Faux and distressed finishes: A “start to finish” look at creating a hand-rubbed black lacquer finish.

chinese distressed faux antique finishes

I find the processes used in the workshop fascinating, and though others might enjoy it if I share some of them here. Today we look at the steps taken from start to finish to create one type of finish: a slightly distressed thick black lacquer finish with hand rubbed  edges.

Chinese finishes - before and after distressing

In this example case, the project was a large floor standing mirror with thick rounded edges.

lacquer over bare wood frame

 Step one: The base layer

After applying a base layer of gesso, multiple coats of black lacquer are applied to a wood frame allowing for time to dry in between each coat.

Elm wood is used for the frame in this case, due to the large size of this particular mirror frame.




distressed finish furniture edging Step two: Scraping

After the lacquer has been given sufficient time to properly dry, edges are scraped away, down to the bare wood, with a dull blade or scrapper.

Since each piece is hand rubbed, no two will ever be exactly the same and this is a highly subjective process which varies depending on the overall structure of the item.
Edges and any other protruding surfaces are then scraped again this time using the flat portion of the blade to create and irregular effect and to imitate wear and tear.
distressed finish furniture edging

Depending on the structure of the piece, one would normally scrape away areas of heavy use, joints or areas likely to be easily rubbed over the years in passing.

If the intended look is just distressed, this will suffice.  For an actual “antiqued” effect, the the bottom areas would require more attention as these areas would normally be subject to more wear and tear.

Opinions may vary on what is “natural looking” and whats not depending on the artisan and the intended recipient.


chinese black lacquer
chinese black lacquer

Step three: Hand sanding

Lots of gentle hand sanding to smooth out any hard contrast between the lacquer and the bare wood as well as to increase the “naturally occurring” distressed feel. This looks much easier then it is and takes quite a bit of time to smooth out the edges of the tick dried lacquer.

Hand sanding the finish


brushing on stainStep four: Staining

A brown stain is then hand applied to the exposed bare areas of wood.

The actual color of the stain may be darker or lighter depending on the desired effect.

In this case we used a darker brown for that slightly worn look.


spraying a light clear coat of lacquer

Step six: Lacquer

Several coats of clear lacquer are then evening applied (sprayed)  over the entire surface.

This not only seals in the stain but also give the appearance of an even thicker finish.

After the lacquer has dried it is then lightly sanded and waxed for a smooth, even and slightly glossy finish.

The final result:

A beautiful slightly worn finish with just enough character and its own unique hand crafted beauty.Chinese black lacquer


Leave a Reply