Limed oak, or limed wood of any kind, might just be my new favorite finish.
It’s a rustic finish that was originally applied to wood to keep insects and worms from eating it, and it can create a look as varied as the wood you’re applying it to. I love the way it grays the wood, while still allowing the wood grain to show through, like on this settee by Ballard Designs.
After doing some research online, I read about liming wax and wanted to try it out. I couldn’t find it in stock in my area big-box hardware stores or wood working stores, but of course Amazon came through.
Around this time, I also picked up a chair for $15 at my local Goodwill that was the perfect candidate for a makeover. This is part one of two posts I’ll be writing on this chair. The second post will focus on removing the fabric and reupholstering the chair. (At this point, it might just be a post on de-upholstering a chair, so if you ever need a tutorial on that I’m your girl.)
After I removed the fabric, the chair immediately looked better, but the finish on the chair was old and beginning to yellow and breakdown. When I researched liming wax, I found different opinions on whether I should sand before applying the wax—same goes for stripping the wood, I should add, but I wasn’t up for it on this project. Maybe if I ever find the perfect dining table, I might get motivated to strip wood again. A chair with grooves and old cushions is not something I was about to strip.
I decided to sand first—I used 220 grit sand paper—because I wasn’t sure the wax would stay on and adhere to the stain without sanding. I’d read that in addition to sanding, some people also rub furniture with a stiff wire brush to really open up the grain of the wood. I decided to sand just enough to rough up the finish for this first project. Next time I won’t sand so I have something to compare it to. Here’s the chair after sanding.
This is an old chair with a really old varnish on it. Once I sanded it, I could see how much the varnish was beginning to crack and dry out. I liked the look of it sanded, and hoped it would look similar with the wax.
I dipped my cotton rag into the wax and applied it with the grain. Sometimes I used more, sometimes I used less, but the dry time is pretty forgiving so I was able to adjust as I went a long. I also applied in circles. After I got it coated pretty well, I let it soak in. After ten minutes, I began to buff the surface with a dry section of my rag. Once I got going applying the wax, I didn’t stop to take pictures. This next one shows the chair with one coat of liming wax.
The finish clashes with the orange-y color of the bare cushions, so I wasn’t really sure I liked it until I saw it with the fabric I’ll use. Here is a picture with the fabric—a paint drop cloth from Lowes—propped up on the chair.
I really like the way the wax grayed the finish. In a few places, however, my newbie skills are more apparent, and it doesn’t look as even as I’d like. Of course, this is only noticeable if you really give it a close look. From a few feet back, like in the picture above, it looks much more even.
At this point I can’t decide if I should apply another coat of the liming wax or try to buff out some of the excess white color with some clear wax. I’ll probably touch up the problem areas, and leave the rest mostly as is. I think it will look good either way, and I hate the idea of fussing over rustic. I’m really excited for stage two of this project, because I know either finish will look so much better with the new fabric.