of paint you have and BAM- chalk paint! Gives furniture a vintage, matte look. You should check it out!

  46. Wow, girl you are good!! I have tried so many ways of distressing and have tried it on so many different pieces of furniture and I have the absolute hardest time getting it just right. I think my problem is I don’t know how much to distress. For instance when I”m using glaze I can’t ever seem to get the “strokes” right. Is there a certain way that you go about brushing on the stain (up and down, side to side and how much should you brush on). I am just amazed at how good you are!! WELL DONE!!! :-)
    ~ Jessica

  47. how do you cover nails or nail holes when making furniture so that they look natural. Is it best to paint, sand, etc. and then put together or put together first.
    thanks…what awesome information you have shared.

    • Kathy, if you are painting, you can countersink the nails and fill them with wood putty. No one will know the difference. If you are staining, sometimes you can see the putty, but if you have sanded it to the wood, it should only be a smalle circle. There are light and dark wood putties you can try. I recommend building the piece first, then sand and paint after it is done. That way you won’t run the risk of nicking your paint job.

  48. Great post! I have tried many of these techniques and they always work! Thanks!

  49. I’m trying to create this look on a wall. Any ideas? The wall is “flat”, no texture.

  50. Thanks for the step by step. I am trying this for 1st time. I have a cabinet and took one of the doors to test the colors on. I painted yellow eggshell over a walnut stain. then I painted a dark blue. When I sand the blue , I cannot get the yellow to come through. It goes almost straight to the walnut stain. What am I doing wrong? thanks again.

    • Barbara, here are a few things to try. Make sure you paint at least two layers of the yellow. Then you can rub the side of a candlestick on the areas that you want to show through before painting the dark blue. It sounds like it will be beautiful when you are done! I like yellow and blue together.

  51. Rebecca says:

    Love your work! We are about to distress a coffee table by painting and then sanding/staining. Does it matter what type of paint we use (i.e. oil based or latex…and if latex, what finish)? Thank you so much for sharing your secrets!!!

  52. Suzanne says:

    Hi

    I have a couple of old chairs I have sanded down to paint layers and some bare wood. Can I apply the polyurethyne directly to the bare wood or should I stain it first?

    Thanks

    • I would apply the polyurethane as your last step. It will protect the wood and paint. If you apply it first you won’t be able to stain because the poly will seal the wood.

    • Suzanne says:

      Thanks, I have one more question. Does the bare wood need to be stained at all, or can I leave the wood bare and apply the polyurethane over it? I haven’t decided whether I want to stain the wood or not…

  53. Can you tell me about aging Stainless Silverware? I have some newer pieces that I would like to look old?

  54. THANK YOU! I have been wracking my brain for weeks on how to darken a kitchen island top I am having built for our kitchen. I do not want any waxes, stains or oils on it that will block the woods natural antimicrobial properties…. Tea Staining! perfect, Whew…

  55. louise burns says:

    Hi
    thanks for this article
    I have become addicted to distressing. I’ve done 8 or 9 projects recently. I was wondering tho how to get a multi level look that ive seen in some furniture stores. The only thing that partially worked was to paint one coat put candle wax over that then paint another coat etc…then CAREFULLY try to scratch off parts of each layer.

  56. Great great great info and ideas!! Thank you for sharing, I can’t wait to try this!

  57. Heather says:

    Where can I buy those glazes? My husband asked about colored glaze at Home Depot, and the clerk looked at him as if he had sprouted a second head on the spot! I know Lowe’s sells Valspar products, but I can’t find the glaze on their website. Thanks! I can’t wait to try these techniques on an old end table!

  58. Heather says:

    Well, never mind! I searched for the glaze and found nothing, but then I found your link on another page. It worked and took me right to the product! Thanks for including the links!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] distressed my new table top with a heavy chain, pry bar, and hammer (read more [...]

  2. [...] distressing, apply your primer, undercoat, and topcoat according to how you want the finished product to look. [...]

  3. [...] to Pretty Handy Girl and The Speckled Dog for the tips on antiquing! Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the [...]

  4. [...] always sharing new DIY projects to empower others to create their own. In a post that she wrote on Techniques for Antiquing Furniture, she shares information on the tools that she uses to create an aged look, as well as some [...]

  5. [...] Next, I sprayed Rustoleum Heirloom White and distressed the surface with a wood stain. [...]

  6. [...] painted furniture in his pickup and run it through a car wash to “antique” the pieces. Here is a web site with instructions on HOW TO.  It seems the rage these days, with real antiques from the Victorian and other periods [...]

  7. [...] here is a link how to age, antique, distress wood yourself. Do you have a project coming up where you are going to try this? I know I do. I’ll let [...]

  8. [...] Pretty Handy Girl  has some great tips and techniques for distressing & aging furniture with paint & stain. [...]

  9. [...] Chain throwing and hammer marks add a distressed look to new wood. [...]

  10. [...] “Get Inspired” antique furniture- http://www.prettyhandygirl.com/2010/09/aging-is-so-distressing-techniques-for.html “Get Inspired” suitcase table- http://cupcakesandcashmere.com/updated-guest-room/ [...]

  11. [...] sure that the stain or paint soaks into the wood grain the way that you want. (p.s. here’s a great way to age painted wood, if that’s your [...]

  12. [...] wrote another post about aging and antiquing that shares some other techniques, but today I’ll focus solely on making new lumber look [...]

  13. [...] Remove the picture, glass and backing. Sand the edges of the frame to give it a distressed look. Then wipe the frame clean. (For more details on aging and distressing furniture, you can read my post HERE.) [...]

  14. [...] Additional Resources: Pretty Handy Girl has a lot of good tips for giving furniture a second life or a more interesting past here. [...]

  15. [...] Pretty Handy Girl My Romantic Home Alchemy Fine Living [...]

  16. [...] instead of a new and bright look, you’re looking to age or distress your piece, look no further. The Pretty Handy Girl blog does an excellent job explaining different techniques and methods to perfecting a worn [...]

  17. [...] Aging is so Distressing – Techniques for Antiquing FurnitureSep 7, 2010 … I have been experimenting with several techniques to add age to “newer” pieces of furniture. Here are a few ways to add some character … [...]

  18. [...] Aging is so Distressing – Techniques for Antiquing Furniture by Pretty Handy Girl [...]

  19. [...] I took a sand paper and roughed up the edges and distressed them until you could see the dark green peeking [...]

  20. […] old pots, picture frames or jars into “vintage” treasures by painting them with primer and chipping it away. There are paint methods for getting a faux bronze or zinc patina. Find a piece of old wood, paint […]

  21. […] Aging is so Distressing – Techniques for Antiquing Furniturehttp://www.prettyhandygirl.com/2010/09/aging-is-so-distressing-techniques-for.html A DIY Blog Empowering You to Complete Your Own Project. 7 Sep posted by Brittany Bailey. 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. […]

  22. […] Love the distressed look of antiqued furniture, but not sure how to achieve the look? Here is a great tutorial that teaches you all the tricks. Learn what tools to use for dents and grooves, great sanding techniques, how to use stain, paint, and glaze to obtain that worn, loved look and much more!  Click on the link and get started! prettyhandygirl […]

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