Creating a Weathered Wood Finish Just Like Mother Nature
After I finish up today's post, I think I'll put a question on the Benjamin Moore Facebook page, asking all the pro faux finishers how they "invented" their favorite techniques. I've had more than my share of happy accidents mostly because I'm a bit of a mad scientist in my "paint laboratory." I'm happiest when I just have a go at something and I love to figure out how to get the result I want after the fact. It's not always the easiest approach, but when things work out, another classic painting technique is born. I've had a good day in "the lab"; how do you like my Restoration Hardware-inspired, weathered wood table?
I've conducted countless experiments with cool grey and warm beige, in search of the perfect color combination to create this well-worn look. Pro finishers have reduced painting a faux bois or wood grain to a well-documented technique. But, painting something to look like weathered wood, or more specifically attempting to emulate the mysterious effects of weather, is a reminder that Mother Nature is one very tricky gal.
I can't say how mass-market retailers create the effect of sun, rain, cold, heat, freezing, thawing, decay, worm holes, splintering and checking. (Maybe there are big ovens or refrigerators involved?) What I do know about a weathered effect is, if you set out to paint "the weather," you'll need an absolutely dead-on color palette, which I have lots of reference for here in farm country.
A spilled glass of water instantly raised the grain of my new, unfinished wood tabletop. Water on raw wood is never a good idea, but the table endured the first accidental water bath. To stabilize the surface, I primed and painted the other side with two coats of matte Aura. Then, with my fingers crossed in the hope the top wouldn't warp too much, I raised the grain again with even more water. This "mistake" (the water bath), created some weathered effect, without the need to open the grain with a wire brush, which would produce a similar look but take more time. If you want to create a similar open grain on a painted or factory finished table, dig into the surface with a large wire brush--the kind you might use on the barbecue. Run the brush across the surface in one direction. You can have it wiggle and cross itself, but stay in one general direction. Wear heavy gloves for this work, and be careful not to get poked by the wire, which is as sharp as a razor. (If you cut yourself, make sure your tetanus shot immunizations are up-to-date!)
The colors I used to render this technique are critical to the end result. The provenance of the table doesn't matter at all. Here are the colors:
- Sepia Tan 1116
- Iron Gate 1545
- Urban Legend 238
- Buckhorn 987
- Brandon Beige 977
To get the look, I painted the grainy, water bathed side of the tabletop and the base, with two coats of matte Aura Sepia Tan 1116. The grain stays very noticeable, making a good template for a novice to follow for the graining layer. Iron Gate 1545, is the grain color, watered down, and applied with a tiny brush. Knock your painted grain lines around a little, with a rag or a brush. The object is to break the painted line a bit, and soften, or "push" the grain. Next I used three latex glazing colors, each made up from matte Aura. One part Benjamin Moore latex glazing liquid and one part paint--I did not add water to the mix, which makes for a heavy glaze that will show more detail. Urban Legend 238, Buckhorn 987, and Brandon Beige 977, layered one over the other (like lasagna.) Drag a piece of steel wool, or a stiff paint brush you never cleaned, or a rubber graining comb, through each glazing layer before moving on to the next. (Let each color dry before applying the next layer.) You can repeat this process for as long as you like, beating up the results with whatever happens to be handy--the wire brush, sandpaper, a knife, steel wool--until the table top looks like it was out on the porch for a few years. (Steel wool produces the best effect.)
Once all the glazing suits your fancy, wax the surface with paste wax, or polyurethane if you prefer. I love a waxed surface on furniture, but as you're learning, it needs to be removed entirely if you ever wish to repaint the thing again. If you're not sure, use the poly, which can be sanded, primed and painted over.
I can't imagine I'd want to repaint the table. The base and the 36-inch pine top cost about $35.00. A friend was nice enough to pass the chairs along to me--the Madeleine dining chair from Restoration Hardware, authentically weathered some more outside, so the rivets have rusted too.
I'm liking the idea that I've created a "set"--very unlike me, but the small size, makes the whole seating ensemble feel like one single piece of furniture in the new breakfast "room." This cool grey weathered finish lives beautifully with all wood finishes. I especially like it with red, warm brick, and, oh, it's even fabulous with all whites and neutrals.
If you have a rescued chair or boring table around, this finish is most definitely worth a try. It's impossible to get wrong, since after all, we're simply recreating a few years of weather and its unpredictable, yet stunning effects!