Distressing Wood - Creating Doll House Miniatures with Worn Wooden Surfaces Part 1

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12 December 2011
imports_HAC_simpleandsubtledistres_97434.jpg Simple and Subtle Distressed Technique 2
Jane Harrop examines techniques which can be used to mimic age, wear and tear to miniatures and furniture with wooden surfaces in the doll house. ...
Distressing Wood - Creating Doll House Miniatures with Worn Wooden Surfaces Part 1 Images

Wood responds well to distressing treatments. The idea of distressing wood can often scare people off and they immediately think they will be creating something overly grubby and shabby. That is not always the case, and here we look at creating just a 'hint' of deterioration to a wooden surface, as well as producing a fairly corroded and mucky finish.

Jane uses products which are readily available, and recommends working with Obechi wood unless otherwise stated. The techniques can be used on any white wood, but you should keep to the same wood type during a project for the best results. There are many different methods that can be used to distress wood, and Jane has chosen the prodecures that are most easily achieved and that have been tried and tested by Jane and her students.

The methods and procedures here are readily transferable to any miniature unfinished piece of furniture, either in kit form or made up.

Distressing Painted Wood Technique 1

  • Before construction of your piece, paint the wood pieces sparingly with acrylic or emulsion paint.
  • Only if necessary, re-apply a second coat.
  • When dry, lightly sand the surfaces on all sides using fine grade sandpaper.
  • This is to smooth the piece, not to remove the paint.
  • Buff each piece on all sides using a piece of paper towel to produce a dull sheen.
  • Construct the piece of furniture.
  • When the glue is set, very lightly sand in places where wear and tear would naturally happen.
  • This will reveal just a hint of bare wood underneath.

Distressing Painted Wood Technique 2

  • Before construction, stain the pieces with a light spirit or water based wood stain.
  • Allow to dry.
  • Construct the piece and allow the glue to set fully.
  • Paint the piece sparingly wiht acrylic paint.
  • When dry, sand in places with fine sandpaper.
  • Revealing the stained wood below.
  • If an indoor piece of furniture, buff with a clean piece of paper towel to produce a dull sheen.
  • Give just a hint of wear to the painted surface as required.


Grubby and Worn Distressed Paint Technique 1

  • Follow the instructions above for the Simple and Subtle Distressed Paint Technique 1.
  • Once finished, use a paintbrush to cover the whole article with a light water-based wood stain.
  • Remove the stain from the wood in accessible areas with a damp cloth.
  • The stain will settle in the exposed grain of the wood and inaccesible areas.
  • This creates the look of worn paint and a build up of grime.
  • If you don't have any stain, try using strong cold tea or coffee as an alternative.

Grubby and Worn Distressed Paint Technique 2

  • Paint and construct the piece as in Part 1 above.
  • Apply either a light brown shoe polish or light coloured beeswax to piece using fine gauge wire wool.
  • Allow to penetrate for at least 10 minutes.
  • Buff to a sheen with a clean piece of wire wool or a clean piece of paper towel.
  • Black shoe polish will add a darker finish/grubbier piece.
  • Coloured shoe polish in white, pale blue or green will give a limed wax finish.


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Before tackling the project in hand, always experiment on wood off cuts using the same type of wood as the model. Jane makes wooden tags with a hole drilled in one end. This is treated on one side with the paint/wax effect, then on the back she writes the original colours and types of finishes used. Ideal for future reference.


Part 2  covers dirty and dusty paintwork, distressing stained wood and more.

Part 3  gives you a project in either 12th or 24th scale to try yourself.

This DIY feature was originally published in Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine. If you like making miniatures why not buy yourself a copy of the magazine. Better still, take out a subscription so you never miss an exciting issue. For fans of Facebook and Twitter, please use the buttons at the top of the page to share this feature with your friends.


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