Reader Dick Webber wrote us to say: “I have seen many crafts that are painted white that looks eons old. I know they are new, but darkened to look old. How do they do that?” Finishing expert Jeff Jewett covered that back in our Feb./March 2006 issue (#168), (http://www.woodstore.net/paseofpro.html), but here’s the short answer: Stain over paint.
As an experiment, I grabbed a can of white latex paint sitting on the “free” table outside our building’s maintenance area and painted most of a piece of poplar with routed edges. Normally, I’d prime the wood before painting it but, of course, I got in a hurry and brushed on the first coat without thinking. After sanding down the rough surface that priming would have helped avoid, I added three more topcoats and sanded those smooth.
Next I brushed on some water-based General Finishes brown mahogany stain. Usually, I’m not a big fan of water-based stain because it dries too quickly for me and that means lap marks when used on wood. In this case, that quick-drying formula became a plus and there would be no surface compatibility problems between the two water-based products. Using a foam brush, I dashed on a medium layer of stain over the paint and then used a moist rag and dry brush to immediately remove most of the stain. The trick is to remove most of the stain from the surface and leave enough in the routed profile to look aged without looking striped.
Fortunately, when using water-based stain, you can wipe away your mistakes with a damp cloth and start over if necessary. You can also thin the stain with water to reduce the contrast of the stain within the wood pores. If you’re going to try this, I’d recommend practicing on painted scrap before tackling the real thing. Then you can practice creating different effects, such as wearing away the corners or edges with your sander before staining. I had my best results by layering paint of two different colors (white over light blue) and then lightly sanding through the top layer in places. The result looked like an often-repainted piece of furniture that had spent decades gathering dust in an attic.
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