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How to Apply Limed Oak Finish

Updated April 07, 2017

Liming oak is an old fashioned way to achieve an effect more commonly called "pickled oak." Both terms describe the application of whitewash to raw oak. Usually, most of the whitewash is wiped away so that what remains is in the open pores of the wood's grain. When the technique was invented in Victorian England, whitewash was made of lime, so the wood was described as limed and the limed wood was then covered with a clear finish, usually wax. The caustic lime protected the oak from insects and worms. Today, other white pigments are used and they are often contained in preparations called "wood dyes" and "liming wax."

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  1. Scrub a bare, unfinished oak or ash surface using gentle, circular motions with a bronze wire liming brush. Liming works best on open grain woods like oak. Wipe the surface with a tack cloth.

  2. Wet the surface with a clean, wet, cotton cloth, and while the surface is still wet, apply white or pastel water-based wood dye with a second cotton cloth using circular motions. Wipe away any excess dye.

  3. Allow the surface to completely dry, usually overnight.

  4. Work a coat of liming wax into the wood surface with extra fine steel wool. Immediately remove most of the excess wax with a clean, cotton cloth. Wait five minutes for the liming wax to set.

  5. Remove any excess white from the wood surface using clear furniture wax and a cotton cloth. Wait four hours to apply a second coat of clear wax. Polish normally.

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Things You'll Need

  • Bronze wire liming brush
  • Tack cloth
  • Clean cotton cloth
  • White or pastel water based wood dye
  • Liming wax
  • Extra fine steel wool
  • Clear furniture wax

About the Author

Don Davis has been a professional writer since 1977. He has had numerous writing jobs, including writing news and features for the "Metrowest Daily News" and "Los Angeles Herald-Examiner." Davis has a Bachelor of Arts in English and history from Indiana State University.

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