distressed/rustic furniture

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Forum topic by sawedoff posted 01-18-2012 12:11 AM 7459 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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155 posts in 3103 days

01-18-2012 12:11 AM

A friend of mine just bought a dining room table from pottery barn that has a style that I really like. It is made out of alder and has a distresses or rustic look. I’m wondering how this is done (although I’m sure there are many ways to do this). It looks almost handscrapped and looks like there are circular saw marks in it. Really looks cool in my opinion.

Anyone have a good method of how to do this? Id love to build my wife and I a small VIDEO/AUDIO components cabinet like this.

I did a quick search and didn’t find anything but I’m using a kindle and its hard to read on a small screen

Thanks in advance!!

-- still wet behind the ears.....

9 replies so far

View DS's profile


3424 posts in 3104 days

#1 posted 01-18-2012 12:29 AM

Alder takes a distress very nicely. There are dozens of different techniques, but they all amount to the same thing.

Beat the Sh%# out of it.

For the saw marks we got an old blade and bent a single tooth out of line. (Be sure to mark that blade so noone tries to use it for something more legitimate) Chains make good dents. A paddle with drywall screws in the face makes good scratches (when dragged) and wormholes (when pounded).
File marks with a rasp, worn edges with a grinder, sand through with the ROS. Even fake splits and gouges with a carving chisel. You really can just go nuts on the thing – there are no real “rules” per se’.

It is a totally artistic preference. Just be sure the same person starts and sees the job through to the end, because each person has thier own style and it will show in the finished product.

Have fun!

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View Mark's profile


1817 posts in 3957 days

#2 posted 01-18-2012 12:49 AM

what he said ^ ,.... one of my rustic projects I beat with a sock full of nails, screws, nuts n bolts etc (random). each one of the items in the sock makes a different marking. Just make sure you have spare socks/ rags because it will tear apart easily.

-- M.K.

View bobsmyuncle's profile


110 posts in 3374 days

#3 posted 01-18-2012 01:22 AM

I work on a lot of factory-distressed furniture. IMO, it’s easy to go overboard on this. A little goes a long way. And because of my math background, I understand random to me random and not evenly distributed. And distress wear should be consistent with the places that would receive real wear.

I’ve seen some of the tools that the finish rooms use and they look like medieval torture instruments. Basically mallet heads with various hardware sticking out of the sides.

I got a call from a (retail) customer once. They’d gotten a bistro table in on Thursday and were convinced that some unattended boys played “dot-to-dot” in the top on Saturday. I went to look at it and sure enough, there were depression marks linking all the faux worm holes on the top. Being the top and quite visible, I stood back to plan my repair strategy. Then I notice the exact same pattern on one of the aprons, and the other, and each of all four of them. On the barstools, each leg had precisely one occurrence of the same pattern. That was the way the factory did it and thus was not a damage issue.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3652 days

#4 posted 01-18-2012 01:27 AM

I’ve done the sock thing with any old bits of ironmongery lying around. It gives a better variety of marks than trying the beat it with just a hammer or some spanners.
Depending on how bad you want to hurt your project, I’ve found that scrawping the claw of a hammer across a surface gives a cool effect, though obviously, don’t overdo it.
Put some dark stain over the freshly beaten surface, then sand it off, only the indents will remain dark.
Beat it more in areas that would naturally take knocks, like corners of legs, edges of tops, but know when to stop.

Practice before you do the real thing. If you have knocked seven bells out of it, you can also ‘fade’ the effect by sanding out to a more acceptable level.

It’s quite therapeutic when you get into it.

View doncutlip's profile


2832 posts in 4239 days

#5 posted 01-18-2012 01:27 AM

Tie some bolts up with a string and throw them at the piece. And I agree it is sooo easy to go overboard, distressing is an art and more is definitely not better. I did one rustic box and distressed it so much that I had to sand it again. I still had some distressing left, and it looked much better than my original effort.

-- Don, Royersford, PA

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 3680 days

#6 posted 01-18-2012 01:54 AM

I use a 25 grit sanding disc in a small grinder. Gives the impression of the saw swirls.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View sawedoff's profile


155 posts in 3103 days

#7 posted 01-18-2012 02:05 AM

Great! Thanks for all the replies. What are most folks building small cabinets out of? 4/4?

-- still wet behind the ears.....

View EoinB's profile


18 posts in 3105 days

#8 posted 01-18-2012 02:13 AM

If you put a wire brush attachment in an angle grinder it works very well (not the one with the wires braded together). But dont go too hard.

-- Handy as a hammer

View Paintedfurniture11's profile


1 post in 2919 days

#9 posted 04-12-2012 07:55 AM

The first thing you need to do is to arrange for old furniture. If you are distressing furniture for first time, it’s better that you do not experiment with the precious old furniture of your family. Instead, choose some simple old furniture, any harm to which, will not bring you in trouble. Given below are some simple steps on how to distress wood furniture.

-- [url=]Painted furniture[/url]

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