Get an authentic aged finish with Dark Wax
I wrote a post a long time ago on how to antique with DIY homemade glaze but I am enjoying the antiquing process much more with dark wax. I was sent this dark wax by Annie Sloan and am learning a lot by practicing on different pieces with it. I am still learning and by no means as expert or perfect at this but I am always happy to share what I have experienced and learnt so far. I hope it helps you.
I recently posted about how to recover / reupholster a Louis French Chair and said I would share how I gave the freshly painted chair an antiqued look with dark wax. Since then I also painted and antiqued a lovely little side table for a client (as well as several other pieces). When you are starting out antiquing with dark wax or even glaze, it is good to start on an ornate piece such as these as the carvings and grooves will naturally collect the dark wax and make the job easier for you.
Firstly you must give the entire piece a coat of clear wax. This is absolutely essential as your piece will be ruined by applying the dark wax without this step. This ensures the dark wax does not stain the paint and gives the dark wax the ability to be wiped off and easily manipulated. While I used Annie Sloan Waxes for these pieces, you can substitute any brands. They will all be slightly different to apply and use depending on the ingredients but will all give a similar finish. I will often choose my wax on smell and consistency - preferring the buttery ones over hard waxes.
Once you have applied your clear wax, and while the clear wax is still wet:
- Work in small sections only, so the wax does not get too dry before you get to manipulate it
- Brush on dark wax, working it into crevices and cracks. You will only need a little wax. A little goes a long way.
- With a clean lint free rag, wipe the dark wax to remove most of it.
- To remove even more of the dark wax, put a little clear wax on your rag and it will make more wax come off.
- If the wax is too hard to remove, try a clean cloth, if your cloth is full of dark wax then it is difficult to remove more off your piece. It will just smear instead of be removed.
- To clean my rags, I soak in napisan in hot water and then a hot wash, they are stained brown but clean to reuse or I use Jcoths/Chux
Use your own judgement on how much wax you want to leave on the pieces. My natural style is pretty clean so I take a lot of the wax off to just leave the details highlighted with dark wax. Other people may leave more dark wax on the flat surfaces. Like all elements of painting, it really is up to how you want your furniture to look.
Here are more photos to show the process: I always find it easier to learn from photos than just a whole lot of words.
Dark waxing will seem scary at first. I still find it a mental battle to distress my furniture or apply dark wax to my clean crisply painted surface but I think it really finishes off a piece and adds depth and character. See these chair legs below for the before and after shots. The after does look much more natural and finished.
If you are antiquing large flat surfaces you will want to create some crevices and texture with your paint finish for the wax to settle in. Dark wax antiquing is something that requires practice. You will find that the more ornate your piece is the easier it is to achieve an authentic look. Practice first on ornate picture frames until you are more confident with your skill. Large flat areas such as the tops of drawers and sideboards are the hardest. A good way to achieve texture on these large areas is to paint them randomly then letting the paint dry for a couple of minutes then drag and stipple the brush randomly on the surface to give the area some texture (and sanding lightly over these parts when distressing so as not to smooth it out too much).
I used the cross-hatch and stippling methods of painting to create the texture on the side of the French Châteaux dresser I recently painted. I've just zoomed in on a photo I already had as the dresser has already been delivered to its new home. I hope you can see the texture clearly enough to give you an idea. Dragging the paint will give you an organic ageing effect.
Both the pieces in their finished state.
On a personal note, last night I had a wonderful night catching up with some old friends who I worked with about 15 years ago. It was a great laugh and lovely to remember such good work times. Back then we were managing huge and really exciting projects in the mobile telco hay days and it was crazy but so much fun. Such a long way from what I'm doing these days with my paint brush! LOL.
Have a great day and let me know how you get on with the dark wax. Do you have any other tips you want to share below, feel free to link up a dark waxed piece you have created or a tutorial in the comments below, I'm sure we'd all love your input.