How to distress wood

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Try your hand at an easy DIY project this weekend

Antique or heirloom furniture has always added a certain picturesque charm to a room. A fascinating new trend is to mix modern décor with antique elements to create interesting contrasts. It’s fairly expensive to buy antique pieces, but there’s an easy way to give modern wooden furniture a vintage appeal. Here’s a tutorial for distressing or antiquing wood at home.

Before you begin, do ensure that the piece you want to paint is real wood or veneer. This method will not work on laminated surfaces. You’ll also want to protect the area in which you’re working. Outdoors is best, but if not, choose a room in which you won’t be in the way.

 

You will need:

Paint brushes

Sandpaper/vinegar/petroleum jelly

Paint in two colours

Paper towels/rag

Step 1: Clean your surface
Wipe the piece down with a damp cloth to remove dust and grease. Let it dry completely before proceeding.

Step 2: Choose how to distress the wood
You can distress wood in multiple ways. You can scrape it with different grades of sandpaper to get an interesting sanded-down look. You can also use vinegar to remove paint in patches. Alternately, if you want a more rough finish, strike the wood with a hammer or scrape it with nails. Choose spots that would experience natural wear and tear, like the corners or the top surface.

Step 3: Prepare the surface
Once again, wipe the piece of furniture down to prime the surface to receive paint. Allow it to dry completely.

Step 4: Paint the furniture
Paint the wood with the darker shade of paint. Allow it to dry for a day or until completely dry.

Step 5: Distress the furniture again
Sand down the painted wood again. Use a coarser grade of sandpaper on corners and the top for a more dramatic look, and a finer grade on the rest to remove less paint.

If you choose to distress your furniture with a colour wash, mix water into the lighter shade of paint. Apply this to the furniture, and follow immediately by wiping in patches with a paper towel or rag for a faded look. Do this before it dries.

If you choose to use petroleum jelly, apply the jelly in patches wherever you want a distressed look.

Step 6: Paint over the distressed wood with the lighter shade.
If you used sandpaper, you can go lightly over the second coat (once dry) to further distress it.

If you used a colour wash, you can scrape at it with a coarser grade of sandpaper to let the darker shade show through.

If you used petroleum jelly, let the second coat dry completely, and wipe down. The petroleum jelly will come off, leaving behind patches through which you can see the darker shade of paint.

Step 7: Go over with sandpaper again
Now you’re adding the final touches. Once the paint has dried, go over with a coarse and fine grade of sandpaper and sand down wherever you want a more distressed look. Follow by wiping down with a dry rag, and stand back to check if you’ve achieved the look you want.

Step 8: Seal and polish
Once your piece of wood is completely dry and distressed the way you want, go over with a sealant and polish it. This prevents the wood from being damaged by real wear and tear, and will preserve your distressed look for years to come.

We recommend you try this on a smaller piece of furniture before experimenting with a larger piece. Once you have learned how this method works, maybe you can try other furniture-painting projects without distressing. Soon you’ll be looking for more projects to work on!

 

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