Monday, August 19, 2013

wet sanding tutorial: how to get the ultimate chippy finish

Do you all think there is a difference between a distressed finish and a chippy finish? 

I've been debating this in my head (first world problem, I know) for a few weeks now, and I think there is.

To me, distressing is done more around the edges or on the high spots of a piece and a chippy finish is a little less controlled and much heavier. 

Personally, I prefer a chippy finish most of the time, but because it is less controlled and usually requires more sanding/distressing, the chance of damaging the wood is greater. 

That's why I love wet sanding. 

It can help protect the wood from getting scratched and damaged while achieving a great chippy finish.

So are you ready for a sweet tutorial with some awesome I-phone photos?!

Only the best for you guys. ;)

A few "disclaimers" before we get started.

1. I have only used this technique on Milk and Chalk Paints. I'm not sure how it would work on a latex or oil based paint. 

2. Milk and Chalk Paint can be unpredictable to work with, so rarely are 2 pieces completely alike.

3. The water you'll use can damage the finish (mostly leave water marks) but I promise those are much easier to fix then scratches in the wood. 

OK disclaimers done, let's go!

Step one: Check the current condition of the finish on your piece and fix as necessary.

The original condition was medium on the high boy. 

It had some discoloration and sticky residue (yuck) so I gave the parts with the sticky residue a good cleaning with a magic eraser and then busted out my secret weapon.

I am so in love (platonic love of course) with this stuff. 

Simply chose the right shade of Restore-a-Finish and follow the instructions on the bottle.

1. Pour some Restore-a-Finish onto a lint free cloth (like an old T-shirt), NOT directly onto the wood, and wipe in the direction of the wood grain.

2. Apply an even coat and then wipe away the excess (also in the direction of the wood grain) till the surface is dry.  

Below, the picture on the left is before I used the Restore a Finish and the picture on the right is after.

See the difference?

Since a chippy finish can leave a lot of wood showing, you want to make sure that wood is beautiful and has all the luster it originally had. So I know it might seems a little silly to do this step at the beginning, especially when you are going to be applying water to it later on; but I really believe adding one extra step and making sure it gets done right, then getting to the end and not being happy with the final result. 

Step 2: Paint your piece

As mentioned above, I have always used either Milk or Chalk Paint for wet sanding.

You can find a list of brands HERE, HERE and HERE.

I always use a Purdy All Paint Type brush.

They are a little more expensive, but they don't leave little hairs behind or too many brush strokes. 

When I know I want a chippy finish, I always paint most of the piece.

I don't stress about getting 100% complete coverage since I'll be taking a lot of it off, BUT I want the option of taking paint off from any were I want so I do a heavier coat then just dry brushing.

Make sense? 

Step 3: Start distressing

Since the distressing is (obviously) the most important and involved part of this tutorial I'm going to break this step down into several parts.

Step 3 part 1: 
Put the drawers back in.

The reason I do this is so that I can see how all the distressing and chipping is coming together as a COMPLETE piece. 

Step 3 part 2:

Wipe on some water one area at a time.

The moister from the water helps loosen the paint so that it flakes and rubs off easier; which means less muscle and hard core sanding, reducing the chance of scratching the wood. 

I just use a slightly damp paper towel for this.


You want it to be wet enough to leave moister behind, but not wet enough to have water dripping down the surface of your piece.

I find it best to work in small areas (like one drawer at a time) so that I don't need to keep applying moister to the same areas over and over.

step 3 part 3:

Start distressing the damp area.

I always use a fine grit sanding sponge (like THESE) not sand paper. 

The reason I prefer a sanding sponge is because it gives me the ability to apply even pressure while sanding, reducing the chance for scratching the wood. 

Plus, like it says in the product name, it's more sponge like, so it works really well with wet sanding.

Since Milk and Chalk based paints can chip and flake on their own, I start by running my sponge length wise with the wood grain to remove any paint that might be flaking off. 

This helps me see where the distressing/chipping is happening naturally and from there I can chose where I want to distress more heavily or to let it be. 

You may need to add more moisture as you distress to help areas where the paint is not coming off to loosen and chip away.*

step 3 part 4:

Once I am done distressing, or want to see how it it coming along, I wipe the drawer (section) down with a lint free cloth (like a t-shirt) to remove dust and extra moisture.

If I'm satisfied with how the drawer or section looks I move on. If I'm not satisfied, I wipe it down again with a damp paper towel again and keep distressing, repeating till I get the look I want. 

*if you start to notice white marks on the wood from the water DON'T WORRY. It's easy to fix and we'll talk about it in the next step.

Step 4: Remove water marks and seal your piece

Remember how the first step was to use Howard's Restore-a-Finish?

Well it's also the last step.

If the condition of your piece was good to begin with, then you didn't need to apply the Restore-a-Finish till now.

Chances are the the water you used to loosen the paint also did a little water damage to the exposed wood.

Restore-a-Finish is amazing because it will restore the condition of the wood and seal it, all in one step.

Simply follow the instructions on the bottle.

1. Make sure your surface is completely dry from the water you applied. Some water spots will fade as they dry, but if you apply the Restore-a-Finish while they are damp, they will get sealed in.

2. Pour some Restore-a-Finish onto a lint free cloth (like an old T-shirt), NOT directly onto the wood, and wipe in the direction of the wood grain.

3. Apply an even coat and then wipe away the excess (also in the direction of the wood grain) till the surface is dry.

That really is it!

As the instructions say, do not apply a poly-coat or wax coat to seal it.

Now step back and enjoy the chippy-ness. :)

To see the full post on this piece, click HERE.

This is in no way a sponsored post. All opinions on products are my honest opinion. 

Pin It


  1. Great Tutorial
    Thank you.
    I'm going to go buy some of the products you used
    I have the perfect old dresser to try this on
    Awesome, thank you, Cheryl

  2. I've never tried wet sanding. Thanks for the tutorial, I will definitely have to give it a try.

  3. Thank you so much! It's a lovely piece. I can definitely see the difference between the two techniques.

  4. I love the beautiful aged look you achieved Julia! I have never tried wet sanding. Thanks for sharing all the details!

  5. I am SO with you about chippy vs. distressed. This is a great technique and I'm going to go for it on a few pieces. I'm scheming right now.

    I can share about paints other than chalk. By accident, actually. I am stripping 15 antique doors and like chalk paint, every darn door has different-behaving paint. One peeled off in sheets, another coat (of Citristrip) took all the varnish AND stain out of that wood. Back to bare. Gorgeous.

    One door had some oil painty stuff under the top coat, which liquified into milk and ran off.

    The most interestig is this last door, which took the top layer off like wrinkled bacon, but the between the wrinkled-off stuff and above the varnish & stain refuses to let go. So letting it soften overnight with a thick Citristrip coat, I took a heavy scraper to it. With the grain of course. What was left behind is PER.FECT.LY chippy. Some bare wood, some paint, and some in between. I have these 4 doors standing out in the yard right now, getting some "natural" chippiness and graying of the exposed wood. Yeah!

    Something I think you might mention, is to let your piece dry before a final coat of Howard. Yeah Howard! Sometimes the white water stains just dry on their own. You don't want to seal them in. Howard absorbs better on dry wood, too, don't you think?

    I am so excited about this tutorial. Thank you for clarifying my own love and "eh" of different finishes!

    1. Yes you are 100% right about letting it dry before applying the Restore-a-Finish! I thought I had made that clear in the post, but I hadn't really. Thank you so much for pointing that out! I corrected/clarified it. :)

    2. Hey, I'm so sorry I went on and on. I've just been so happy with how easy these doors are, and how great they look! You should have seen the looks I got (that crazy lady again) when I said I was gonna strip 15. Shame I'm gonna antique most. I've got 4 standing up in the yard to let nature do the rest.

      I love your piece. I hope it works out for you.

  6. I love using baby wipes and kitchen scrubby pad sponges for wet distressing! The wipes hold enough moisture themselves and the ones I use (Up and Up from Target) have some texture. Sometimes they leave little fibers though if you have to rub too hard or if the paint has rough edges. The scrub sponges are awesome to work with because you can wet them, ring them out and go to work. The moisture allows you to pretty much wipe off the paint (ASCP)with just a little pressure with the scrubby pad.

  7. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I have a piece i am getting ready to work on with MMS Milk Paint and will be trying your technique.


  8. That looks great!

  9. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free.

  10. This is a very nice kind of information that help us. This can be helpful to so many peoples who has the water damage problems in their house.
    Click here

  11. There’s certainly a lot to find out about this topic. I like
    all the points you’ve made.

  12. Great post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector do not realize this. You should continue your writing. I am sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!

  13. But he's trying none the less 야한소설 . I've been using Movable-type on a variety of websites for about a year and am nervous about switching to another platform. I have heard good things about . Is there a way I can import all my word press posts into it? Any help would be really appreciated!

  14. Hello there and thank you for your information 대딸방– I've definitely picked up anything new from right here. I did however expertise a few technical points using this website, since I experienced to reload the site a lot of times previous to I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK?

  15. What a nice post! I'm so happy to read this. 토토사이트

  16. This web site is genuinely nice and the people are Wow, great blog article.

  17. I am awed by the information that you have on this blog. It exhibits how well you appreciate this subject. 먹튀검증

  18. best work you have done, keep it up. Thank you!!

  19. Thank you very much for this excellent information.!!! I really appreciated.

  20. There are also articles on these topics on my blog and

  21. Please visit my site for more complete articles with him!

  22. The information you supplied is very helpful to us. The Chinese Battery Pouch: Triple Energy Capacity of Tesla Battery. Chinese Battery Pouch has emerged as a groundbreaking innovation that promises to revolutionize the electric vehicle industry.

  23. Thank you all for your unwavering dedication and for making a difference in the lives of others. Fijian travelers! Dreaming of India? India Visa for Fiji Citizens, you can apply for an e-Visa online. Whether for tourism, business, or medical purposes, the process is hassle-free. Just ensure your passport has six months' validity and a recent photo. Get ready to explore the captivating charm of India!

  24. Wonderful, I am feeling very happy after reading this post. If you're from Honduras and eyeing an India visa for online work, the digital process is your ticket. India Visa for Honduras Citizens. Complete the form, slap on the docs, and handle the fee. Wait a bit for processing. Once a nod's given, you're good to tackle digital tasks in India. Solid prep paves your smooth online visa path.

  25. Unbelievable! I'm genuinely astonished by your articles. I'll make it a priority to locate more articles of this nature. Thank you once more for consistently sharing such valuable content; it's of immense benefit. I am a traveler and recently I traveled to Cameroon. I would like to share my experience like-Indian Visas For Canadians Suspended . Everything is so simple I got my visa online.

  26. This is truly fantastic, an incredibly valuable article. I wholeheartedly commend your dedication, and I eagerly await your forthcoming publications. Once again, my sincere gratitude. I am a traveler and recently I traveled to Saudi Arabia. I would like to share my experience like-Umrah Visa Fees for Travelers to Saudi Arabia . Everything is so simple I got my visa online.


I really appreciate all of your thoughts and comments! They bring a smile to my face!