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  • Shelly Tschupp

DIY How to Make Furniture & Wood Look Distressed

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

In the blog on Farmhouse decorating I mentioned several DIY techniques on how to make furniture look distressed. This can be done with any kind of wood, a picture frame, Lazy Susan, a serving board, many beautiful gift ideas can be found on Pinterest Cutting Board Ideas by Fabulous Frog Creations or furniture at Shabby Chic Home Decor! Here are a few ways to distress furniture and some tips for success.

Clean & Degrease your piece, if it's metal sanding may be needed, I don't normally sand wood. For metal you can use 1 part Vinegar to 4 parts water, no need to buy anything special, you can put it in a spray bottle and use it for a lot of things. For wood, it's 50/50 Vinegar to Water. You can use that to clean your kitchen cabinets if they are wood too. No harsh chemicals, I prefer an organic approach if it's easy to do.

If you are going to paint it, first prime the object with good house primer paint, this will help the final layer to stick. If you can, prime it in the same color you want to end up with, it'll save you from having to do multiple layers!

Picture Frame Distressed Wood, no time to make it?
Distressed Wood Frame

Priming can be any kind of acrylic paint, you can use oil but it's harder to clean up and the odor can be strong depending on the brand. You can use paint from any hardware store, Walmart, etc. Just decide if you want a flat finish, then you may want to use Chalkpaint. There are a lot of brands, I've found Rustoleum works great and is reasonably priced. After you paint with Chalk paint you'll want to rub it with wax to protect the finish. I've used Dover's Wax with great success. Then you need a wax brush to apply it, at first these type of brushes seem expensive, but if you plan on doing a few pieces then the investment makes sense.

3 Methods to Distressing furniture:

Sanding off the paint just enough to see the color underneath with a sanding block.

Glazing Applying a different color wax to the either the cracks and edges, or the raised parts, to highlight the design of the wood. This is sometimes referred to as Glazing (semi transparent medium where more color pools in the cracks and crevices. Some of my favorite glazes are here!

Crackle finish where you apply the primer first in an alternate color, the Crackle medium second, and the final color third. Cracks form as the acrylic paint pulls back just a bit from the crackle medium, leaving some beautiful effects. This works well on most hard surfaces. People have had good results using Elmers Glue too, you have paint the top layer once the glue is tacky, do Not let it Dry!

Finishing your masterpiece can be done with either Wax if it's flat paint or chalk paint, or you can you a clear sealer such as MinWax Polycrylic which I love because it's reasonably priced, water based, and dries fast, and you can put on multiple layers. You can pick up a sealer at any hardware store. Antiquing Wax is often used to bring out the patterns.

Sanded distressed look

Crackle with Glazed:

Glazed Distressed Furniture
Glazed Furniture Example

Applying a lighter color over a slightly darker version to highlight the patterns!

This wood serving paddle a great way to practice distressing wood and you can personalize it in so many ways!

Checkout these great examples on Pinterest to get lots of ideas!


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