The first step in aging a modern piece of furniture is to soften the look of the new wood. Use #120-grade sandpaper to blunt the edges and slightly round any sharp corners. A palm sander or sanding block will speed the process. Use sandpaper to mimic the signs of wear on areas such as the tops of doors and around knobs or other hardware. After sanding, wipe off any dust with a tack cloth.
When distressing a piece of furniture, strive for a look that’s consistent with the damage that might have occurred to a real antique. Nicks, dents and insect damage are all natural signs of aging that can be reproduced with some household items and simple tools.
To imitate a cluster of termite holes, draw a pattern near the edge or end of a board using a felt-tip pen. Then use a drill with a 1/8” bit to create holes, varying the angle of the holes slightly for a more natural look. Sand the holes lightly to remove any wood burrs.
Use the edge or rough bottom of a heavy household object such as a flowerpot or cooking pan to create dents or scuffs in the wood surface. Use more than one object so that the marks don’t look too uniform. Accidental scratches can be imitated by dragging keys or household tools such as pliers or a screwdriver across the wood.
A faux water-ring can be created by spraying black paint on the bottom of a can, then using part of the can’s lip to make an imprint on the wood. It’s best to practice this technique on a piece of scrap wood before using it on furniture. Other techniques for simulating age marks include using a toothbrush dipped in ink to create “flyspecks,” spilling ink to create an ink stain and leaving a burning cigarette on a tabletop to create a burn mark.
The scratches and dents will show up better once a stain has been applied to the wood. To create a golden patina look -- the mellowed appearance that comes from age and exposure to the sun -- use a light stain such as golden oak or golden pecan.
After wiping off any dust with a tack cloth and stirring the stain thoroughly, apply stain using a staining pad or soft cloth. Wait about three minutes, then wipe off the excess stain with a soft cloth. Allow the stain to dry overnight.
A tung-oil finish provides protection for the wood while allowing it to retain an antique look -- unlike the glossy finish of a varnish. Once the stain has dried completely, rub tung oil into the wood, and let it dry overnight.
For a final touch, rub a coat of paste wax into the wood with extra-fine steel wool. After about five minutes, when the wax has begun to harden, buff the finish to a satin sheen with a soft cloth. Paste wax in combination with tung oil will give the wood a look and feel similar to that of a real antique.