9.28 2010

How to Achieve that Beautiful, Rubbed-Through Finish


For practically nothing. I picked up this coffee table at an auction a few weeks ago. I was originally going to fix it up and sell it, but we decided to keep it.

It was pretty chipped and worn, so I gave it a few light coats of black paint.
My favorite way to rub-through black is to use denatured alcohol, and some steel wool (a scrub sponge works well, too). Be sure you take a damp cloth and immediately wipe away the rubbed-off  paint, or it will dry onto your finish and you and your sandpaper will be getting well acquainted. Applying a few light coats of paint versus heavy coats will make it much easier to rub through. Just thin the paint with a little water so it’s not thick.
Next, smooth the entire surface down with sandpaper that is anywhere between 400 & 1000 grit. Just be sure it’s fine enough that it doesn’t sand through anymore paint.

It will look pretty bad after you’ve rubbed through, and sanded everything smooth.
Don’t despair, the clear coat will solve that problem!
Next, if there are areas where the stain was removed down to the wood, here is what you can do:
A brown Crayola marker mimics wood stain beautifully.
You can also use those wood touch-up pens.
Although I sprayed both the paint and the final finish, applying slightly thinned paint with a brush would work just as well. Sometimes smoothing brush marks with a foam roller is a good idea, but may not be necessary.
After the clear coat is dry, I smoothed the final finish with some super fine steel wool, and then buffed out the steel wool scratches with car polish (NOT car wax!).
Here it is in our home:

Products I used:
Black paint: SW Solo Interior/Exterior Low VOC in Semi-Gloss
Rub-through: Denatured Alcohol and a scrubby sponge (or #1 or #2 steel wool)
Smoothing the paint: I prefer between 400 & 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper found at automotive stores
Final Finish: Varathane Floor Finish in Semi-Gloss
Smoothing the Finish: Dull with super fine steel wool, then Maguire’s car polish to shine

24 thoughts on “How to Achieve that Beautiful, Rubbed-Through Finish

  1. Your table is gorgeous! I refinish furniture too and I greatly appreciate your tips. I've often wonder how some of those unique old looks are achieved. I'm anxious to try it out now. Thanks for sharing – I'm your newest follower.

  2. I just read Katie's post at Imperfectly Praying for Patience and had to come over and visit. I'm so excited about all this new furniture finishing info. I love learning about all these different techniques and love that you have listed all your supplies and where to buy them at the end. Automotive store, here I come.

  3. Hi! This looks so beautiful and I NEVER in a million years would have thought of using a Crayola marker although we certainly have plenty of them around our house! :-) I love your blog and can't wait to look through your other posts!
    Oh, and I'm a new follower!

  4. Christa, thank you for visiting my blog, it makes me happy that someone as talented as you, came to check out my crappy little blog, hehehe! The finish above (the coffee table one) is my most favorite! I love the black with some of the wood showing. Everytime I see a table with this finish, it makes me sigh!

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