I want to talk with you about a furniture finish that I discovered a few years ago and I have been dying to try it ever since. It’s called Cerusing Finish (or sometimes Limed Finish), and basically it’s a process of rubbing a contrasting color into the pores of wood to highlight the patterns of the wood grain. Although, I often see this type of finish with Oak, it works well with many types of wood including mahogany or cherry.
Cerusing vs Using Liming Wax
There are two techniques that produce similar results. The first, and easiest, is using liming wax. There are some great tutorials on how to use liming wax. For a low or medium traffic piece such as a side table or dressser, I prefer liming over cerusing. The process is slightly easier and you have a bit more control with layering the wax. However, for a high traffic piece such as this dining room table, I prefer cerusing. The main reason here is because I feel high traffic furniture needs a durable top coat to fully protect it, and you can’t use wax under a polyeurethane coat. Over time with scrubbing and spills, most high traffic pieces will need to be re-waxed. I don’t find that most people like maintenance all that much on their furniture. I wrote an informative post about the best topcoats for furniture here.
As you can see, this was how the table came to me. It has an interesting pattern when the center leaf isn’t incorporated, and I wanted to highlight that pattern even more. So let’s see how it turned out!
How to Ceruse Wood
I have read several tutorials and experimented until this worked for me best. Although oak is usually used with cerusing, I actually much prefer other woods such as cherry or maple. Above is the table we started with. The finish was clearly coming off and scratched all over, although the scratched didn’t extend into the wood itself.
The first step was to strip the old finish. For this I used a regular stripper and then sanded it a bit with a 220 grit sandpaper to buff any scratches out.
Wire Brushing The Wood Grain
The key to a good cerusing technique is in the wire brush. Using a very stiff wire brush like this one and working in long strokes that go with the wood grain, you can see the pores open a tad bit. The real key is brushing in the direction of the woodgrain and using good pressure. I did put some power behind it, but I wouldn’t say that I used all of my strength to do it.
Preparing the Table for Liming or Cerusing
Next, I used a very light stain for this. Because I am using a white paint for the cerusing, it will lighten the overall look of the stain a little bit after applied so keep that in mind when choosing the stain and color. I then put a thin layer of polyacylic on it to make it easier to buff the excess paint off. When using liming wax instead of paint, it is much easier to control, so you shouldn’t need to put a layer or poly down before.
Ready to Ceruse the Wood Table Top
For this table, I used Fusion Mineral Champlain as the paint for cerusing (you can buy it here). I thinned it out with water, about 25%. The paint was brushed on quickly over a whole section. To keep it even, you really want to do a whole section at a time or if you don’t have leaves like this one, do the whole top. I waited about 10 minutes to start to take it off. Many tutorials I have found say to use 1000 steel wool or something like that. I don’t know if it was my impatience or that the paint had dried more, but I ended up using 220 grit sand paper and our palm sander and quickly going over the table with no pressure until I got the look I wanted.
I finished it up by spraying my favorite favorite polyeurethane coating to make it ultra durable.
Pictures don’t even do this table justice. The cerused wood is gorgeous! This table will actually be finding a new home as I plan to sell it. I haven’t sold a piece before so we shall see how this goes!
So tell me what you think. Is this a technique you would try?
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