In this method of finishing, three coats of finish are applied to a serviceable but uninteresting piece of furniture to give it a patina of age.
For the first, or base, coat use a semigloss, oil-base enamel in a color that will mask the old finish. Off-white is often the choice. You may have to mix the second coat-a tinted, nearly transparent glaze. Many paint and wallpaper stores carry clear glaze, as do arts and crafts suppliers. But you can make your own by mixing three parts satin varnish with one part turpentine. Color the glaze by adding oil base tinting colors (burnt sienna, for example). The final coat is clear polyurethane satin-finish varnish. Experiment with glazing on scrap wood.
Remove knobs and hardware. Wash the piece with detergent and water, and remove old wax with mineral spirits. Lightly sand the piece with medium sandpaper. Put on the base coat with a coarse brush. Let it dry for 24 hours or more.
Brush on the glaze and let it set for a few minutes until it begins to dull. Then begin wiping the glaze off with cheesecloth, leaving some residue. Wipe with the grain, working out from the center of each flat surface. Leave more glaze on depressions, less on high spots and areas that would naturally become worn with use. To produce different textures, try wiping with steel wool, crumpled paper toweling, burlap, a sponge, or a dry paint brush instead of cheesecloth.
Glaze takes about 6 hours to dry, so don’t rush. Work glaze like finger paints, then let it dry thoroughly. Sand lightly with fine paper, dust with a tack cloth, and apply a coat of clear satin varnish.