How to distress an oak table

Updated February 21, 2017

Is there an old oak table lying around your home lacking in personality? Sometimes, showing your age (when it comes to furniture) may not be a bad thing. Follow these tips for distressing your oak table--and transforming it into a table you can show off.

Be prepared to sand off all the finish on the table until nothing is left but bare wood. Hand sanding allows for imperfections in level, which would contribute to the distressed look. Some hand sanding tools that would be useful for sanding wood are a palm sander with wire wool or wet-strength papers. Make sure you purchase the best quality tools so they last longer.

Creating the right texture for a distressed table is quite a stress reliever. How? Get some chain and do some whacking on the table to give it some wear n' tear while letting go of any aggression. You can also create areas of "worm holes" by stabbing it with an ice pick repeatedly about 10 to 20 times in an area the size of an inch. Keep your distressing random--you don't want to over do it!

Using a foam roller, roll on two coats of primer.

Sand down the areas that would naturally have some bumps and bruises such as the corners or where you normally put your dinnerware. This will create a more distressed look to the whole piece.

Rub on a wood stain and quickly wipe it off.

*Hint: Do small sections at a time because the stain doesn't come off after a few minutes.

Continue this process until you are happy with the color. Some areas you can leave more blotchy, others you'll want to wipe off more so that it shows areas of being worn and used.


Always wear a dust mask while sanding.

Things You'll Need

  • Oak table
  • Chain
  • Palm sander
  • Dust mask
  • Ice pick
  • Primer
  • Foam roller
  • Wood stain
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