Friday, March 12, 2010

How To Antique Wood

My kitchen cabinets are 100 years old and the surface of the wood is quite beat up. I wanted to keep the charm of original cabinets, but without the slivers, the layers of paint rubbing off with the wash cloth and paint chips on my counter. This is a walk-through of how I re-finished my cabinets to have old charm but new maintainability.

Before painting, you have to prep. Depending on your project, you may have more or less than this. I my case, I had to remove all the hardware and then sand with a low grit paper (80-60). This wasn't to remove all paint, just the layers that were causing me trouble. I got down just to the lead-based enamel. Next, I primed with Kilz primer which allowed me to paint latex-based paint over oil based paint. If you are not changing bases, you do not need to use this primer.

After the surface is primed, paint. With all of the dirty hands around this place, I only use semi-gloss or high gloss paint. It washes so much easier. Yes, the sheen shows blemishes more, but I don't mind.

This color will not be the final color so you'll want to mess around on a piece of scrap until you get the color you want. I'll explain that a bit more later.

My wood was already pretty scarred, but I had to replace one of the drawer fronts with new wood. I wanted it to look like the old ones right next to it. You can make it look old by beating the edges with a hammer, scratching the surface with a nail, pounding the edge of a wire (one of my favorite looks), or putting small holes into the surface with a nail or screw.

Some people suggest doing this step before application of any paint, but I didn't want to run the risk of filling in any interesting blemishes with paint.

Here again, I make up my own way. I wanted to use the same brown that I used on the walls so the browns wouldn't clash. I didn't have glaze and I didn't want to put all 90 of my children in shoes, wash faces, buckle into car seats, drive across town to Lowe's just for a can of glaze. So I used water. This is just paint thinned with water until it is about as thick as cream. (DO NOT do this if you are using oil based paint. Holy mess, dear!)

Smear on your now, very thin paint.

Do only small sections at a time because you can lose control of this if it dries to much. (Glaze is easier on you in this regard.) Make sure you really get into the groves, nicks and blemishes. That's where you want the dark paint to stay.

This is why you've been saving those old towels. Use one to wipe off the paint.

Ta Da! You can see that the dark brown stayed in the nail holes, the scratches, and the other imperfections.

For a darker color, wipe off less brown. For a lighter hand, take off nearly all of the antiquing.

Here you can see the difference in color between the treated drawer front and the untreated cabinet door. It has absorbed much of the brown and is now a pale green. It took me several tries (on scrap) to come up with the color I was looking for. Don't skip this step or you may end up with a color that you do not like.


(Can you tell which one was replaced?)


  1. I know the pictures can not do it justice... I can't wait to see it in person. I know you, so I am sure the color combination is unexpectedly fabulous.