Antiqued Walnut Cabinets – Papilio Cabinet Maker Secrets Revealed

At Papilio we operate a no holds barred approach to design and as such we sometimes ask a huge amount from our cabinet makers. Our recent project the Cotswolds Manor House Kitchen has been one such occasion when skills have been put to the ultimate test.

The material palette for the cabinetry in this project consists of solid wood and laminated veneer. In particular a large floor to ceiling fridge freezer cabinet and kitchen island comprised of a stunning American black walnut, which in true form we requested to be ‘hand aged’ or ‘antiqued’.

Antiquing a piece of furniture is such an interesting process that we would like to outline in detail how this is done. Therefore, we asked our seasoned Antique furniture restorer/French polisher and spray finishing specialist Paul to give an insight into the meticulous process a completed piece of cabinetry undertakes to achieve this finish.

‘The process requires you to observe the piece and picture the sort of usage and wear you might expect had it been around for some time. There is a great skill in getting this right. I have experience in antique furniture going right back to my youth. As such I have picked up a skill in knowing where to add distress relative to how the particular piece is used.

For example, the table frame was distressed more thoroughly than the cabinet housing the fridge as it would have had more direct use over the years. The cabinet bearing more wear around the handles and drawer fronts than the top or sides, again in line with the functionality of the piece.

To achieve the look, specific areas are effectively beaten with varying levels of force using all manner of implements; old rocks, chains, hammers anything really that will speed up and emulate the type of marks and knocks relative to centuries of wear.

During the next stage we apply a dark spirit-based stain covering the whole surface in one heavy coat maintaining visibility of the grain. The stain, as well as covering the surface, seeps into the indentations allowing the markings to be highlighted during the next process.

Once dry the piece is strategically sanded removing the stain in places you would get more wear. For example, corners would require less work than mid sections and around handles. If it’s a turned piece, then the indents would naturally be darker with the outer or top most surfaces showing more wear. We refer to this as “shading”

The piece then has 2 applications of pu (polyurethane) clear sanding sealer, dried and sanded between each coat and finally finished with 2 appliction of clear pu satin lacquer. Historically these pieces would have been French polished, but with advances in spraying technology and the quality of today’s lacquer, which is a two pack system that is mixed with a hardener, a sprayed finish is much harder wearing, whilst maintaining a natural look that will provide a higher level of heat and water resistance, perfect for the kitchen’

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