Lacquer Then Paint; Blister Then Scrape
After you are done aging your project, there’s one last step: Sand smooth the sharp edges you created with your knife and other tools. This step helps blend the old with the new.Hold the heat gun close to the surface and move it slowly across the piece. After a few minutes the paint will bubble and blister.Use your judgment here. The more blistering, the more texture you’ll end up with. If you overdo it, simply add more paint and try the process again.With the paint blistered, use a paint scraper to remove the bubbles. Get the surface somewhat smooth but don’t get too aggressive. The little ragged edges of paint you leave behind will add texture to the surface.Now apply another coat of lacquer and brush on one or two coats of your second color of paint (see “Choosing Color” for some ideas on color combinations).Then blister the paint with your heat gun and scrape the bubbles away. This will reveal patches of your first color below.If you don’t like the look, add more lacquer and paint; then blister and scrape it until you are pleased. Then take some worn sandpaper (the grit isn’t critical – but not too aggressive) and level the blistered surface to smooth over the really rough spots.Final Color and TopcoatAfter a coat of your base color, a coat of lacquer and a second coat of your base color, use a heat gun to blister the paint.The final coloring step adds the real age. I wipe on a fast-drying brown glaze that is compatible with my lacquer. Glazes are available from professional paint stores. The exact color isn’t critical.You could use a gel stain or liquid stain instead of a product labeled as glaze. But liquid stains soak into the paint more than I like and take longer to dry. (All coloring that takes place between coats of finish is technically glazing, but you can use a variety of products for the process.)When the glaze is dry, add your final topcoat. I like a dull lacquer; gloss just wouldn’t be right. The best part of this finish is that there is no wrong way to do it. If you’re not satisfied, put another coat of paint on. Every single layer makes it look better.And what if you do something wrong and the finish starts to peel? No problem. Antique finishes peel. It might even look better in the end. PWChoosing ColorsScrape off the blisters with a common paint scraper. You don’t have to use a lot of downward pressure. Stop scraping when you’ve popped all the blisters off.In general, I like to choose paint colors that are brighter than you might expect. I like bright blues and teal greens, especially on smaller pieces.My rationale for liking the wild color is that early American pieces were typically painted in bright colors to help brighten up dark rooms. Plus, once you add the glaze to the surface, the colors become a bit muted.When you go to choose colors, I think it’s best to go to the home center or paint store and pick a couple colors from the store’s “historical” palette of paints. Everybody’s got one these days. How authentic are they? I don’t know, but they look good.During the last couple decades, here are some of my favorite color combinations in addition to the red over yellow:• Black over red is the most popular combination. Red over black works too.• My wife, who has excellent taste in these things, really loves yellow over red.• Green over black or red are both good choices.• Off-white looks really good over brown or brick red. It doesn’t, however, work over black.• Sage green over black and dark blue over black are both nice combinations. • A little on the wild side perhaps, teal over red is a vibrant choice.After a coat of lacquer, apply the second color of paint with a brush. If the brush has fallen on the floor and picked up some sawdust, that’s all the better.
Before trying a wild combination on a large piece, give it a try on a small one to see how it looks. I think you’ll be surprised by how good the bright colors look with this finish. — TS
Troy is a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking and the owner of Sexton Classic American Furniture in Sunbury, Ohio.