Avid thrift shoppers, garage sale hunters and curbside collectors alike have yet to put a crimp in the availability of solid wood finds worthy of up-cycling. I like that word, up-cycling--it has a certain poetic ring to it that blurs the fact that really what we're all doing is passing our discards around. Doors are probably my greatest obsession, and a solid cherry or, better yet, walnut door is a hard thing to find by the curb. So when they do turn up, I strap them onto the roof of my old Volvo and add them to my pile of "someday someone will need this beauty." Someday may come sooner than I thought for my tall pile of rescued wood furniture, thanks to the greatest invention an up-cycler could ever hope for--a reliable waterborne wood stain called Arborcoat.
When a thrift shopper, who is also an up-cycler, sets out to resurrect an old wood furniture piece a familiar lament generally follows and all interested parties take up sides. I am firmly entrenched on the "faux it" side of this debate, while others enjoy the toils of stripping and staining wood. Surely I won't win over the purists among us, whose intent is always a fine restoration. To those of you who are in my busy camp, where there's more to fix than hands to fix with, learning to rejuvenate these pieces quickly, inexpensively and effectively, softens the talking to you'll surely get, from the stripping and staining crowd. I like to indulge myself in the folly of believing that someday I'll have time to refinish all of my fine wood finds, too. But in the meantime, and often before lunch, I treat them to a faux bois painted and stained finish, which leaves the wood looking old and salvaged but loved.
Job one is to get the piece clean. I've taken a liking to Benjamin Moore’s wood cleaner for this, REMOVE Finish Remover 315, which solves the dilemma of figuring out if I'm cleaning mildew, mold, dirt, grease--you name it. Once the wood is entirely dry, sand it lightly with a 220 grit garnet sandpaper, wash it again, and let it dry again. Wear gloves and a mask for this part, and if your project is large, you may prefer to work outdoors in a cool, shady and relatively dust-free place.
Ever the contrarian, I worked on my door in the house and hanging in place. Because the door weighs a ton, I figured it was safer to chance using an exterior product inside than it was to risk having the door fall on me, outside. Either option beats an all-out refinishing project, and that's my pat answer on that part of the debate. No matter where you're working, you'll need to get the surface of the wood to appear consistent, and that part of this technique is done with paint. Every wood will vary in color considerably, so work toward identifying a color that looks logical on your wood. I choose to use Blanched Almond 1060 and Buckhorn 987. The transparent finish coat of Arborcoat Stain, was mixed in Weathered Oak 1050.
To begin, I applied the lightest color, Blanched Almond, with a brush to conceal the shadow left by the hardware. As I went over the entire door, the idea was to leave most of the wood revealed, and cover up the surface imperfections with the fresh paint. Scratching through the wet paint using 0000 steel wool, added graininess and authenticity to the coloration. Wear your gloves!
Next, I added the darker paint color in the same open grain technique, meaning the wood surface below is always being made to show through the paint. I scratched that color in with the steel wool too, and fussed in the suggestion of more grain on the rail with a small brush.
For the final stroke of up-cycling beautification, I applied one coat of Benjamin Moore's Arborcoat transparent wood stain over the entire door and rail. The stain had everything appearing woody and matching in no time. The stain cleaned up the corners, evened the color overall, and balanced the difference in the door and rail color. Plus, it didn't smell and cleans up in a jiffy with soap and water. Arborcoat is the most forgiving stain product I've ever had the pleasure of using for this kind of faux bois technique. It is beautifully transparent, sands nicely, and didn't raise the grain in my dry old door at all. The advantages of Arborcoat go well beyond my small faux bois project.
I chose not to put a finish of any kind on my door. I didn't want to entirely obliterate the wear a hundred years hanging in a horse barn had made, and the dead flat matte Aura finish helps to preserve the intrinsically dry and powdery look, as does the Arborcoat's transparency. The leather strap I fitted onto a black metal back plate, made quick work of concealing the hole left behind from the original door pull. If I were to ever leave my home here at the Peabody farm, you can be sure this door would be going with me. Maybe, on that someday I'll get around refinishing it, but then again, why bother?
If you've ever thought twice about rescuing a wood door or furniture piece, thinking it's just too much work to have it looking fabulous, maybe your someday has arrived? Happy thrift hunting, and Faux Bois the Bois!
before and after