your choice of toppings, on the lighter side.

On Monday I shared my favorite technique for using a dark wax over bare wood.  Today I thought I’d focus on using other colors of wax over bare wood (or white washed wood).

Once again, all of my favorite wax brands make a version of white wax.

Starting at the top and moving clockwise that’s Miss Mustard Seed White Wax, Homestead House White Wax, the Real Milk Paint Co Soft White Wax, and Fusion Liming Wax.

That brings up the first question, are white wax and liming wax the same thing?

I don’t have a definitive answer from the experts, but I’m pretty sure they can be used interchangeably.  One may have a slightly different color, or maybe a little more or less pigment, but as you can see all of the white waxes that I have are slightly different in color anyway.

You can apply white wax to bare wood in just the same way as the dark waxes that I talked about on Monday.  If you need a refresher you can refer back to that post.  However, I often choose to apply a coat of clear wax before applying the white.    The purpose of that is to soften the look of the white wax and allow it to blend a little bit more.  But if you want that cerused or lime waxed look to be more pronounced and you really want to see those streaks of white that catch in the grain of your wood, go ahead and just use the white wax right over your bare wood.

The tabletop below has a coat of clear wax followed by a coat of white wax.

As does the top of this washstand.

These days I almost always apply my wax with a brush and then remove any excess wax with an old t-shirt.  The large Miss Mustard Seed wax brush is a favorite of mine (you can find it online at Carver Junk Co if you need one).  Mine is well used …

Another favorite light wax of mine is grey wax.  I used to make my own grey wax by mixing black and white wax together.

But now when I want grey wax I just use Dixie Belle’s Best Dang Wax in Grunge Grey.

I used this wax on a coffee table last winter.

It gives that sort of driftwood appearance.

Finally, there is always the option of just using a clear furniture wax over bare wood.  That’s what I did on this buffet top.

Just keep in mind that clear wax won’t alter the color of your wood like the tinted waxes will, it also won’t help blend any discolorations that your wood might have.

But if you love the natural color of the wood on your piece, try just using clear wax.

Before I let you go I want to mention that besides being an incredibly easy and relatively foolproof technique to use, I think wax provides the most natural looking finish for beautiful wood.

It isn’t the most impervious finish, nor is it the shiniest.  If you’re looking for a perfect looking finish, maybe wax isn’t for you.

But if you like to embrace the imperfections in old furniture and bring them back to life just a bit, definitely give this a try!

Also, if you’d like to learn more about lime waxing or white washing, check out this post …

your choice of toppings.

I can still remember that ‘eureka moment’ when I realized it was possible to strip the old finish from furniture and then just use wax to refinish it.  Prior to that I had no idea that it could be just that simple.

I thought that you had to stain wood and also then finish it with some sort of poly topcoat, but I was wrong.  You don’t have to do it that way.  You can choose to just strip off the old finish and then wax it.  If you use a colored wax, the wax itself will give a beautiful color to the wood, so there’s no need for stain.

This is pretty much the most fool-proof method for refinishing a wood top that I’ve found.  No need to worry about your stain not taking evenly, or your poly topcoat looking streaky.  Anyone can wax.

And it doesn’t matter if your piece is solid wood or a wood veneer, this technique works beautifully for both.

Solid oak:

Burled walnut veneer:

Step 1:  Strip off the old varnish using Citristrip (or your stripper of choice).  Clean the piece well and sand it smooth using 220 grit sandpaper.

Step 2:  Apply the wax using a brush or a lint free cloth.  Remove any excess wax using a clean cloth.

Step 3:  Wait 10 or 15 minutes and then buff to bring out some shine.  If you prefer a more matte or rustic look, you can do very little buffing or even skip it altogether.

Are you wondering which wax product to use?  Here are my favorite dark waxes …

As you can see, they are all very well loved.  They are also all non-stinky and safe for indoor use (to read more about wax safety, be sure to check out this post).

All of the various wax brands that I use have dark and/or brown versions and they are all just slightly different in color.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to show you some options so you can compare.

First up, Miss Mustard Seed Antiquing Wax.

MMS Antiquing Wax is the color of dark chocolate.  I’m not a fan of eating dark chocolate (give me milk chocolate or white chocolate every time), but I love this wax.  It’s very creamy, has almost no smell, and it works beautifully.

Fusion also sells wax under their brand name.  Keep in mind that Fusion and Miss Mustard Seed are both from Homestead House Paint Company, so their waxes come from the same wax manufacturer.  As does the Homestead House brand wax.  It’s all museum quality, safe for you and the environment, non-smelly and I think it’s the creamiest wax out there.  It’s a bit softer than some of the others which makes it much easier to apply.

I’ve included the Cece Caldwell Aging Cream in my line up today because that was one of the first dark waxes I used over stripped wood.  I don’t tend to use it anymore mainly because the local shop where I used to buy it went out of business.  It has a bit more of a reddish tone than the others, so if you’re looking for that color this wax is a great choice for you.  Here it is on a dresser top …

I’ve only recently started using the Dixie Belle Best Dang Wax.  Their Brown wax is perfect for finishing bare wood tops.

It is just a bit harder (more firm, less soft and creamy) than the others.  So it takes a little more elbow grease to apply.  However, I think I’m also less prone to wasting product because I don’t accidentally get too much on my brush.  I also think it buffs up to more of a shine than the others.  I have a feeling that there is a relationship between how soft/hard the wax is and how much shine you can get out of it, but that might just be my own perception.

  One caveat regarding wax, it should be reapplied periodically to maintain the finish.  The good news is that wax is super easy to refresh, simply clean the surface and then apply more wax.  If you get a water ring or a scratch or two, just spot sand lightly, clean and re-wax.  It couldn’t be easier.

Personally I would not choose to use wax on a surface that is going to get a lot of wear, be exposed to a lot of moisture or require regular scrubbing such as kitchen cabinets or a bathroom vanity.  For those surfaces I would opt for something more durable like a poly finish or Fusion paint (which is very durable and washable once cured, even without a top coat).  However, I think wax is quite durable enough for a dresser or desk top.  I even have a wax finish on my dining table that has held up very well (although we do use coasters for sweaty glasses).

So if you haven’t already tried refinishing some pretty wood with wax, give it a go next time.  I’ll add a link for this post to my ‘how to‘ page so you can always find it for future reference.

And in the meantime, be sure to check back on Wednesday to learn about more choices in toppings!


In the past I know that I have been able to continue painting in my unheated carriage house workshop well into October.  Usually October is one of my favorite months weather-wise; cooler, but not too cold.  Perfect for painting outside.

But for the last two weekends in a row we haven’t made it out of the low 50’s.

Despite the temps, I had some pieces out in my workshop that I really needed to get painted.  Since I planned to use Dixie Belle paint on them I reached out to my contact there to find out if it was OK to use their paint in the cold.  The official answer is yes, you can apply the paint outside if the temps are in the 50’s.  However, it will take longer to dry.

And of course, I’d have to pile on the fleece to be comfortable myself too.  Plus keep in mind that Dixie Belle paint should not be allowed to freeze.  Freezing and thawing again may affect the integrity of the paint.

So in the long run, even though I could have painted in my workshop, I opted to move my painting operations back indoors.  Luckily Dixie Belle paint is non-toxic and has zero VOC’s, so I’m perfectly comfortable with using it indoors with the windows closed to keep out the cold.

Since low temps below freezing are predicted for this coming weekend, I realized it was time to move all of my painting supplies back inside the house too.  This seems like a good opportunity to remind everyone of some cold weather painting tips for the three types of paint that I use most.

Milk paint is probably the most cold weather hearty paint that I use.  I’m referring to authentic milk paint that comes as a powder that you then mix with water when you’re ready to use it (Miss Mustard Seed, Homestead House, The Real Milk Paint Co and Sweet Pickins are all true milk paints).  General Finishes Milk Paint is not a true milk paint, but an acrylic paint, FYI.

Although I can’t find any definitive information about it online, I’m sure I could get away with leaving the milk paint powder packets out in the workshop in temps below freezing as long as I warmed it back up a bit before mixing it with water.  I wouldn’t choose to store it out there all winter of course, but if I forgot it out there for a few freezing nights I’m betting it would be fine.

Once mixed milk paint only has a shelf life of a few days.  Plus it is recommended that you store it in the fridge overnight if you aren’t going to use it right away.  So leaving mixed milk paint in a chilly workshop would be OK, but don’t allow it to freeze at that point.

Also, it’s OK to paint with mixed milk paint outside all the way down to freezing.  Just keep in mind that it will take longer to dry and you’ll freeze your butt off while doing it.

Fusion Mineral Paint is freeze/thaw stable.  It has been formulated to withstand freezing and then thawing up to three times without affecting the integrity of the paint.  So if you forget to bring your paint inside when the weather turns, you have three chances to get it inside before it starts to feel the effect.

Well, that makes sense eh?  Fusion is a Canadian company and they know cold.

Also, much like the Dixie Belle and milk paint, you can apply the paint in temps down into the 50’s but it will take longer to dry.

As for safety, all three of these paints are perfectly safe to use indoors with the windows closed.  Each one has zero VOC’s, and all three have very little odor.  Since I typically spend nearly six months out of 12 painting inside (more like seven this year apparently) this is an important quality to me.

This is a good time to remind you guys that not all waxes are created equal when it comes to safety.  If you didn’t see my previous post about that, you can find it {here}.  Please stay safe, especially when working indoors with little ventilation!

And if you’re wondering what I did get done last weekend, I finished up five pieces all painted with Dixie Belle’s Caviar.  I’ll be sharing them with you next week, so be sure to stay tuned!


how to polish your copper.

After I brought home the pretty little copper watering can from the Roseville garage sales, I decided that I should try polishing it up.

I’m not usually a polish-er.  I prefer my silver tarnished rather than freshly polished, for example.  But I wanted to see what this piece would look like all spruced up.

So I googled how to polish copper and discovered that you can just use a lemon and some coarse salt, no need to use harsh chemicals.

And you don’t specifically need Kosher salt, but it’s what I happened to have on hand at the moment.

The process is simple.  Cut your lemon in half, dredge the cut side in the salt and then use it to scrub the copper.

It took a little elbow grease, but not much.  As an added bonus the lemon smells fantastic, and your hands get a bit of spa treatment at the same time.

I found it a little hard to get into tight crevices, and it didn’t turn out perfect, but not bad for just using a lemon and some salt.

Since I had a watering can, and my gardens are looking quite fab at the moment, it seemed like I should take some photos in the garden.  Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that we don’t have a repeat of last year’s hail storm that shredded all of my hostas.

‘Cuz right now they are looking pretty fine.

On the bright side, that means none of the damage from last year was permanent.  But they never really did ever look good again last season.

Knock on wood.

Now go find some copper, lemons and salt and get polishing!


the ‘how to’ page.

Off and on this past winter I’ve been working on a new page for my blog, the ‘how to’ page.

I thought it would be convenient to have one spot where readers can more easily find posts on specific products or techniques.

Over the years I’ve shared lots of tutorial posts, but there wasn’t a convenient way to go back and find them.

Now you can just go to my ‘how to’ page and simply click on a photo collage (like the one above) and a link will take you directly to a post with all of the details about that product or technique.

Take a look at the page and let me know what you think.  If you have any requests for a specific how-to, leave me a comment and I’ll try to add it in the future!

lighten up already.

You’ve probably heard the terms ‘cerused’, ‘lime waxed’, ‘pickled’ or ‘white washed’.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered what the difference is between them.

Well, I did some slapdash online research and today I’m here to clear that up for you.

First of all, all of these treatments are designed to lighten up the look of a wood surface without covering up the grain.  They just achieve that in different ways.

How to ceruse or lime wax wood.

Let’s start with ‘cerused’ or ‘lime waxed’.  These two are basically the same thing.  According to  Back in the 1500’s, the French invented a technique of filling in the grains in oak beams and paneling with a toxic paste derived from lead. This was initially done to help prevent rot in oak beams. … Today that stylish finish is still called limed oak in Europe and here in the US we call it cerused wood or cerused oak.

Oak is the best wood for a cerused or lime waxed look because it has an open grain that gives the best effect, however you can use this treatment on other woods like pine or maple.  You just won’t see quite as much definition in the grain.

Instead of using a toxic paste derived from lead (ewwwww), I recommend using a much more environmentally friendly white wax such as the Miss Mustard Seed or Homestead House white wax (same thing, different labels).  I know there are other manufacturers of white wax out there (if you have a favorite, feel free to share that info in a comment), but be sure to pay attention to the ingredients of your wax before using it indoors or without gloves.  To read more about the safety of wax products check out this post.  I like that fact that the Miss Mustard Seed and Homestead House waxes don’t contain any aromatic hydrocarbons (cancer causing particles that are present in some other brands of wax).

To prep your surface for lime waxing first strip off any existing finish.  I like to use Citristrip for this, but if you’re a sander instead of a stripper you can go that route too.  If you use a chemical stripper be sure to neutralize the surface with some vinegar water afterwards and then rinse with clear water.  Either way, you want to be sure to completely remove any previous finish.

The next step is to raise the grain of your wood.  The recommended technique is to use something called a bronze brush to brush the wood in the direction of the grain.  You may be wondering, why not just your basic steel brush?  That’s because steel particles that might be left behind can cause oxidization in your wood which will show up as black streaks over time (read this article for more detail).  By the way, did you know that the same is true of using steel wool on wood furniture?  I have a feeling that someone probably used either a steel brush or steel wool on a dresser I worked on a few months ago.

I don’t happen to own a bronze brush though, and I don’t want to invest in one just for lime waxing.  So I read somewhere that you can scrub your wood with a green 3M scotch pad and a little water to get a similar effect.  Also, this step is optional.  The purpose of raising the grain is to give the wax more spots to get stuck in, ie. to emphasis the grain more.  If that’s not a big deal to you, you can just skip this step.

Next work the wax into your wood.  You can use a wax brush or a cloth for this.  Start with a circular motion to get the wax worked into the wood.  Follow up with a clean cloth moving with the grain to remove any excess wax, switching to a clean section of cloth as it becomes clogged with wax.

And that’s it.  Pretty simple, right?  It’s kind of hard to go wrong with this technique.  Since the wax is a protective top coat in itself, you avoid the extra step of having to add a topcoat.

You can mix white wax with clear wax if you want less white.  You can add a second coat of white wax if you want more white.

I used the Homestead House white wax on the top of this table.


How to white wash or pickle wood.

White washing or pickling gives a similar look but is done with either watered down white paint or a commercially made white wash or pickling stain.  According to my research, white washing and pickling are very similar treatments but not exactly the same thing.  When a piece is white washed, the stain or paint is applied with the grain and is best suited for woods like pine.  When a piece is pickled, the stain or paint is applied against the grain and this treatment is best suited for oak.  Personally I think that’s a rather fine distinction and that most people use these two terms interchangeably.

The prep process for white washing or pickling is the same as for lime waxing, and once again you can choose to raise the grain or not.

For the next step you can either use a white washing or pickling stain, or watered down white paint.  If you plan to use watered down paint, I recommend preparing your solution and testing it on a spare piece of wood first.  Actually, wait a minute, I recommend testing the stain first too now that I think about it.  The ratio of paint to water is going to depend somewhat on how opaque you want it to look so a little experimenting before you start your project will really pay off.  You can use any kind of water based paint for this technique, I like to use chalk paint.

Next liberally apply the stain or watered down paint to your piece with a brush allowing a minute or two for it to soak in, then use a rag to wipe away the excess.  You’ll go through a lot of rags, so be sure to have them on hand and ready to go.  I used heavy duty paper towels when I white washed my cedar dining room table.

As you can see, white washing tones down the orange color of the cedar but still allows the characteristics of the wood to show (the knots and grain).

Once your paint or stain is fully dry, sand your piece with a fine grit sandpaper.  Finally with this method you’ll also need to add your protective top coat of choice.  I used Miss Mustard Seed’s clear furniture wax on my table.

You can read more detail on the white washing process I used on my dining room table here.

I hoped you’ve learned a thing or two about white washing v. lime waxing today.  Check back later on Wednesday when I’ll share a piece where I used both techniques together.  Sort of.  In the meantime, be sure to pin this post for future reference!


milk paint magic.

Hey everybody!  Thanks so much for joining me this week for milk paint madness.  It has been fun sharing lots of info about milk paint with you.  I hope that all of you learned at least one or two new things.  Before I continue I want to take a moment to thank you guys for all of your comments, as well as your continued support of my blog.  I really do appreciate every one of you!

For today’s post I want to take everything we’ve learned over the last week and put it all into practice on piece of furniture.  So let’s get started.

My friend Meggan or, as I now call her, the thrift doctor (I’m trying to convince her to start writing her own column here on my blog called ‘ask the doctor’ with thrifting tips, what do you think?), texted me a few weeks ago letting me know that there was a fabulous desk at the local Goodwill with a bargain price tag.  Luckily Mr. Q was available to dash over there and pick it up for me because I know it would have gone fast.

It doesn’t have a lot of frills, but I like the legs and the drawer pulls are really lovely.  It also was in fairly good shape.

I really didn’t love the orange-y color of this piece though.  I didn’t even want that color to show through in the chippy spots.  So I decided to layer some colors on it using bonding agent in the first color so that it wouldn’t chip down to the wood.

I could also have used a base layer of chalk paint or Fusion acrylic paint, but in this case I had a particular color in mind, Homestead House milk paint in Maritime.  A very pretty blue.  So I mixed my paint first using one part water to one part powder.  Once that was well mixed, I added another one part Miss Mustard Seed bonding agent and stirred it in.

Next I moved on to the prep work.  As I mentioned yesterday, good prep is key to controlling the chipping you might get with milk paint.  But in this case I was using bonding agent in my first layer of paint so I could slack off a little.  Still, I sanded the piece briefly by hand and wiped it down with a damp cloth.

Then I brushed on just one coat of the Maritime milk paint with the bonding agent added.  Now, if I was a really good blogger I would have taken a photo at that point to share with you now.  But no, I didn’t (although that photo of the brush above is taken on top of the desk with its coat of Maritime).  I can tell you that the paint did not chip at all and it had just a little bit more sheen than milk paint normally does.  Similar to the slight sheen of Fusion acrylic paint.

A couple of days went by before I got to the next step in my project, which gave the Maritime plenty of time to dry.  Next, my plan was to use the Homestead House Salad Bowl Finish (or beeswax finish) to encourage a controlled amount of chipping and paint over it with The Real Milk Paint Co’s Soft White milk paint.  So I mixed up the white milk paint, again using equal parts water and powder, and left that to sit while I used my finger to smear some beeswax finish along the edges of the desk.

After painting one coat of the Soft White, you can see the areas where the beeswax is resisting the paint.    The areas without beeswax are not chipping at all.  This also gives you a good feel for the coverage of the Soft White over a darker color.  Pretty good for one coat I think.

I added a second coat of Soft White and left it to dry.

My initial plan was to leave the desk white, but you know what?  I didn’t like it.  I felt there was too great a  contrast between the white and the blue.  It looked splotchy instead of perfectly chippy.  Sorry, again no photo of that step!

One thing that I have learned over the years is to follow my instincts when it comes to these moments.  If my gut is telling me that I don’t like it, I switch gears instead of trying to make it work as is.

So I decided to mix a custom color of milk paint that was about halfway between the lighter Soft White and the darker Maritime.  I pulled out three almost empty bags of milk paint, Miss Mustard Seed’s Shutter Grey and Eulalie’s Sky and Homestead House’s Upper Canada Green and started mixing.

I ended up with this pretty smoky blue with just a tiny hint of green.

I added just one coat of this color over the white.  Once dry I started sanding the edges and discovered the most perfect chipping.

For me, this is the magic of milk paint.

I know you can get a similar look layering chalk paint or even Fusion paint, but I think milk paint always looks the most authentic.

As you can see, I did end up with a little of the wood showing after all, but those are spots where I sanded through the layer of Maritime, not spots where the paint chipped due to the application of the beeswax.

After sanding the entire piece lightly with some 220 grit sandpaper to get it nice and smooth, I added a topcoat of The Real Milk Paint Co’s Dead Flat finishing cream.  Since this is a desk there is the potential it will get a fair amount of use, so I wanted a little more protection than just wax.

By the way, I spruced up the drawer pulls a bit by adding some of Prima Marketing’s Metallique wax in Vintage Gold.

To learn more about that product check out this post.

In the end I love how the desk turned out.  I think I’m going to do more multi-layered pieces using milk paint.  It really adds some authentic age to the piece to see multiple layers of color as though it has been painted several times through the years.

This brings us to today’s giveaway, and guess what?  I have two prizes for today!

The first prize includes:  five colors of milk paint, a Homestead House Espresso wax, a Miss Mustard Seed white wax and a brush.  Thank you to Homestead House, Miss Mustard Seed and The Real Milk Paint Co for providing the items for this giveaway.  Approx. value:  $135.

And I also have a bonus giveaway today!  A while back I had asked Sausha at Sweet Pickins if she wanted to participate in milk paint madness week by providing some merchandise to giveaway.  She said yes, but then life happened and she didn’t get her stuff shipped right away so I just received it in the nick of time in yesterday’s mail.  So I decided to just give that away as a bonus prize today.

Includes:  my absolute favorite Sweet Pickins color, In A Pickle, Oil Wax, Extra Bond, a sanding block, paint brush and paint mixing whisk.  Thank you to Sweet Pickins for providing these items.  Approx. value:  $55.

The basic rules:  to be eligible to win today’s prize leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favorite milk paint color is.  Your comment must be left on the blog, not on Facebook.  You are not required to follow my blog, although it would be awesome if you did!

I will randomly draw the names of two winners for today’s prizes from all of the comments left on this post by Saturday, April 7, 2018 at the stroke of midnight.  You are eligible to win each day, so if you have left a comment on each day’s post, your name is eligible to be drawn for each prize.

The fine print: no purchase necessary, you must be 18 years of age or older to win, void where prohibited by law, the number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning, if the prize is not claimed by Friday, April 13, another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

I’ll be announcing the names of all six winners from milk paint madness week on Monday, so be sure to check back.

In the meantime, remember to pin today’s post for future reference.

And if you are local and in need of a pretty smoky blue desk, be sure to check my ‘available for local sale’ page for more details on the desk.