Technique tutorial: Wax finishing

Looking back over my previous entries, in the Cinderella blog I told you all that I would show you some of the techniques I used to transform that headboard.  I promised this to you a week ago, but life got in the way (has that ever happened to you?). I apologize for the delay.  In today’s post, I’ll be covering the painting techniques I used in the beautiful transformation of “Cinde”, the thrift-store-find. [See previous blog post: Cinderella is Ready for the Ball, where you’ll see the before and after pics of where she started and where she ended up.]     So, without further ado…

An in auspicious beginning… very dated & looking rough!

To begin the transformation process, I started out painting the headboard with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  ASCP is a fabulous paint that adheres to all surfaces. This paint originated in London and has only become available in the U.S. in the last couple of years.  It is fairly expensive (per quart price vs. latex – even quality brands such as Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, etc); however, it goes a long way and you can get multiple projects done with one quart of paint.  It also doesn’t require a primer, which is a cost savings over traditional paint.  I can’t say enough how much I LOVE THIS PAINT!  It is so easy to work with, adheres to anything, is self-leveling, sands down or off with great ease, is very durable and comes in a beautiful, although somewhat limited, color range.  However, you can significantly increase the range of shades when you combine colors into new combinations. (Ex. Emperor’s Silk combined with a smaller ratio of Old White makes a lovely hot pink color. See the Birds on a Wire lamp for an example.)

On “Cinde” I used Provence, which is a gorgeous teal/turquoise, and Old Ochre, which is a lovely crème color, to finish out some of the trim.  The photo below shows the paint colors as they were initially coated, before any wax finish was applied.  (Click on any of the photos to enlarge them to see the detail better.)

Initial base coat – ASCP Provence; before trim color was applied. Pretty, but a little boring.

Trim coat of Old Ochre added – no wax applied. The trim color really defined the shape of the piece and made the blue pop.

Next, I laid on Provence very thickly into the center sections of the back panels.  I dried it quickly with the blow dryer so that it would crack in some places and dry thickly in others, before it had a chance to self-level.  I knew I wanted this texture on these sections, so that once the dark wax was applied, the texture would really show up and give the piece some depth and dimension.

Look closely to see the texture in the center section. This will become much more apparent when the wax is applied.

After allowing the paint coats to thoroughly dry, giving it ample curing time of 24 hours, I went over the sections with clear wax, then dark wax immediately over that.  The clear wax application is necessary to do before adding the dark wax, so that the dark wax will be “workable” and not adhere directly to the paint, altering the actual paint color.  The awesome thing about this process is that the clear wax not only serves as a topcoat on its own, and, as in this case, a base for the dark wax, but can also serve as an “eraser” for the dark wax if you put it on too heavy in one place.  Just add a little clear wax on top of the too-dark place, working it in with a brush; and then just wipe it off to reveal a lighter look.  This wax is very user friendly and completely changes the look of a piece as you’ll see in the following photos.

A base coat of clear wax is applied using one of Annie’s amazing round bristle brushes. The brush lays on a nice coat of wax and really gets down into the cracks & crevices of the paint.

Application of dark wax – again, brushed on.

Wax on – wax off. : )

The wax was immediately rubbed off with clean dry cloths – changing to a new piece of cloth as the one I was using became saturated with wax. Once the fabric is full of wax, it will stop taking it off the painted surface.

On the left, you can see where the extra wax has been rubbed off; compared to the right side which is still very dark.

This side-by-side comparison shows the difference the wax application makes to the piece. It truly brings out the depth of the textured center pieces and softens the strong contrast between the blue and creme. While the section on the right is pretty, it lacks the depth and dimension of the section on the right.

The play of light and shadow, especially in the textured inset, make for a really interesting and unique piece.

As a final step in this technique – in addition to the waxes mentioned above – I also used a small brush to add a hint of gold metallic wax to the crème colored trim, and around a few small trim pieces painted in Provence.  The product I used is called Rub-n-Buff and comes in a variety of finishes including several shades of gold, bronze and silver.  The are other gilding products out there; but many are considerably more expensive and I have used this brand many times with great success .

Apply the metallic wax with a minimally loaded brush. You might even dab the brush on a cloth prior to applying to the piece; this avoids an opaque stripe of (in this case) gold vs. a highlight or hint of gold.

Note the highlights on the creme trim, the edging of the inset pieces and some of the post trim moulding.

I actually applied most of the gold highlights prior to the application of the dark wax.  This helped it blend into the finish on both the creme and turquoise, and not appear too shiny.   I love how it turned out.  Hope you do too!  If you have any questions on the process I described – or about any of your projects that you’d like to apply a wax finish – leave them in a comment here and I’ll be sure to reply.

Be inspired!  Be inspiring….




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6 responses to “Technique tutorial: Wax finishing

  1. Margaret

    You do good work, girl! First time here via “Furniture Feature Friday.” I’ll be back!

  2. Kathy

    Tori—I’m here from MMS & what an amazing job you have done! I must tell you this tutorial is the VERY BEST on waxing that I have read! I love ASCP & have tried her wax but epic fail each time to the point I had just became so frustrated & went back to glazing!! I’m ready once again to try waxing using your method….fingers crossed…will hopefully have my hutch painted next week & be ready!!

    • Thank you so much, Kathy! I so appreciate your kind words. I hope your next attempt at waxing goes well; but if you have any problems, feel free to shoot me a question here and I will try to help, if I can. Best wishes on your hutch project!

  3. Libby

    Just came upon your blog beautiful work.
    Did applying the wax on the rub n buff remove or damage the rub n buff application. Was told to use the rub n buff after waxing.
    What’s your take on itt?

    • Applying the wax on top did tend to remove a little of the rub-n-buff; so in some places I did add back some of the metallic wax over the newly applied ASCP wax, and blended in with that. It just depends on how heavy you want the metallic finish. I didn’t want it too heavy, so didn’t mind if some of it came back off a bit. You might want to do a practice piece on a scrap of wood to get the look you like. Thanks for your comment!

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