How to Make a Pickled or White Wash Finish

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON:
Now this is a new, unfinished pine corner cabinet and rather than paint or stain in a solid color, I want to put a pickled whitewash finish on here. The wood and grain underneath will actually show through a bit. It's easy to do. Here's how.

First, I'll remove the doors and then get ready to do some sanding. This is a quarter sheet of 120-grit sandpaper that I'm folding into thirds. Notice how the sandpaper holds its shape this way and allows me to apply pressure evenly as I move it back and forth in the direction of the wood grain.

The folded pad conforms easily to the rounded edges, yet works equally well on the flat panel faces. To sand the bevels on the edge of the raised panels, I wrap the paper around a piece of scrap wood. This allows me to sand up into the corners and keep a clean angle. For the larger flat surfaces, an orbital or palm sander can speed things up.
[LOUD SANDER SOUNDS].

Now I'm going to be staining this piece and not painting it. And sometimes when you stain a soft wood like this pine, the finish can appear blotchy. Now to avoid that, I'm going to condition the wood beforehand with something called a pre-stain.

This is a water-based product that needs to be stirred thoroughly. I apply the pre-stain with a brush intended for water-based or latex paints. The pre-stain doesn't really change the appearance of the wood, but it will help insure that any stains I put on from here forward, look their very best.

After about a half-hour, the surface is ready for a light sanding with 120-grit paper. This is an important step because the pre-stain, like any water-based material, tends to raise and stiffen the grain, which the sandpaper will cut off cleanly.

This is a whitewash pickling stain, designed to impart color to the wood but not obscure the grain and character. It produces a less formal country appearance, but at the same time looks sophisticated.

I apply the pickling stain with a brush, then using a piece of cotton cloth folded into a pad, I wipe the surface, always moving in the direction of the grain. The greater the pressure I apply, the more of the stain I remove and the more of the wood below shows through.
[MUSIC]
Whitewashing harkens back to the days of Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer. It's an easy finish to apply and can be very effective when it comes to blending varying background wood colors. Plus, it's a good bit of fun.

Now this is the top coat that I'm going to use on this project. It's a clear, water-based polycrylic. It looks milky now, but it will dry clear. I've chosen this for a couple of reasons. First of all, the pickling stain that we put on here is water-based and so is the top coat, so they're in the same family.

And also, this polycrylic will not yellow over time, and that's important when I'm putting it on top of a light finish like this. I want it to stay clear and not yellow. This is a brush made especially for water-based or latex paint. Very good quality, which is important in putting down a clear finish.

See how nicely these bristles are tapered right here at the ends? And they're well fastened into this metal ferrel so that they won't come out and deposit themselves in the new finish.

I'm going to pour the polycrylic into a clean, one-quart container to make it easier to load the brush. I'll apply the coating with long, smooth strokes, following the direction of the grain wherever I can.

On larger surfaces like this top, I almost always finish with long, overlapping strokes, a process painters call striking off. Now I've put these blocks into the cabinet, so that when I get down here to apply the finish to the bottom, it won't run off and stick to the paper underneath.

The first coat needs about 4 hours to dry. Then I give the surface a final sanding with 220-grit paper. This sticky tack cloth is ideal for removing the powdery residue left by the sanding. Now it's time for the second and in this case, final coat of polycrylic.
[MUSIC]
After everything dries thoroughly, I reinstall the doors and take the cabinet inside.

Using Minwax Whitewash Pickling Stain

In this project, Ron is finishing a brand new pine cabinet with a Minwax product called a pickling stain. The final product is a flash back to the styles of the Mark Twain era, and creates a clean, country look that fits will in the decor of many homes.

Prepare the Cabinet
Step 1

Prepare the Cabinet

Begin by removing the doors of the cabinet. Sand all of the surfaces using a quarter of a sheet of 120 grit sandpaper that has been folded into thirds. The result is a sanding pad that is the perfect size to fit in the palm of your hand. Make sure that you always move in the direction of the wood grain. You may also find it helpful to wrap the sandpaper around a block of wood. This will give you a sharper edge to work into bevels and corners that may be harder to reach with your hand. For large flat surfaces, an orbital or palm sander can also be a big time saver.

Condition the Wood
Step 2

Condition the Wood

Soft woods, such as the pine in this cabinet, can sometimes appear blotchy when stained. To prevent this, the wood needs to be conditioned. Ron is using a pre-stain conditioner from Minwax on this cabinet. Apply the conditioner with a clean brush designed for latex paints and then let it sit for 30 minutes. Follow up with a light sanding pass using the 120 grit paper again. The conditioner will raise the grain of the wood, and the sand paper will ensure that you have a smooth surface to apply the stain to.

Apply the Whitewash Pickling Stain
Step 3

Apply the Whitewash Pickling Stain

Apply the stain with the same clean brush designed for latex products that you used to apply the conditioner, making sure that it is well cleaned before you begin. The stain should be applied with long, smooth strokes in the same direction. Once the stain is applied, wipe it away with a soft cotton cloth that you've folded into a pad. Always move with the wood grain. The more pressure you apply to the pad, the more the wood grain will show through the stain on the final product.

Choose the Right Products for the Top Coat
Step 4

Choose the Right Products for the Top Coat

Use a clear, water based polycrylic top coat. Ron is using Minwax for this project. Make sure you use a high quality brush, such as a Purdy, that is designed for latex or water based products, so that stray bristles don't get left behind in your top coat.

Apply the Top Coat
Step 5

Apply the Top Coat

In the same way that you applied the stain and the conditioner, apply the water based top coat using long smooth strokes. Finish each surface with overlapping continuous strokes in a process called "striking off." When finishing around the bottom of the cabinet, put it up on small block or shims so that the polycrylic doesn't stick the furniture to the surface of the bench or floor where you are working.

Final Top Coat
Step 6

Final Top Coat

After allowing the first coat to dry for about 4 hours, lightly sand the cabinet one last time with 220 grit sand paper. Use a tack cloth to wipe away any excess reside left behind by the sand paper, and then apply the second and final coat to the cabinet.