In the Shabby Chic lovers toolkit there are few things that make a project look aged and time worn more than a bit of dark wax.
It takes a pristine looking newly painted piece of furniture and instantly adds years of wear and tear, bags of charm and a country antique look that can really make a piece stand out.
So why are so many furniture up-cyclers so bemused and frustrated by the use of the dark wax finish? Is it because they are afraid that they are going to spoil all the hard work they just did by coating their project in dark wax?
Maybe it’s because they aren’t sure that once the wax is on they will ever be able to get it off enough again to get the look that they are really after. Or maybe it’s just that they really have never considered the benefits of creating a dark waxed finish and the extra dimension that it can bring to some pieces of shabby Chic furniture.
Either way, whatever it is, we’re going to cover it all in this article so hopefully it will encourage those that have been a bit apprehensive about giving dark waxing a go the chance to experiment with confidence.
Afraid Of The Dark Wax? Don’t Be, We’re Gonna Make It Simple.
Over the years I have done countless Shabby Chic projects and I always loved the pieces that had that time worn look, you know…the one with the dark areas in the corners and that lovely old patina that made it look like it had really been around for years.
I’d say to myself ‘how hard can it be to get that look?’. So off I’d go and look it up and find out that it was created using dark wax. Eureka! That’s what I’m gonna do!
I’d get my dark wax and brush it onto my nice newly painted Shabby Chic piece of furniture only to find out that I put too much on and can’t get it off again, or it’s set like granite and I’d have to scrub like an inmate to get the darned stuff off again along with most of my paint! Disaster!!
Not being one to give up I would try a few different approaches to this process to find the easiest and most user friendly way of completing this process. Now I have to say that these are techniques that have worked for me, and whilst I am more than happy to share, please don’t hold me accountable if they don’t work for you. Just keep playing with the process until you find your dark wax zen!
Ok the first thing to say is that dark waxing will work over pretty much any paint, even oil paints. It will be easier to remove from some than others as some paints are more robust. In my experience it will darken the base colour of pretty much any paint (yes even oil paints) and give it a more aged look, which isn’t a problem as that’s exactly what we’re after.
I say this because if you’ve spent a lot of time and money searching for exactly the right shade of paint and you absolutely love it, then it may be best not to dark wax over it. Not only will dark wax add buildup in the nooks and crannies of your project, it will almost always change the tint of your paint and add a patina.
The two paints that I generally go to and use with my projects are Farrow and Ball or Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. If you are using Farrow and Ball or other similar types of finish I would say go ahead and apply your dark wax straight on top of your painted finish (make sure it is completely dry, obviously).
If you’re using Annie Sloan paint you will need to add a coat of clear wax to the piece first in order to seal it. This will make removing the dark wax much easier.
When applying the dark wax to a project you will want to work in small manageable areas a few inches in diameter at a time. Don’t go painting a great big area as the wax will have hardened by the time you get around to removing it.
The Conventional Dark Wax Way
How you apply the wax is pretty much up to you. I have a large round Annie Sloan brush that I personally use and I tend to apply the wax with a bit of a stabbing motion and the occasional twist just to make sure that the dark wax has got into the very deepest parts of any patterns on the furniture. There’s no real right or wrong way here, just make sure you get good coverage.
Once you have applied the wax and before it has a chance to dry for too long, add a little clear wax to a soft cloth and buff the dark wax off starting in a circular motion and finishing going with the grain. If it still looks a little dark, add some more clear wax and hit it again until you are happy with the look.
To me the conventional way is a bit long winded and it can take a little practice to get each area that you work on looking exactly the same. Anyone who knows me knows I like to get the job done lickety split!:)
The White Spirit Dark Wax Removal System
One way to speed up the removal of the dark wax is to add a little white spirit to a soft cloth and wipe the wax off with it. The white spirit helps to break the wax down and makes it more liquid, which makes it easier to wipe off. Go easy though, if you use too much you will have to re-wax the area, so start slow and add more spirit if the wax isn’t coming off as you’d like it to.
The White Spirit Dark Wax Application System.
If the piece I’m working on is a larger piece with bigger plain sections I will generally take a teaspoon of wax from the tin and put it into another container. Then I will add some white spirit to thin it down so that it is still brushable but easier to spread around a large area. This helps me to work faster without such a stodgy mass that I need to really work to get good coverage.
You can even thin it so that it’s almost a wash in consistency by adding more white spirit and dark wax into a cup.
If I do this I will apply it all over the cupboard and then wipe gently with a clean, lint free cloth until I’m happy with the finish. Then, to get the authentic time worn, aged feel, I go back over the nooks and crannies with some wax straight from the tin & a thin paintbrush to add a bit of a darker finish over the detailed areas. Gently wipe with a cloth, leaving behind the dark wax in the crevices.
I found that using these techniques made me a lot faster at getting the dark waxing done. Another way to go is to add a little white spirit to your brush before you dip it into your dark wax. Start with a little dab and add more if needed, better to start off slow in case you add too much spirit to start. You may want to do this in a place with a bit of ventilation as the white spirit can kick up a bit of a smell!
One other way that you might like to try is to heat the wax to make it runnier and therefore easier to apply. You can read about my trials with this in my previous blog post
One other technique that I’ve used quite a few times is not to use the dark wax at all. Instead I may use some acrylic glaze with a colourant added from Polyvine. This brushes on like a varnish and stays workable for around an hour.
Once the area I’m working on is covered I use a soft damp cloth to wipe off the excess until I get the finish that I’m after. I still leave a heavier mixture in the nooks and crannies just to bring out the details and I find this method a nice speedy way to add both the colour effect that I want as well as a protective finish as this negates the waxing step completely.
Just FYI, the wax that I generally use is Wax Polish Dark Oak 400g. The Annie Sloan dark wax is just as good as are many other brands, it’s just that these waxes are the ones that I am used to.
I hope this helps you with your next project.
I really hope that you have found this post useful, please leave comments to let me know what you think of my blog and any suggestions you may have for future posts.
If you would like further details on other paint transformations, I can recommend Quick and Easy Paint Transformations it’s full of great information that will help you the get the best from your projects, and above all earn more money!