"Antique White" Glazing Techniques

A discussion of the fine points of glazing steps for a "dirty white" antique look. April 27, 2007

I'm looking for an easier way to create an antique white/dirty worn look. Presently, I'm using a Sherwin Williams system. Base coat is a tinted off-white vinyl sealer (all products are solvent based) to make doors off white. Sand and re-topcoat with vinyl sealer. This is where the difficulty arises. To sand or not to sand? The next step is a Van Dyke brown glaze. Sanding is very unforgiving, even at high grits, p400 to p600. I have also tried wet sanding with 600g wet/dry and wool lube. If the sanding is off in any way, it is highlighted by the VDB glaze. If I don't sand, I can get uneven results if you look at the glaze the wrong way. If you re-wet, you’re done - it shows an edge, then the whole thing is washed with mineral spirits and has to be done again. The mineral spirits never completely remove all the color, so that creates another problem. The other problem with not sanding seal coat is if there are any dust specs, overspray or any other irregularities in the unsanded seal coat, the VDB glaze shows that too. Any finish schedule ideas would surely be appreciated. I hope there is an easier, more consistent way to get this dirty white look with an off-white base color and VDB glaze. Paint jobs show everything.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor S:
I'm not a SW user. Sounds like your glaze is too aggressive. Have you tried putting a clear vinyl over your white vinyl? This should give you a better skin and more control with your glaze.

From contributor P:
I've used Titanium white over a beige taupe to get a sort of dirty look to match a repaired side panel on an old chest. I didn't use a clear because it was supposed to be old, but it looked good.

From contributor W:
What do you mean "titanium white" over the beige color? What kind of titanium white? In what medium? How applied? I'm a little confused as how this would work.

From the original questioner:
Contributor S, that's what I did - vinyl over the white vinyl. Any scratch marks on white show everything,

From contributor D:
Try thinning your VDB a little with mineral spirits and add an extender like BLO. Allow your vinyl to dry longer. You could also try thinning your vinyl down a bit and only lightly scothbrite before you glaze. You will still get some marks, but not as bad. If you don’t want any streaks, then you could just highlight the corners and shade in the glaze on the flats.

From contributor M:
The easiest way we have found is to spray with white lacquer first, then sand with 400 grit (if you want rub off on the corners, we use 280 grit). We then wipe the piece with a light stain diluted with 50% paint thinner (not lacquer thinner). The paint thinner gives you more working time. We have been using this system on all our furniture and cabinets for years. You can use any base color and any stain color as long as you use paint thinner for diluting.

From contributor P:
Contributor W, I guess I should have said it was oil-based paint. It's been a while since I did this, but as I recall, the titanium white was thinned a bit and applied in several coats until the taupe was barely showing through in areas. I used a brush. It gave a nice, worn look.

I don't know if these colors would work for what the questioner is seeking, but it might be a direction to try. Also, as of right now, we don't spray any finishes - they're all hand applied. This might not be practical for everybody.

From contributor K:
I use SW. Are you using the clear vinyl tinted for a transparent look or the white vinyl tinted to off-white for a painted finish? It sounds like you’re going for the painted finish. Either way, my suggestion is to reverse your vinyl sealer application. Therefore, put the clear down first, sand smooth with 220-320 as you normally would, and then apply the off-white, as it will now be much smoother being applied over the first coat of vinyl. Sand/scuff that second coat if you wish and then glaze with your VDB. If you have areas where you do not like the appearance of the glaze due to sanding marks or blemishes, scuff the glaze off that area with red scotchbrite (I rarely use MS to do this). Be aware that the sanded vinyl/glaze particles will stick to the surface more than unglazed sealer, so better blow off or tack is necessary prior to topcoating.

What topcoat are you using? There is another method to doing this that would include using a pigmented topcoat for your second coat rather than vinyl, then without sanding that topcoat, you would apply your glaze and then final topcoat. SW recommends doing the second coat, glaze, and final topcoat all in the same day to ensure adhesion by staying within the recoat window, I guess. The pigmented topcoat, probably having a higher volume of solids than your sealer, will then lay nicer on your seal coat, so you'll achieve a better glaze. This way might be too clean, though, for customers wanting a really dirty look. If your SW rep can't help you with this, then you should ask them to send a better one to see you soon.

From contributor F:
The first and most important question that needs to be asked is what topcoat are you using? If you are not using a pre-catalyzed or post-catalyzed topcoat, then you could change your white primer away from vinyl to a regular stearated sanding sealer.

Why does this matter? Vinyl sealer is slick and the look of a glaze on vinyl is different than the look on regular sanding sealer. Regular sanding sealer is going to give you a wipe that is not as clean. And that may be what you are looking for if you want a no-sand wiping surface.

Sand scratches yield a different look than a no-sand wipe, regardless of the undercoat. The undercoat does matter as everything affects the final look.

But you don't really want to use stearated sanding sealer under a conversion coating. The performance of the total system will likely suffer and then you lose the durability that you wanted in the first place.

From contributor U:
Personally, I find glazing to be tedious and time consuming. Perfectionists can spend hours re-circulating the same pieces in pursuit of the perfect glaze application. However, the effect can be stunning and has been quite a crowd pleaser for my customers.

This is what worked for me on a project similar to yours. A large double vanity, linen cabinet, and 4 whirlpool fascia panels were white vinyl primed and painted off-white with pre-cat lacquer, glazed, and then clear post-cat lacquer topcoated. I scuffed the white paint with 320 before applying the glaze. The glaze is applied into the crevices, concavities and seams only with a 2 inch chip brush. Then, with a can of naphtha nearby, I use a glazing brush to soften the lines of the glaze and spread it around to achieve the dirty or distressed look. The brush should be dry and clean when you start. I use a rag to remove glaze buildup from the brush. The brushing and sweeping motion will spread the glaze out softly from the crevices. Vary the pressure of your brush strokes to spread the glaze the way you want it. At some point during the process of softening the glaze, I remove some of the glaze buildup from the brush by wiping it across some of the flat portions, such as the center panels of the doors. Then I use the rag to clean the brush some more so I can work the flat parts with the brush until the glaze is soft and blended and I have achieved the look I want, which does not involve any visible sanding scratches or surface imperfections. If there happen to be deeper imperfections or sanding scratches that hold too much glaze, I dampen my brush in the naphtha and adjust my brushing motion until the imperfections are satisfactorily less visible. I let the glaze settle for 30 -60 minutes before topcoating and, to avoid insanity of perfectionism, I do not allow myself to rework any part I have already completed. Make samples!

From the original questioner:
I really appreciate all the feedback. I am using S/W H20 white, pre-cat cab acyrlic topcoat. I like the suggestion of thinning out the glaze 50%. The other method with the dry brushing sounds like it will work, but very labor intensive. I have done dry brush on some stain grade jobs. Yes, I always do samples and test my system.