One of the more popular custom antique faux’ finishes we do on our iron beds is the “Distressed Crackle” finish. It came about as a result of the response I continually got from my customers that would see old beds I’d get in, that had 150 to 200 years of paint that had crackle and partially fallen off. It seemed to be a universally popular look and one I eventually had people asking if I could replicate on ones that didn’t originally have that look.
The process is, as you might expect, a rather involved timely one. There are a number of steps to the process which I’ll outline for you: All paints are to be water base……no oil base.
First: Be sure and have your bed clean of any rust or existing paint. This can only be achieved by sandblasting. Sandblasting will literally take off all the old paint and rust. It will not harm the iron at all. The great thing about sandblasting is that it gets all the layers of paint that have built up inside the detailed castings out. So the definition of the casting is much greater. Sandblasting also gives the cleanest and best possible surface to start a new finish. Do not chemically strip your bed. This will result in a surface that won’t hold the primer as well. Chemical stripping also results in future rust from the inside out.
Second: Equally as important as the first step is the primer. Be sure it’s a strong metal primer. A good industrial primer is very important because of the next few steps. When applying a primer, be sure and let it dry thoroughly. Black primer is the best color if you’re going to try and achieve the love in this photo. Two coats won’t hurt.
Third: There are a couple of ways you can go with this step depending on the final look you want your bed to have. If you want to see a dark color inside the crackles, you can simply leave the primer as that color coming through the cracks. But if you want a much lighter look, then you’re going to want to apply a coat of white or whatever color you want showing through in the cracks.
Fourth: Here is the step that gives your iron beds the crackle effect you want it to have. It is accomplished by brushing on a layer of glue. That’s right glue! The best is LePages Glue. You’ll recognize it from your grade school days and the projects your teacher had you doing with construction paper. It’s a Carmel color. You can either apply the glue full strength or slightly watered down. The difference will be in the size “crackling” you get. Full strength, generously applied will give you large crackles…….whereas watered down glue will make application easier and give you small more delicate crackling. Apply and let dry completely.
Fifth: About now your bed looks like anything but what you’re hoping for….. hang in there. We’re coming to the good parts. You now need to select the primary color you want to have as the “top coat”. This color will be the most predominant . Although we usually use an “off white”, it can be whatever color you’d like. Application of this layer should be in smooth even strokes. Do not try and go over with multiple strokes or you’ll end up getting a lumpy effect. In a very short time after applying this coat, and be sure it’s complete coverage, you’ll start seeing the crackles come to life. This coating, as all the others, should dry completely before the next.
Sixth: This step is only necessary if you want to alter the crackled effect that is now showing. In other words, if you’d like to have more of the top coat pulled off, you can do this by using a damp rag and rubbing it around the tubing. This will take off the top coat and expose more of the primer or colored layer you applied on top of the primer. If you’re happy with the way it looked…..this step is not necessary. At this point you can also add some of the top coat color if for some reason you feel there’s too much of the primer or bottom layer showing through. Cover up whatever crackles you’re not happy with. Once again…….allow to completely dry.
Seventh: To give an aged antique look you’re now going to apply an acrylic called “Raw Umber”. Application of this can be with a damp rag that has been thoroughly rung out. Apply some of the acrylic on the rag and then rub it all across the finish and into the cracks. This step is going to take some experimenting to get right. Done properly, it will give you an authentic old look. The nice thing about this step is that it’s very forgiving and can easily be adjusted with a damp rag. If you’ve possibly left too much of the raw umber acrylic on the surface…….it can easily be wiped off until you achieve the look you want.
If you’d like to really mimic some of the older rusted crackle finishes, you’re going to need to experiment with some more acrylics in the umber family….you’ve already done the Raw Umber, now try very subtly blotching and rubbing in Burnt Umber. Not 100% coverage. But only in selected areas for true rusted effect. The application, which you’ll just have to experiment with, is what will eventually give you a very realistic old rusted look.
If at any time you’re applying the finish and want to remove something you’re not happy with…….use Acetone on a rag. It removes just about everything……..so be careful.
Eighth: Once you’ve achieved the overall look you want, you’re now going to need to “seal” the finish. This is a simple process. Get two or three cans of Clear Krylon Spray. It comes in either Glossy , Semi-Gloss, or Mat. All three will give you a different “finished” look. This step is necessary to adhere all the colors and layers, especially the acrylics.
If you follow these steps, you should be able to give your antique iron bed, the antique finish it deserves and will look best with.
I hope you’ve found this blog informative . I invite you to revisit my website
to answer any and all questions you might have about antique iron beds.
I also invite you to take a look at our company Face Book page for multiple photo albums on Custom Finishes, Canopy Conversions and a comprehensive “Before & After” King Conversions album.