Antiquing and Distressing Techniques: Dents & Dings

In the first post of this series, I described ways of making worm holes to create an aged look for lumber. Here I offer tips for “banging up” a piece to give it that well-loved appearance.


I like a length of chain and a light-duty hammer. You don’t need a thick-gauge chain, but something with some heft and a bit of length to help with a “whip” action. The light-duty hammer keeps you from completely smashing the lumber. I wear leather gloves, especially with the chain.


Take a few practice swings with both the chain and hammer on some scrap wood (of similar species used in your project) to get a feel for how much force it takes to create the look you want. Make sure you have plenty of room to take these swings – you certainly don’t want to damage anything but your intended target. Once you’re happy with the look, then give your project a few whacks.

Try not to keep all the “character” localized to one area, but do create a few concentrated spots of dents and dings. You want a well-worn look, but not an intentional destruction zone.

You can highlight the dents much like the method I described for worm holes, by adding a slightly darker color. However, use a light touch – too dark a color will make it look artificial.

Scrape or Wipe Glue? It Depends…

I used to be a wiper – all the time. When I had glue squeeze out, I’d grab a wet paper towel and wipe it off. I’ve always been a minimalist when it comes to glue, trying to apply just enough. I also don’t  over tighten my clamps so I don’t have to worry about starving the joint of glue.

But honestly, I’ve grown tired of having to go through the additional steps of scraping and checking, and re-checking for any glue spots on a joint (I apply acetone when in doubt – you should try it) on projects I plan to stain. I always liked to think I was careful enough to not drag the glue across the wood when wiping, and therefore helping it embed in the grain, but…

So now, unless I’m painting a project, I don’t touch the glue until it has set up a bit. I can’t honestly tell you the magic time for this, but you don’t want the glue to harden for a day or you’ll have a heck of a time getting the glue off.

Most of the time I use a 1/4-inch chisel to knock off the smaller beads of glue. Larger beads warrant a wider chisel, a paint scraper that I’ve sharpened the edge, or a card scraper. Be careful when scraping that you don’t gouge the wood or you’ll add even more work to your project.

Published in: on January 9, 2012 at 7:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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