Rub-Through Effects with Black Lacquer

Advice on how to create an aged look (worn black lacquer and exposed stained wood) on a piece of furniture. July 17, 2008

Could someone walk me through the steps of distressing poplar? I would like to use Oxford sealer, then Oxford stain, protect stain with Facett, then black Bernyl surfacer, with Matador 40 topcoat .Will the Bernyl surfacer be necessary?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor P:
Would you describe what the finish will look like when it's done? Understanding the exact effect will make it easier to detail the steps. My initial reaction is that the waterborne sealer and stain may not be the best choice in a conversion varnish system and that the primer may not be necessary. Are you going for an opaque (paint) black finish with rub-throughs that show stained wood? Will there be any distressing like dents, dings, worm holes, etc.?

From the original questioner:
No pinholes or dents, just the worn rubbed corners showing stain. The lacquer will be satin.

From contributor P:
Worn paint that shows wood grain is pretty easy. The basic steps are to paint the object, sand through on the wear points that you want to show through the paint, stain the exposed wood as needed, and then clear coat.

Depending on the look you want for the paint, you can use a black (or other color) primer to fill the grain/pores of the wood and then topcoat with black paint (Matador). Or, if you want to have some grain/pores showing, you can skip the primer and just use a coat of the paint.

Sand all the areas you would expect to be worn from use until you get back to bare wood. I usually use a random orbit and 220 grit to speed this step up, and do any needed feathering by hand.

Now you can dye and/or stain the exposed bare wood to the color you want. With an oil-base wiping stain, you don't have to worry about it getting on the paint because it will wipe right off and just the bare wood will hold the color.

Lastly, scuff sand all the painted surfaces and topcoat with clear. You can hit just the stained spots with a coat of clear and then scuff them and the rest of the piece and spray the whole thing. That will give the stained spots a smooth, finished look and feel and avoid getting too thick a finish over the rest of the piece.

A different approach is to stain and seal the piece, apply a "release agent" (e.g., Vaseline) to the areas you want to show through the paint, apply the paint, remove the paint from the areas you treated, scuff sand, and then clearcoat.

With conversion varnish you have to seal the stain with a catalyzed sealer (or clear CV) because you can't apply CV over an uncatalyzed finish without risk of wrinkling. You also have to be careful not to exceed the total dry film thickness or you risk the finish cracking in the near future.