If you’ve heard of Annie Sloan chalk paint, then you’ve probably heard about their waxes, too. For a protective coat over chalk paint, they recommend using Annie Sloan’s soft waxes. There’s a clear wax, which chalk paint can be added to directly to create a colored wax, and a dark wax, which creates an antiqued, aged look. When I was in Little Rock helping my mom with her kitchen cabinets, we found a little sliver of time to go visit a local boutique that carries Annie Sloan products. I decided to purchase the dark wax, which seemed slightly outrageously priced at almost $30 after tax, but I hadn’t been able to find any other kinds of dark wax.
I still couldn’t bring myself to buy Annie Sloan chalk paint ($35 per quart is insane!), so I planned to try the dark wax with my homemade chalk paint. (It isn’t recommended to use the waxes over regular latex paint because it isn’t porous like chalk paint.)
So for my first experiment with dark wax, I chose this end table. I bought it as part of another purchase from Craigslist. The owners said it was a cheap, poorly made piece of furniture (especially compared to the other pieces they were selling us) and they’d sell it for an additional $5.
Andrew and I didn’t say much and just handed over the cash, but we could tell it wasn’t a bad quality piece, and that in fact it was nicer than the other pieces we were getting. After getting it home, I found this stamp inside the drawer as well as some sale tags. After some quick research, I found out that Sumter Cabinet Co. (previously Korn Industries) produced high quality furniture here in the U.S. up until some time in the 1990s when they were sold and manufacturing was moved overseas. Unfortunately, there was no date on the tag or the piece, but the tag was old enough to know that this piece was produced well before the company was sold and began producing cheaper quality pieces.
I started by brushing it with 2 coats of a mushroom grey chalk paint. I didn’t do any prep work other than cleaning the surface, and to my surprise, it’s actually holding up well. Due to some laziness on my part, though, it did have a good month to cure before I did anything else to it! I mixed my own color for this from a few mess-up paints, so there’s no name for the color. 🙁 You can find full instructions for how I make my chalk paint here.
Then I applied a coat of clear wax over the entire piece. The dark wax will essentially stain the paint instantly if you don’t apply a coat of clear wax first. For some applications, this may be the look you’re going for, but it wasn’t for this project!
I use Minwax Paste Finishing Wax because it’s significantly cheaper than Annie Sloan’s clear wax option. Up until now, I’ve been using cut up t-shirts to apply and buff the wax, but I haven’t been very happy with the results. They deposit some lint and don’t buff the wax to a very glossy finish. Last week, I picked up some cheesecloth from Lowe’s and what a huge difference it makes! No lint, and it buffs it to a really nice shine! It looks so much better and feels really smooth, too. After letting it cure for a full 24 hours, it was time for the dark wax. I have to admit I was pretty nervous. Turns out it was for good reason. The dark wax is not easy to work with!!
I didn’t want to spend nearly $40 on the Annie Sloan wax brush before I even knew if I liked the wax, so I used this brush instead. I know it’s not a natural bristle brush like the wax brushes, but it was the stiffest brush I had.
After reading a lot of tutorials, I decided I would try mixing the clear and dark wax to keep it from being too dark.
First, I dipped the brush in a tiny bit of clear wax. I can definitely see how the Annie Sloan clear wax could come in handy to lighten the dark wax. Minwax has a pretty thick, hard consistency that makes it difficult to get onto a brush, whereas the Annie Sloan waxes have more of a margarine consistency.
Then I coated it lightly with the dark wax and brushed some of the extra onto the cardboard.
Then I brushed it onto the paint. I started by brushing it on in a circular motion and really trying to work it into the paint like a lot of tutorials recommended. I also tried to make sure I didn’t use very much because every tutorial I’d read says a little goes a long way. It does, but I also found that if you use too little, it starts to dry and becomes really sticky. The more you work it into the paint, the thinner it gets, the more it dries out, and the stickier it becomes. 🙁
There are areas that I wish were a little darker, but unlike everything I read, you cannot just add more dark wax. I tried to add some the next day (24 hours later) and it actually removed the dark wax that I’d applied before. Really frustrating, because then how are you ever supposed to add more? Still can’t figure that out. Also, I read that after 24 hours you can apply another coat of clear wax over the top to seal it, but when I tried this in a test area, it started to remove all the dark wax. Maybe the Annie Sloan clear wax wouldn’t remove it? Not sure.
Despite all my frustrations with the whole process, though, it actually did turn out ok. Obviously the door on the left has been waxed and the door on the right has not.
Pretty dramatic difference, but I like it. I didn’t want the hardware to be the same color, though, so I painted it with a creamy butter colored paint. Compared to the dark grey, though, it looked stark white…maybe even neon (if white can be neon).
I think even more important than the color was the fact that the hardware had no dimension compared to the end table. I used a chalk paint which has no sheen, and there was no variation in color. Obviously something had to change, so I used a cheapo 2″ natural bristle brush to work some wax onto the hardware.
Then I used the clear wax to wipe off the excess dark wax.
Making the hardware look aged and antiqued was definitely what it needed, but it still pops off the grey background. Different colored hardware just happens to be my personal preference.
I do love that the dark wax builds up in the crevices and cracks of the paint and hardware, creating a really unique aged look.
I read that Annie Sloan wax doesn’t fully cure for up to 28 days, so maybe then I can reapply a coat of clear wax for added protection. Ideally, I would like to have 2 to 3 coats of wax on the top to protect from water (with this being an end table or night stand I’m sure it will have more than a few wet glasses placed on it sans coaster.)
I think next time I try the dark wax, I’m going to be sure to use more of it, brush it over the entire surface quickly, and rather than trying to stipple it into the paint until there’s no excess, I’ll just wipe off the excess with a rag or cheesecloth.
I’m not convinced about the dark wax yet, but I also haven’t given up hope of figuring it out. The learning curve is just a lot steeper than I had expected! Plus, it’s really hard for a perfectionist like me to accept that the piece isn’t supposed to look completely uniform and perfect.
Now that it’s done, I really do love how this piece turned out. The wax adds so much dimension and creates a very authentic, antiqued finish.
I hate to admit it, but I’m really struggling to think of any other way to achieve this look. Point for you, Annie Sloan.
Check out my 2 other tutorials on dark wax techniques: