One of the things that I enjoy is experimenting with finishing. One of my favorite things is the antique looking finishes. While I do a lot of formal finishing, particularly on period pieces, I do enjoy playing with the old aged look and I must say they have served me well. Over the years we have sold a lot of what we call “primitive” pieces, where the objective has been to make them look old. The same techniques are used in antique restoration as well. If we had a repair to make or needed to replace a part we had to get it to match. If it was a formal piece that had a nice stained or naturally aged , we could usually achieve the color with a little experimenting with various stains and dyes. When it came to the more “rustic pieces” we had to get a little more creative and this is what I find to be a lot of fun.
Even to this day, one of my favorite “aged finishes” is the all too familiar “crackle” finish that is done to mimic old aged, cracked paint. While I was willing to let go of the bell-bottom pants and tie dyed shirts, I still held on to the “old crackle” finish. I must admit that I prefer to take it a bit further than most and clients like the look. It’s pretty easy and forgiving to do.
Here is a Shaker Herb Cupboard made from inexpensive white pine, I hand planed all the surfaces to give it a slightly “hewn look”, wasn’t trying to get a perfect surface, actually the opposite. I wanted a little tear out and “flavor.” Then a 10-minute quick buzz sand with some 220 grit sandpaper just to ease the edges and remove any plane shavings. Next, I hand planed the edges and the ends of top to “droop” them. I didn’t want a perfect edge, but rather a worn well-used one. Simply sealed it with a coat of water base finish and then a quick scuff sand with some 320 grit sandpaper just to remove the fuzz. I then sprayed it with a coat of black latex paint from the box store. When dry, I brushed a coat of hide glue (brown bottle premixed) thinned about 10% with water and let it dry until it felt hard, (about 2 hours) then I shot it with a medium dark red latex. and using a heat gun dried it as fast as I could. The faster it dries the better it cracks, also, the heavier the paint the larger the cracks. I shot it both times with my Apollo Atomizer gun with a 2.0 needle/nozzle. I thinned the paint about 5% and it was excellent. You can brush the paint, however, often you will find if you brush too much the paint will have softened the glue and it can get messy.
The next step was to have my daughter add some flowers, and a little decoration, Then I sprayed it
again with some water base finish to seal everything down. When dry, I gave it a good scuff sand with 320 grit sandpaper and using a dark blue paint I sort of glazed it a little. I used a wet cloth and the blue paint to leave “tinges of blue” here and there, and let it hang in some of the cracking. Then after that had dried, using a dark walnut water base stain, I glazed it again, this gave it the old aged look, making it “dirty” if you will. The glazing also “muted” the yellow in the flowers and gave them an aged look as well (insert photo 6688).
Next step was to apply 2 more coats of water base finish, let it dry well, then a
quick scuff with some 320 grit sandpaper until it feels smooth and then a coat of wax. Has very little to no sheen and feels great and will hold up well.
While many will sand the corners and wear off areas, on this one we elected not to, and the recipient (my daughter), was calling the shots and didn’t want the worn look, it still works well and looks good.
I realize this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but they sure make a statement and we have then in multimillion dollar homes, right alongside expensive formal pieces, and they sure look good. This also makes for some fun family projects, and remember you just can’t do it wrong. So have some fun, (by the way the ladies really like paint, because it can always be changed. I will not elaborate on that).
You can also use just a plain Elmer’s glue for cracking, there is several articles on the internet about it, it works a little differently than the hide glue and is cheaper, with it you want to paint over just as the glue becomes tacky, and it does well, and is less messy than the hide, however not all latex paints crack as well as others, so if your choice doesn’t crack with the white glue, try the hide, and as always experiment with scrap and get a feel for what you’re doing, be sure you have your technique figured out, Now, go have some fun and if ya don’t have a little mess, you didn’t do it right.