Two Ways to Distress Wood

Two Techniques to Get that Chippy Look Tutorial by Cheltenham RoadIt is a far, far better distressed wood technique I do than I have ever done.

A Tale of Two Chippies.

That was my original title for this post but I thought it sounded like it was going to be about a pair of floosies from the 1920s.

I recently heard about using wax and duct tape to achieve a distressed, chippy wood effect. As you know, I’ve always used the “wax and sand it” approach. I’ve been happy with the results but wanted to see if this technique was better.

My other goal was to create a more interesting backdrop for some of my pictures. Most of the walls in my house are kind of tan, neutrally colors and they just never seem to photograph well.

So I gathered my supplies for the chippy-off! I had two pieces of left-over beadboard to work with.supplies for distressed wood project Cheltenham Road

For version one I stuck with my standard method: Wood, wax, (paint) and a sander.

Approach number two called for wood, wax, (paint), duct tape and a blow dryer.

For reasons that are painfully obvious I no longer own a blow dryer……so I defaulted to a heat gun.

The basic technique is the same for each.

Give the wood a quick base-coat of color (I painted one board green and one blue)Create a Distressed Wood Backdrop Tutorial by Cheltenham Road

Then, once that’s dry, grab a candle (or in my case a huge chunk of wax that used to be a candle of some kind) and rub it like crazy all over the board wherever you want the base-coat color to show through.Use Wax to Distress Painted Wood Tutorial Cheltenham Road Then come back in and paint the whole thing with another coat of paint (white in this case) and allow to dry.  The idea being that the top coat of paint won’t stick where you waxed.

For my standard approach the undercoat was green and I used my electric sander to sand away the top coat of paint. It looked like this:Distressed Wood Tutorial Two Techniques Cheltenham Road

Now, onto the new technique. After the top coat of paint has thoroughly dried you point your blow dryer or heat gun at it until the wax gets melty.How to Distress Painted Wood Tutorial Cheltenham Road

Sidebar Thoughts on a heat gunIt only takes a few seconds of heating and then you quickly apply a piece of duct tape (only duct tape will do)Distressed Wood Tutorial Cheltenham Road

And then peel it away.  Check it out!Distress Wood with Duct Tape Tutorial Cheltenham Road

Totally natural looking peeling, aged paint!

I like it!

Ok, for a board this big it took a bit of time but I did discover that you can use the same piece of duct tape a few times before it loses its peeling qualities.

Also, don’t heat things up too much or it will peel away all the layers of paint.Too much heat

Now it was time to play around with photographing it.Create A Distressed Wood Background for Photos Tutorial Cheltenham RoadThe wax and sand method is quicker to do and creates a good, crumbly paint appearanceChippy Paint Techniques Tutorial Cheltenham Road

The duct tape technique is little more labor intensive and might be best for smaller items but it creates a very natural old-paint look.Distress Wood Technique Cheltenham RoadI will have to play around some more to figure out how best to use these backgrounds but going forward I think I’ll use both techniques depending on the project.Make a Distressed Wood Backdrop for Photos Cheltenham RoadBonus!  And if this Cheltenham Road business fails I think I may now have the basic skills to get people ready for next year’s swim suit season!Home Stories tutorials-tips-button

12 thoughts on “Two Ways to Distress Wood”

  1. A tutorial that’s informative and comedic – the best kind! You had me at “For reasons that are painfully obvious I no longer own a blow dryer….”. OMG, Crack.Me.Up.! Unfortunately, I don’t own a heat gun, but I do have a hair dryer – give me a holler if you want to trade!

    Thanks for making my day!

  2. I am a little concerned on your fallback career if it involves heat guns and duct tape. The liability insurance will be EXTREMELY high. Plus I am not sure how many return customers you will have!

  3. I’m sure there was an informative tutorial there somewhere but I’m still rolling on the floor laughing at the warning about the heat gun!

    Sent from my Sharona


  4. Enjoyed your tutorial, and the visuals it brought to my mind! Are you willing to give a bit of advice to an amateur? I’ve been given a white ‘French provincial’ style desk that I want to make less Frenchy. Thought I would just apply a colored stain, then rub it off, hoping that would accomplish a distressed look. Will this work?

    1. Hi Vicki. I’m not particularly well-versed with colored stain so take what I say with a grain of salt. Usually with stain you apply it and then, while it’s wet, you can rub away some of it but stain penetrates the wood unlike paint that sits on top so you can’t just rub it away completely like you would with paint. If you wanted a distressed edge you could wait till the stain dried and then sand (either by hand or with an power sander) to reveal the raw wood underneath. Hope that helps at least a little but if you have any questions just drop me an email and we can work on it together.

  5. Great tutorial, hilarious sidebar! I think you could start an internet meme with that little box…I also like both effects as backdrops for your photos. Seems like the duct tape backdrop is better for relatively plain items, and the sanded backdrop for busier or more colorful items. Both are beautiful.

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