Antiquing new pine... or Conan Dillinger strikes again.

Earlier this year a friend of mine brought me this really neat old pine blanket chest. I'm guessing it is from the 1870s, give or take 10 years. Old red oxide paint finish, lots of character to the surface. Splitting, dings, dents, etc. This is the kind of look I try to achieve with my new pieces of furniture (to the consternation of many in the woodworking family). See the comments on this Popular Woodworking Magazine blog post for evidence...

Anyway, there is a method to my madness. I enjoy replicating old looking surfaces. So when my friend asked me to replace the long-missing side trim on this piece, I jumped at the chance.

Cool old surface
I used a piece of old growth pine, then re-sawed it by hand with my Disston D-8 rip saw, as the trim on this piece is only about 1/2" thick. I planed the resulting stock square and true.

 The molding profile on the baseboard is a simple astragal. In my immense collection of wooden planes, I just so happened to have a plane that exactly matched the size / location of the astragal and fillets, so that was used to make the profile.  I planed in the molding, as you have seen me do a hundred times, by starting at the far end of the profile, establishing the cut, then making longer and longer cuts by pulling the plane further back each time. Within two minutes (or less), I had a full 40" of molding cut.

The molding was then mitered, leaving the back ends long for trimming flush with the chest. Given the age on the piece, the miters on the original front trim are very worn, so I scribed the profile onto the new piece, then simulated wear on the miter of the new piece with a rasp, followed by a file.  This left a surface that closely matched the old miter end. I then took a chunk of hard maple and used it to round over the crisp edges and to introduce some surface dents and distressing scratches to the wood (read, I pretty much went Conan on the piece... thanks Megan for the nickname!).

Once the woodworking was complete, I took the pieces into my finishing room.  The first step was to dry brush dark brown oxide pigment into the surface to age the wood. This step alone adds 100 years to fresh pine.

As you can see, in this photo, some of the old original red paint was still clinging to the fillet below the astragal and to the flat surface.I made a red oxide and stand oil paint to brush into the fillet and to lightly smear about the surface. Then I took a dab of stand oil and a tiny bit of black iron oxide pigment to make a greyish, somewhat translucent paint. This was sparingly brushed into the top fillet and onto the top of the molding. This simulates the dirt and dust that accumulated in this areas over the years (look at the first photo to see how black this area is).

Once this was finished, I brushed a very light (less than a pound cut) coat of blonde shellac with a small amount of light brown ochre pigment mixed into it. This gave the surface the right golden color while minimally adding to the sheen, a perfect match for the original surface.

On top of the shellac, I daubed some small areas of green paint, as this chest features green drops sprinkled throughout the surface (this must have been in someone's room while the room was being painted). The green paint was made with stand oil and green pigment.

This completed the final finishing step. I used five cut nails on each side, then aged the nail holes with a tiny bit of india ink. The finished result is shown below.

I'd say the surface is very convincing and will only get better as the piece ages.

This is the type of work I love to do, telling stories with the surfaces of furniture.  This is why I find new-looking furniture so boring to look at. Sure, it is shiny and pretty, but where is the heart?



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  2. The antique furniture makes me feel somehow to be a part of the past times, when one can be whoever he/she wants. I dedicated one of my last works to this topic. Great post, thanks for sharing!

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