Antique furniture crafted and finished by actor and woodworker Dylan Neal.
Antique furniture crafted and finished by actor and woodworker Dylan Neal.

When re-creating an antique, you can build something just beautiful, then completely ruin it with a bad finish. Here are some tips on getting new or repaired pieces to match the originals.Finishing is where the real artistry comes in. There’s obviously artistry in building, but there is extreme artistry in finishing, especially when you get into paints and multiple layers of paints and stains that have been applied on a piece for over a century.

So you need to look at the original work and see where all of the layers of the original paint are. What’s the base coat and how many coats have been put on top of it? If you study it, it will start to reveal the order of the paint that was initially applied.

As you are starting to mix your own paint, you kind of do what they did and you start with the base coat that you feel matches the original underlying color. You do your whole carcass like that and then you might apply some of the other paint, so that as you pull off paint — whether sanding by hand since you’re generally not using power sanders too much because you don’t want to have circular marks: That is a telltale sign of modern influence. So, slowly peel the paint off for a better result.


A Woodworking Actor Shares How He Details Antique Reproductions

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You might even use paint stripper because you just want it to look haphazard — this is a lot of trial and error. The good news is if you screw anything up, applying more paint doesn’t hurt. It adds more character as you peel and strip and peel and strip.

There is a great way to get those dings prized in distressed furniture finishing. I use the trick of a whole bunch of house keys on a wire attached to a wooden handle. And you basically flail the object and you give it a lot of random nicks and dings.

If you have a really rough piece of furniture, you can literally use the back of a hammer and just take out notches of wood here and there or you can use an awl. It’s endless the number of instruments you can use to get dents and scratches. But they all give pretty good random smatterings of dings, and of course when you’re putting on a stain or wax or whatever your topcoats is, it gets in those dings and gouges and it gives depth to your piece.

And you can get this effect with a brush — just by flicking a small paint brush with a little bit stain or a little bit of dark paint. You just want a little specks of splatter here and there. It is a handy thing to play with as well.

Remember, you can build something just beautiful and then just completely ruin it with a bad finish. It goes back to patience. Don’t rush it. You think you’re at the end but you’re not. You’re just halfway. Now the real work comes in.

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