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Glazes, Stains, and Waxes

Giving your project an artistic finish often requires using a glaze, stain, or wax that has a color to it. What is the difference between glazes, stains, and waxes? How do you decide which you should use for your piece? What does each one do? There are many factors to be considered and depending on the look you are trying to achieve, figuring out the right one is important for the perfect finish.

Waxes are easy to use and don’t require a lot technical skill. The most popular use for wax is antiquing wax that has a dark color and once buffed on the surface, can give the finish an aged effect. There are liming waxes that can give a whitewashed look as well, that highlights the wood grain and details. There are decor waxes that come in all kinds of pigmented colors, often metallic sheens and are perfect for decorative finishes. I often use the redesign with prima or art alchemy waxes for my carnival glass finishes or other colorful effects. There is clear wax which is used to seal chalk paint. The technique for applying antiquing and liming wax is best with a natural bristle brush to spread the wax on the surface and using a cloth to buff it smooth. For decor waxes, I often use my fingertips or a small artist brush because I am accenting small details and not the whole surface area. Waxes are easy to use for any skill level and the most popular go to for artistic finishes. I love using them with stencils because there is not bleed through and it so easy to apply.

Glazes are highly pigmented liquid solutions with a lot less binder or no binder at all and are usually layered between coats of finish. They are usually semi-transparent. Glaze, like wax rests on top of the painted surface, while a stain penetrates the surface like a dye. Glazes can be applied like paint, unlike wax because it is in liquid form. You can use a brush, sponge or wipe it on with a cloth. Glazes come in all kinds of colors that you can imagine and are used for decorative finishes. You can use glazes for antiquing with a dark colored glaze in black or brown. You can also use colorful glazes to give you more depth and dimension on the surface and to highlight details. Most glazes must be sealed as they have no binder. There are some glazes that do not need to be sealed, for example, I make glazes mixing mica powder and water-based polyurethane so it’s essentially a topcoat already. I love Modern Master’s platinum series glazing creams because they are easy to use and are slow drying so you have more workable time to blend it on the surface. They come in a large array of colors. Some people find glazes easier to use than wax because of the viscosity of glazes, which makes it easier to apply on the surface, however, some find that attribute makes them more difficult to apply.

Stains are like thinned out paint. Sometimes a dye will be added and these are sometimes called a dye stain. Stains penetrate the surface unlike waxes and glazes. Stains contain a binder, usually a thin oil-based product.   Stains always have to be stirred while in use because they contain solid pigments that settle to the bottom of the can after a short time. Usually, some type of topcoat is applied on top of the stain to lock in the color and to allow for multiple coats of stain without lifting previous coats of stain. Stain cannot be wiped off like glaze so there is less room for error. Once applied it is on permanently. They can go on darker than glazes so keep that in mind. Stains are perfect for unpainted wood because they penetrate the surface and will give it an even color. Glazes will make it splotchy and uneven as it rests on top and does not penetrate the porous wood. Stains must be top coated as they have no hardening agent and will not protect the surface. Gel stains are thicker versions of stain. Oil based stains penetrate wood the most as opposed to water based stains. You can thin gel stain with a bit of mineral spirits to make them easier to apply and less dark. Use a foam brush or brush to apply and wipe with a rag afterwards. Stains can give you a lovely antique look just like a glaze or wax but the working time is less than it is for glaze or wax.

How do you decide which is for you? Based on what I have mentioned about the characteristics of each, one may suit your needs more. For me, it’s more about what I have on hand and is available at the moment. You can make any of them work for you but the technique will be slightly different for each as well as the effect you get. Glazes have more variety in colors with the exception of decor waxes. I usually decide based on what color I need for a project. If you are wanting an antique effect, wax or glaze is probably the easiest to use but you can certainly use the stain you have on hand too to get the same look. Wax is buffed unlike glazes or stains. You can play around with wax more but a glaze with a topcoat afterwards is more durable. Decor waxes from redesign with prima dry permanently but like any wax, can be scraped off as it lies on the surface. The advantage of glaze is that you can seal it immediately after it dries with a topcoat. Wax needs to cure before you can topcoat it which can take 30 days or more. The decor waxes need 24-48 hours to cure before applying a topcoat. Play around with each and see which works best for you. Depending on your budget, the availability of the product, and what you already have, you’ll be able to make the right decision for you.

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Creating Replicas of Hardware with Hot Glue Moulds

What do you do when you have furniture missing some of the hardware or details? For my latest project, I have a serpentine dresser that is not in the best shape, to say the least. It has gorgeous brass hardware I have not seen the likes of before and finding exact replacements for the missing pieces is a daunting task.

It features knob backplates and detailed escutcheons. Luckily, none of the knobs and pulls are missing but the escutcheons have only one pair of each kind as well as the backplates. I love the original hardware, so for this project, I opted to recreate replicas of the missing pieces. It takes a bit of creativity but it’s not as difficult as you might think to create some convincing copies.

There are many options when it comes to making your own moulds. You can purchase mould kits that have clay or silicone material with which you can use to create a mould. I decided to go with a less fancy option and use my hot glue gun to create a usable mould. You must use a large hot glue gun and not one of the smaller versions, as the hot glue will set too quickly due to the diameter of the hot glue coming out and make for an imperfect mould that’s lumpy.

I plugged in my hot glue gun and as it was heating, I spray the original escutcheon and back plates with some WD-40. This will help me pop out the pieces from the hot glue once it has set, more easily. If you don’t have WD-40, any type of slick lubricant will work like oil, vaseline, butter, etc.

Set the piece you want to make a mould of on a flat surface with the details facing up. I then cover the pieces with hot glue generously as it lays on the surface so that the surface of the piece is entirely covered and the edges have a generous covering of hot glue as well. I did this over parchment paper for easy clean up later.

Allow the hot glue to set and cool for at least 15 minutes. It will get more cloudy as it cools. Once it has hardened, pop out your pieces gently. The lubricant should make it easy to do so. There you have it, easy peasy moulds from which you can cast replicas with from the material of your choosing. You can use paper clay, modeling material, wood putty, bondo, or resin. I chose Amazing Casting resin for this because I like how it sets in 10 minutes and the details come out clean and crisp with no cracking or shrinking plus it’s durable.

I spray the inside of my homemade moulds with some WD-40. Use whatever lubricant you have handy. I measure and mix my resin. Resin comes in two parts and you measure equal parts of each solution together before you cast. I mix with a popsicle stick in a plastic cup. You can feel the resin heat up the longer you mix so work quickly. I pour enough resin within the mould so that it is even with the rim of the mould and scrape off any excess from the back. Allow the resin to set. Amazing Casting resin turns white as it sets.

I popped out the resin moulding after the material has set. You can just lightly touch the surface to see how much it has hardened. I tear off the excess bits from the moulding for a clean, detailed look. My original brass hardware is gold so I had to spray my moulding with some Rust-Oleum metallic spray in gold to match the original color of the hardware. I added a bit of redesign with prima’s decor wax in eternal for the perfect shade of gold after the spray had dried.

Once my replicas have dried completely and hardened, they are ready to be applied onto my dresser. I’m so happy that I went with the original hardware for this very special piece. Can you spot the “fakes.”

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Smoky Mercury Glass Mirror Effect

I’ve had a lot of interest as to how I turned an old window into a decorative mirror. I’ll try to be as detailed as possible so that those of you reading this can recreate this project for your own home. It would be stunning on a mantle or just hung on a wall. The image I used is a redesign with prima transfer.

When my hubby brought this antique window home for me, I was surprised by its size. After contemplating how I could re-purpose it, I recalled that I had a prima transfer that would fit perfectly within it and I knew immediately that I had to create a smoky, mercury glass “mirror.” This particular transfer is called “Dans La Vie.” It’s 27″ x 36″

Antique window
Where caulking is missing.

First step: the window. Old, antique or vintage windows often have the interior trim or caulking falling off. This is what holds the glass in the frame so, if it continues to fall off, your glass will have nothing to hold it in place and that can be a disaster. I had to peel off the old caulking and re-caulk.

After it has dried for a day I used Rust-oleum’s mirror effect spray on the side opposite of where I want it to be a mirror; basically what will be the back of my mirror. Spray it a foot away from the surface, sweeping back and forth with your arm to coat evenly. Lie the window flat on the ground to prevent any dripping. I would advise wearing a mask while you spray. Once you’ve covered the surface evenly let it dry. It should only take 30 minutes at the most.

Rustoleum Mirror Effect Spray

If you want an aged, antique mirror effect, which I did, spray some Windex while the mirror effect coating is still wet, erratically on the surface. The areas where the windex spots will be where you have the black little speckles you see on antique mirrors. After it is dry, I sprayed black paint over the silver surface of the mirror effect spray on the back. This will block out light from showing through the mirror from the back. For a fun colorful effect, try other colors.

Next, I painted the frame. I painted it in vintage duck egg first. I then applied a paint crackling solution over it once it is dry. I allowed it to dry for 30 minutes and then I painted it in dropcloth which is a shade of white. When it crackles you see the blue come through and it makes an interesting pattern. I distressed lightly by sanding to make the blue pop through a bit more. 

Now that the mirror has been created, I apply the transfer. Prima transfers come in sections so that it’s easier to apply. You can also create your own design by piecing it together how you prefer. I opted to stay true to the original design. I put all of the three parts onto the mirror surface the way I wanted and then taped them down so that they won’t shift when I peel off the white backing on the transfer that keeps it from adhering onto another surface.

It’s important to peel the white backing off slowly because once the transfer touches the surface it’s pretty much stuck on there. A stick comes with each transfer and you use it to smooth the transfer so there are no wrinkles or air bubbles. I like to smooth it especially on the edges with my fingertips. If some of the design is still stuck on the clear part, just carefully stick it back in place and press on it until it rubs off and sticks.

This is why taping it down is so important, it will ensure that the transfer doesn’t accidentally adhere crooked while you are rubbing. I like using a brayer over the transfer once it is on the new surface to get rid of any air bubbles or wrinkling without damaging the transfer. See my transfer blog post for more detailed instructions.

Matte Spray and Varathane Poly Spray

Now that the transfer has been applied, you have finished the most difficult part. Last comes the smoky, frosted mirror effect on the front. I used a matte, clear spray and sprayed it on the front surface, concentrating more on the areas I want less reflective. You can also wipe it off with Windex in areas and spray again for varying tones of frost.

I spray on a clear polyurethane after the matte spray so that the transfer is further protected from scratches as it can tear. This is optional and you don’t have to add the spray on poly to achieve the frosted effect though it does enhance it. There are also specialty frosted effect sprays you can use as well. I had the matte spray on hand and it worked for me on this project.

You can now clean the mirror if you need to and not worry about the transfer peeling or the frosted effect coming off. Whew. That was a lot of instruction but that’s all there is to it. I added some D rings and attached a wire on the back so that it can be hung easily. I love up-cycling old windows with transfers. It’s an easy way to create wall decor you can personalize for your home.

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Art Deco Jewelry Armoire

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” 
― Vincent Van Gogh

Inspiration comes in all forms, shapes, sizes, and ways. When I saw this jewelry armoire, I immediately thought art deco. I don’t know why or what prompted me to think of an era epitomizing glitz, glam, decadence, luxury, and modern innovation. It was like a bolt of lightning struck me and I was electrified with an art deco stream of consciousness. Sometimes it takes time for me to figure out what to do with a piece. I stare at it for hours hoping to draw inspiration from its history, shape, or wait for the glimpse of a mirage that will tell me what I hope to see. Not with this piece. There was no doubt which direction I would take and my first step was drawing a storyboard to guide me in design. Art deco is a vast ocean with artistic influence drawn from many cultures like China, Japan, India, ancient Egypt, and Maya. It does not fear color. It is the mother of maximalism and eclectic design.

Art Deco Storyboard

The panels on the doors of the jewelry armoire prompted me to search for a design that is long and narrow so when I came across a picture of Gaston Gerard’s stained glass art called “Roses,” I knew that I had to recreate it to be the central element of my piece. I wanted to add a faux marbling background because art deco incorporates luxurious materials in architecture. I decided a pink faux marble would be perfect as a foil for my peacocks and a gingko leaves artwork. I had to incorporate some asian influence on my piece. The art deco fan stencil was an obvious choice to make my piece a true ode to art deco style.

I began with the doors and sketched the peacock design before hand painting with chalk paints and other diy paints.

Peacock door panels

The sides and legs of the jewelry armoire I decided to paint a teal with green tones. I mixed Jolie paint in Deep Lagoon and French Quarter Green to create my own custom color. I used redesign with prima’s decor wax in eternal for the stenciling on the sides. I love the decor wax because it has a rich sheen that is difficult to create using metallic paints. There is a richness that only the wax can impart.

On the flip top of the jewelry armoire I painted the faux marbling with a sponging technique and added a gingko leaves design with a metallic paint pen. I filled in the leaves with the gold decor wax.

Lastly, I sealed the doors and top with epoxy resin. I wanted the surfaces to have a high glossy sheen to really enhance the faux marbling and give the “stained glass” door panels a polished look. The resin is messy to work with but not difficult. The most important step is making sure you measure it in equal parts accurately and mix thoroughly. I had to stir for 15 minutes in order to make sure my resin would harden correctly. I taped off the edges of the surfaces so that when the resin makes droplets on the bottom I can just peel off the tape later for a clean surface.

The inside I restored with some Howard’s Restor-A- Finish in mahogany. I then added redesign with prima’s gilded gold transfers on the drawer fronts for extra elegance. I can’t describe the feeling I have when I see a piece completed. All the individual parts of the design coming together like a jigsaw puzzle finally revealing the whole image. It’s a kind of euphoria that happens every time and leaves me a bit breathless. All the anticipation and planning have come together to reveal a creation I don’t feel the impact of until it’s complete. I do feel like an explorer coming upon an unexpected thing of beauty. If I could capture this essence and bottle it, I would. I would keep it with me always and forever, instead I just hope to relive it each and every time I create something new. To have something that began as a nascent whisper become an actual entity that I can touch and feel, is an ephemeral joy I can’t get enough of.

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Raised Stencils on Furniture

Raised stencils are the perfect 3D designs for creating dimension and depth on a surface. They are one of my favorite techniques to use when I want to make a surface more interesting. I love creating interesting textures to contrast with different finishes. There are many ways to go about creating raised stencils and a wide array of products you can use as well.

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All About Moulds and Applying Them to Furniture and Decor

If you love ornate furniture pieces like I do, and finding them is difficult or near impossible in your area, the next best thing is to create your own raised details for a piece with your own custom design. It immediately adds beauty onto an otherwise plain piece. There are many kinds of moulds available out there. I always recommend purchasing ones made out of silicone or rubber material as they are easiest to use and durable.

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How to Use and Apply Transfers

If you’re familiar with my work already, you will have noticed that I use a lot of transfers from redesign with prima. I have the great honor of being one of their brand ambassadors so I get to play with their vast array of transfer designs regularly. Transfers are images that you can rub onto another surface so it transfers the image from one surface to another.

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Floral Flamboyance Dresser

I’m calling this one my Floral Flamboyance Dresser. She was quite a challenge for me, to say the least because I drew so many blanks during the process of creating her. Inspiration doesn’t immediately come to me with every piece and with some pieces I have to grit my teeth and just persevere without knowing how it will look in the end.

It’s like a jig-saw as I fit the elements piece by piece and only know the full picture when I am done. This is a dresser I repainted because it never sold. It was originally white with some gold accents. I was going for a modern and luxe look at the time but it has stopped giving me joy now so I decided to give her another makeover.

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My Passion for Transformation

Here I am, creating my very first blog post on my own website and I can’t express how monumental this is for me.

I first began painting furniture in order to furnish my daughter’s nursery. As new parents on a single income, our budget for furniture was scarce, to say the least. I did what many people do who can’t afford new furniture in stores; scoured Craigslist and marketplace for used items.

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