I know, I know…I’m behind the times. But I gotta be honest, Annie Sloan’s dark wax seemed so difficult to work with the first time I used it that I stuck it back on the shelf. And there it sat for a long time. A really long time. Like 1 year, 9 months, and 21 days long. But who’s counting?
Despite all my struggles with it drying too quickly, getting sticky and streaky, and not being able to mix it with Minwax very well, I actually really liked the end result.
So when it came time to redo my radio cabinet, I knew this was the only way I could achieve the look I wanted. But I was nervous, because I didn’t want the wax to be quite so dramatic this time around and I didn’t want to have a sticky mess on my hands!
Luckily, I had something I didn’t have the first time: Johnson’s Paste finishing wax. It’s clear and has a much softer consistency than Minwax, so it mixes well with AS dark wax. And at about $7, it’s way cheaper than Annie Sloan clear wax.
So after having good results with this technique on my radio cabinet…
I went ahead and did this two drawer night stand with the same paint and a similar technique. Practice makes perfect, right?
1. SANDING & CLEANING
Everyone says you don’t have to sand with chalk paint, but I just can’t help myself! The top was in kind of rough shape, so I sanded it quickly with the orbital, scuff sanded the rest with a fine grit sanding block, and cleaned the whole thing with a TSP substitute.
Remember if the surface doesn’t feel smooth to the touch, the paint is just going to emphasize the flaws! Contrary to popular belief, paint does not hide imperfections! Although, chalk paint and dark wax might transform them from “imperfections” to “character” so it just depends on what style you want.
And, of course, Chaucer had to inspect the new addition to our kitchen and take a quick nap. Fluffy cats and painting projects really do not mix well.
I didn’t want to have exaggerated brush marks on this piece, so I used my current favorite Shur-line synthetic bristle brush and applied two coats of homemade chalk paint. If you want more noticeable brush marks, Wooster makes a great short handled natural bristle brush, or you can simply use the 99 cent chip brushes if you’re ok with the occasional bristle in your paint. Here’s an example of the chalky, pre-waxed surface (not actually of the current project, due to my computer crashing).
3. WAXING & BUFFING
On my radio cabinet, I decided to do a coat of clear wax first just to make sure the dark wax wasn’t too dark. It worked great, but I hate adding an extra step, so I wanted to try the same process of mixing the dark and light wax, but without the first coat of clear. I mixed together some Annie Sloan dark wax and Johnson’s paste finishing wax until they were completely blended.
On my last project I found that a 1:1 ratio was a bit too light for me. I think I settled on at least twice as much dark wax as light. I mixed them together until there were no lumps and then applied it one section at a time using a stiff brush. (I’m too cheap to buy the Annie Sloan wax brush, and so far I feel like I don’t really need it!)
In all the dark wax tutorials I’ve read, people say to work in small sections and in circles. I took this to mean that I couldn’t work on a whole section at at time. I’d spend too long brushing and then buffing one small section and when I tried to layer more dark wax to finish out that side of the piece, it would take the dark wax off. Super frustrating. So on this piece, I was sure to wax an entire section at a time. I started with the top, then worked my way around the sides from left to right.
The first time I around, I also buffed as I went, but I found that unless I wiped the wax off almost right away, it would get really sticky…despite what everyone said about “working it into the paint with the brush.” I do think that’s an option if you want a more dramatic look, but there’s definitely a learning curve with that technique. That I have yet to figure out.
This time, I wiped off the extra wax as I did each section (on my last piece I applied the wax thinly to the whole thing, let it dry for about an hour, and then went back and buffed). Then I went back in the same order and buffed more vigorously with a clean rag to achieve a slight sheen.
I finished it with a quick coat of Rustoleum’s oil rubbed bronze spray paint on the handles. (The little middle decorative piece was glued, so I opted to leave it and paint it with chalk paint.)
I’m really happy with how this piece turned out, too. I was expecting the dark wax to “stain” the piece a little more since I didn’t do the first coat of just clear wax, but the finish really turned out about the same. I’m glad to know this, because if I’m in a hurry, I can leave out that first step!
For a highly used piece, I might still do it for the extra protection, though. Or if I’d known this fluff was going to lay all over it. Nah, he’s harmless!
I especially love how the dark wax picks up these little details and adds so much depth!
I’m relieved that I’ve finally figured out a way to use the dark wax that doesn’t make me uber nervous and that doesn’t take hours to do! I’m guessing my dark wax won’t have to sit on the shelf so much anymore!
And now that I’ve conquered my fear of dark wax, maybe one of these days I’ll break outside my box and use it with something other than gray! Hah, yeah right…