I’ve shared a lot of tips about distressing furniture through the years, but I decided I would tackle the subject again. I took pictures of the process as I worked on the Marzipan dresser I revealed yesterday for that very reason.
So, here’s how the dresser looked once it was painted. It has two coats of MMSMP Marzipan with some Ironstone (white) painted on the trim, handles and carved details. Because I’m going to distress, I wasn’t too concerned with the white paint being perfect or completely opaque. It actually looks a little sloppy at this stage. Distressing serves a few purposes, then. It hides the imperfections in the painting, but it also brings out the details of the piece and adds a sense of age to the fresh coat of paint.
I’m going to start with the basics…what is distressing? It’s more than just roughing up a piece. It’s about removing paint from the “high points” of a piece of furniture in a way that looks authentic. Nothing gives away a “freshly distressed” piece more than an orbital sander mark right in the middle of a drawer front…where wear doesn’t happen naturally and it doesn’t happen in swirly circles.
I’ll use an orbital sander for distressing sometimes, but I usually prefer to distress by hand, so it looks more authentic. I start with a medium grit sand paper, in this case 100 grit to remove paint from the edges.
I run the paper in “flicking strokes” across the edges to pull the paint off. I’ll work around the edges of the drawers, drawer openings, and all of the corners and edges on the body of the dresser. Think about how a piece gets bumped and worn as it goes through everyday life…people opening and closing the drawers, brushing past. I’ll also distressed around the handles and keyholes of this piece. They’re wood, painted and raised, so they would definitely get worn with use as well.
I followed the 100 grit sanding paper with medium and fine sanding sponges.
These soften the “scratchiness” of the marks left by the 100 grit paper. They’re great for getting the “rubbed off” look.
…and I’ll rub over the entire piece to smooth the finish and knock down the “newness” of the paint. I often get the most surprising, subtle texture and distressing just by gently rubbing a fine sanding sponge over the entire piece.
While distressing, I always take a step back every few minutes to take in the overall effect. It’s not entirely random, but shouldn’t look too thought out. When I’m happy with the look, I vacuum up the dust, so it’s ready for a topcoat.
You can see how much the distressing brings the piece to life…
I decided to apply Furniture Wax as a finish. While I’m giving out tips, I’ll share this one. When you’re applying wax with a brush, just start with a tiny bit. It shouldn’t be globbed on. Just grab a little bit with the tips of your brush.
Massage the wax into the paint in a circular motion, allowing it to absorb into the finish like a lotion.
Once applied, it shouldn’t feel sticky or tacky. You shouldn’t see any wax sitting on top of the paint. Use the brush to buff the wax in the process. Another key to working with wax is to work in small sections, so the wax stays workable.
…and here’s the result…