Do you have dull or standard furniture that you want to give a new shine? The ceruse effect will give it a luminous appearance and a very trendy cachet. This technique is easily achievable provided you proceed carefully. White lead, instructions for use.
Obtain white lead
White lead is a decorative technique that consists of marking the grain of the wood by bleaching and aging it to obtain a contrasting effect. Waxes or ceruse pastes exist in different shades, thus making it possible to achieve original finishes. These ready-to-use products can be found in DIY superstores.
Choosing the right furniture
The contrast will differ depending on the medium chosen. Whitewashing wooden furniture is possible on all types of species provided that the veins are visible. Chestnut, oak, ash or beech are solid woods whose open pores are ideal for this decorative technique. The result will be more pronounced than on closed pore woods such as maple or cherry. Namely, the effect will be more noticeable on dark-coloured wooden furniture. Melamine and laminate can also be ceruse but the rendering may disappoint you.
Prepare products and tools for whitewashing
- Wax or whitening paste
- Clean rags
- Coarse and fine grit sandpapers
- Sanding block
- White undercoat suitable for all substrates or wood stain
- Steel wool or brass wire brush
- Protective mask, gloves or overalls
Clean the media
The first step is to prepare the furniture to receive the paint (or white lead if you do not want to paint). The main thing being to leave on a clean base, a serious dusting then a good cleaning with water and soap is essential, especially if it is a salvaged piece of furniture. Moisten the wood with a sponge, rub well and let dry.
Sand the wooden furniture
Once the surface is dry and clean, the sanding phase can begin. Whether the support is new or old, it should be exposed to facilitate the attachment of the wax or whitewash paste. If the furniture is raw, take a thin piece of paper to even out and standardize the surface, then dust off. If the furniture has paint, stain or varnish, strip the wood as much as possible with coarse-grained paper. Then use a finer grain to eliminate all the reliefs and remove the traces of sanding, insisting on the edges and the moldings. Always remember to dust with a cloth and then with a sponge. If the coating resists in places, use a special paint or varnish stripper or a dewaxer if the support is waxed. At the end of this step, your wooden furniture should be smooth and scratch-free.
Dig the veining to fix the white lead
When the sanding and dusting stage is complete, it is a question of opening the pores of the wood. Pass steel wool (for soft wood) or a special brass wire brush (for hard wood) in the direction of the fibers, taking care not to press too hard at the risk of scratching the surface. Don’t forget to dust as you go. To promote the penetration of the white lead, the veining must be sufficiently dug: count about one millimeter deep.
Painting or staining the furniture (recommended)
For an optimal effect, it is recommended to tint the wood before applying white lead. If you are looking for a more visible contrast between the grain and the rest of the wood, you can apply a white undercoat, or even two. You also have the option of changing the color of your furniture by applying a special water-based wood stain that will not hide the grain. Apply it with a cloth always in the direction of the wood fibers, then wipe with another cloth to remove the excess and even out the color. Let dry for the time indicated on the product packaging and lightly sand with a fine grit paper. Dust again.
Spread the white lead
Take a soft cloth or cotton wick to spread a generous amount of wax or whitewash over the entire surface. In order to make the product penetrate well into the hollow fibers, proceed with circular movements and in small ends, every 50 x 50 cm approximately. Remove the excess product by passing a clean cloth always in the direction of the grain of the wood. Leave to dry for the necessary time, generally 48 hours.
Apply the finish
When the wood is dry, sand with extra fine steel wool in movements perpendicular to the grain of the wood. In this way, you will remove white lead from flat surfaces by retaining it in the pores of the veining. Dust off. You can protect the piece of furniture with a colorless wax or a hard base that you will let dry before polishing.