Making Wood Look Old
Adding texture, dye stains and glazes transforms even lumberyard pine
Synopsis: Wood looks better as it ages, writes finisher Jeff Jewitt. He often has to match an old look when fabricating missing parts for antique furniture, and in this article, he explains how he does it. He matches the original surface texture, such as tool marks, first, and pays attention to patina. Dyes, bleach, and light can change the color of the wood. Jewitt talks about when and how to distress the surface and how to finish the job with a glaze, to duplicate the depth of color in old wood. Multiple photos illustrate each step.
From a magnificent specimen of Cuban mahogany to a humble piece of white pine, wood looks better as it ages. All woods mature with use and time, developing the patina so valued in antique furniture. In my conservation and restoration business, I need to match the look of old wood to new when I’m fabricating missing parts for antique furniture.
I try to simulate the order in which the wear and tear would have happened naturally. I start by matching the surface texture of the new wood with the old. I follow that with a dye stain, distress marks and glazing coats to add more color. Then I apply a finish to match the original.
Match the original surface texture first
Furnituremakers of two centuries ago prepared wood differently from the way we do it now. Lumber was dressed, shaped and made ready for finishing solely by hand. Their tools left distinctive marks on the wood very different from those left by modern milling and sanding methods. Edges and moldings were shaped with molding planes or carved with gouges and chisels. After planing, surfaces that would show were smoothed and evened out with scrapers or glass paper (made by pulverizing glass and sifting…