How to Create a Pickled Finish on Wood

Pickled Finish on Wood

Refinishing a wood floor or piece of furniture is not as difficult as it may seem. There are many ways to change the look of wood. One of these techniques is called “pickling”.

Pickling is usually done using thinned white or off-white paint, although other light colors can also be used. The technique is used to make the wood look older and add character to the piece.

The first step is to prepare the wood for the paint. To do this, all previous finishes or paint must be removed by sanding. If a floor is being refinished, a floor sander works well. For a piece of furniture, a small power sander or sandpaper could be used, depending on the size.

Make sure there are no nails in the floor or the furniture that can catch on the sander. Use masking tape to protect baseboards or any part of the piece not being sanded and painted. Using coarse grade sandpaper, begin to remove the previous finish or paint. When done, wipe or sweep the dust from the piece. Dust from the sanding can mar the finish when complete.

Next, prepare the paint. The best type to use is water-based latex paint. Most use white or off-white paint for a pickling finish. Thin the paint with water by about 25%. Mix the paint and the water using a paint stick.

Next, apply the mixture to the floor or furniture with a natural bristle brush. Immediately wipe down the application site with a clean rag to remove most of the paint. The color will seep into the grain of the wood. Continue until the first coat is complete and let the item dry for twelve to twenty-four hours.

When the item is dry prepare it for the next coat of thinned paint. Using sandpaper with a fine grit, sand the floor or furniture again and wipe off the dust. You don’t want to remove all of the finish this time, only scratch it lightly to prepare for the second coat.

When the item has been re-sanded applying the second coat of thinned paint as before, applying the paint with a natural bristle brush and then wiping the excess with a clean rag. Let the second coat dry.

Continue the sanding and application steps until you are satisfied with the look of the floor or furniture piece. The more coats you use, the darker the color will be on the piece. With a pickling finish, you want the grain of the wood to still show through the paint. When you are satisfied, complete the project by applying a polyurethane finish to the piece.

Choose a water-based polyurethane with a satin or flat finish. Apply the polyurethane with a brush over the dry wood piece. You may want to apply a second coat of polyurethane after the first coat dries. The polyurethane will protect the wood from scratches, spills, and other wear and tear that occurs in a home.

A “pickled” finish on a wood floor or piece of furniture adds charm and character to most decorating schemes, especially a country scheme. It is a simple technique with a low cost, yet it can protect the wood in a home for years to come.

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