"White-Leaded" or "Ceruse" Finish on Oak

Quick explanation of this finish, which is white in the grain and natural on the surface. November 25, 2008

Was wondering if anyone could give me a quick tutorial on a white-leaded oak finish? This may have different names, so to clarify, I am trying to produce the look of raw oak with white deposits in the open grain. I can think of a couple different ways of achieving this, but would like to know how it was most likely done in the deco period.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
If this is the same as "pickled oak" around here, the easiest solution is to get the white pickling stain from ML Campbell.

Be absolutely sure to get a color sample signed off by the customer, because everyone has a slightly different idea of what pickled or whitewashed oak should look like, and every technique will produce a different look.

Another route is thinning the appropriate primer (I prefer Clawlock post-cat) very thin - say, 80-90% thinner, 10-20% primer - and misting on a light coat and then scuff sanding with a sponge. That's slightly trickier to get an even look than using MLC's wiping stain, but gives more of the "in the grain only and not on the surface" look. Be ready to experiment!

From contributor J:
Also called a Ceruse finish. If you want to preserve the background color of the wood and have the white only in the grain, it requires a different technique than simply using a white pickle stain. Use a wire brush to open up the grain. A brass bristle type will not scratch the wood too much. Work with the grain, not against it. Apply a wash coat, scuff and apply a second wash coat. The wash coats will seal in the wood's natural color without sealing off the deep grain. Then use a white glaze to fill in the pores of the grain. If necessary you can clean off the excess glaze with some mineral spirits to keep the background color clean. When the glaze is dry, seal, scuff and top coat.