Therapy, Pop Wood Style - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Therapy, Pop Wood Style

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

I’m working on a small chest for the February 2007 “I Can Do That” column. Because it’s a primitive design, I wanted the piece to look as if it had been around the block a time a two.

So, after two coats of cherry-red paint, I knocked down the edges with some #100-grit sandpaper, trying to mimic the wear pattern of a century of use. Then, I wiped the piece with a dark mahogany gel stain, let it sit for a few minutes, then wiped it off. While the stain grabbed nicely on the freshly sanded edges and helped to tone down the paint to a more mellow hue, I wasn’t satisfied.

Now, in the back of my mind I knew what needed to be done. I needed a heavy chain, a couple handfuls of pebbles, a bag of nails…¦.anything which with to hit the chest to make dents and dings. But I couldn’t bring myself to “ruin” the piece I’d spent several hours making. Chris, on the other hand, had no such qualms. He walked right over, pulled out his ring chock-full of keys and started whaling away at the side. Then, he grabbed a Shinto rasp and used the handle to smack the edges around ,- and then he handed me his key ring. Well what the heck; it was already “ruined.” So I went to town.


After wiping on another coat of gel stain, I’m pleased with the results; the chest now looks appropriately aged. And it’s an effective, yet cheap, form of therapy.

All that was left to do was to add a coat of paste wax, and the hardware.

– Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 4 comments
  • Christopher Schwarz


    The story hasn’t been published yet (heck it hasn’t even been laid out yet), so rest assured there’s editing ahead. The blog is a first rough draft of what we’re working on. I hope that other readers can see that.

    Thanks for the note.


  • Christopher Schwarz


    You make a fair point. I would argue that if you don’t like distressed furniture, then don’t distress it. If you do, there’s no shame in it. Personally, this chest looked a lot better after we added some wear and tear to it. I suspect that’s because of our expectations that are formed by seeing antiques. Some wear just looks "right" to our eye.

    Most importantly, no one will confuse this piece with an antique — so there’s no foolery involved. We sign and date every piece, plus, using a latex paint and modern wire nails would be a give-away.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I’m sure it will get other people thinking on this topic.


  • John Blom

    It would be more encouraging to see such a popular and informative magazine edit more carefully. I feel it is irresponsible and careless to promote such an item as a box for toys. Quick research can easily show anyone that cares the danger with boxes like this. Feel free to research the number of toddler deaths in the U.S. caused by homemade toy boxes that do not make use of easily attainable safety hinges. I hope that future builders remember the phrase that every shop teacher preaches nonstop, "Safety first." Yes, sometimes that means you have to sacrifice aesthetics.

  • Martin Hart

    I always have trouble with this idea. Why would you want an old piece of furniture to look ratty? Have you, and previous owners, never cared for it at all? I have a pair of tables that are about 150+ years old. They look as good as the day they left the factory and I’m pleased about that. If it started to look bashed around a responsible owner would a) fling it out and replace it or b) repair it lovingly depending on its importance and value.
    Just my opinion of course.

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