Finishing furniture is an art form – you can create whatever you want. The terms “distressing” and “antiquing” are often used interchangeably in the wood finishing world. These techniques can be used separately or together along with glazing to obtain the degree of “aging” that you desire.
Distressing is a technique of marking the wood to give the character of generations of use. Start by gathering the essentials of character building; hammers, nails, screws, old hardware, literally anything you can pound into the wood that would leave an imprint. Then start hammering away. If it’s been a long week and you need a lift, start a little character therapy project for yourself. Get rid of all that stress and finish a piece of furniture at the same time!
Antiquing is another form of distressing using sanding techniques, often followed by glazing to give the appearance of an antique piece of furniture that has been well taken care of over the years but, has slight natural wear and discoloration on the doors, edges, or sides. Walk into any furniture store and the trend toward using stains and finishes to create an antique look becomes abundantly clear. Corners and other recesses show the remains of an "old" finish while more exposed surfaces seem to have been "worn away" by time and use. This look of aging did not come from time but from a simple finishing technique that, with a little practice, you can master. Besides applying stains and topcoats, this process involves selective sanding of the "base stain" and wiping in of a "top stain," so it's best to use scrap wood get a hands-on feel for how the stains will look on the particular wood you're using.
Glazing is the process of applying a translucent color to the surface, and then rubbing off the excess glaze to create many effects.