How to Make New Wooden Chests Look Old & Antique

Written by genae valecia hinesman Google
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Pin
  • Email
How to Make New Wooden Chests Look Old & Antique
Distressing a wooden chest makes it look like an antique. (antique chest image by Inger Anne Hulbækdal from

The modern term for the technique of making new items, particularly wooden furniture, appear older and more antique is "distressing." Methods of distressing became more popular with the so-called shabby-chic decorating movement of the late 1990s. For today's homeowners, the reasons for distressing newer furniture may range from simply finding the style appealing to needing an item to appear less out of place among other prized antiques and heirlooms. Regardless of the reason for antiquing your wooden chests and other similar furniture, being able to distress convincingly is surprisingly easy.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 180-grit sandpaper
  • Orbital sander
  • Safety pin
  • Belt or length of string or rope
  • Car keys or padlock
  • Wood stain
  • Clean cloths

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Examine the wooden chest carefully. Mentally envision and take note of the normal use and mishaps it would undergo over a period of decades. Your goal is to approximate as closely as possible an appearance of this kind of wear and tear.

  2. 2

    Rub sandpaper along the edges and the corners of the chest, rounding them a bit. Move in one direction lightly in the beginning, choosing a few sections here and there to abrade more strongly. Remember that not all of the areas on wooden chests will become worn in a uniform manner. Follow with using the orbital sander to gently abrade select areas on flat surfaces (and areas prone to repeated friction/contact). This is to smooth the grain of the wood unevenly and wear down the finish in several different areas at once.

  3. 3

    Open a safety pin and carefully create small holes randomly along the grain of the wood. Concentrate on the base and sides of the chest, but include a few on the top and front of the unit. This simulates the natural pattern of worm holes that appear in many antique wooden chests over time. If the chest has metal embellishments or a lock, use the safety pin to scratch lines into the finish of the metal.

  4. 4

    Attach a ring of heavy keys or a padlock securely to a belt or a thick string or rope. Stand back from the chest and beat the chest randomly over the surface, creating dents and imperfections in the wood. If possible, lift the chest onto its side and aim also at the areas around the base of the chest. This will resemble the effect of years of accidental kicking, scraping, and bumping (or careless vacuuming) against the lower portion of the chest.

  5. 5

    Apply a wood stain. For medium and darker coloured wood, professional interior designers recommend mixing red, brown, black and yellow stain lightly and unevenly over the wood. Let the colours sit for three to five minutes, wipe off slightly along the grain and finish with a clear stain that blends the tones together. For lighter and painted wood, use a brownish stain that is one or two shades darker than the base colour, wipe after a few minutes, and finish with a clear stain. The stain will further emphasise the distressing that was done, allowing the aged areas to appear darker and more worn.

Don't Miss

  • All types
  • Articles
  • Slideshows
  • Videos
  • Most relevant
  • Most popular
  • Most recent

No articles available

No slideshows available

No videos available

By using the site, you consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie policy.