Liming a red oak door

      The proper procedure for attaining a subtle white finish. November 29, 2000

We have a job that requires "liming". I have looked at the sample from the customer and have tried to reproduce it with no success. Does anyone know the proper procedure?

Forum Responses
Liming is similar to whitewashing. Both involve the use of white, off-white or pastel stains and/or glazes. This is usually done on an open pore wood like oak, as opposed to a closed pore wood like maple.

I prefer to distinguish between a limed piece and a whitewashed piece by noting that a limed piece has a washcoat or sealer coat applied prior to applying the white, off-white, or pastel stain or glaze (glazes are not put directly on wood anyway, they are sandwiched between layers of finish or sealer). So let's say that, using my definition of liming, the limed wood has a more subtle coloring than the whitewashed wood.

You could also alter the look by shooting on a translucent white, off-white, or pastel toner over that. Then you topcoat as usual.

See Jeff Jewitt's book "Complete Wood Finishing" to get some ideas how this can be done. You may need to adapt some of the material, techniques, and tools used in the book to your own finishing.

From the original questioner:
The sample has been sent back to the customer. Let me describe what we are doing. This a red oak door with oak veneer end panels. The job is distressed, stained then limed. The sample had the white lime filling the distressed areas flush with the wood. There was some white in the soft grain, but just a hint. However, at the details (copes, inside corners, ect.) there were concentrations of white that was proud of the wood surface and felt chalky to the touch. You could actually scratch this stuff off.

Now normally we run from this stuff and don't do it. But I opened my mouth and said no problem. Any more help would be appreciated.

White automotive polishing compound might work for the white effect you describe. I've redone ranch oak furniture of 40-50 years ago that was done this way. Compound was the last step. Doing it is easy. Just wipe it on; let it haze over; wipe it off to suit your taste.

After you described what you are matching I am almost sure that the original has stained finish underneath, then was sealed, sanded, and glazed with a white or off white glaze, then topcoated, then an application of dusty wax. It is difficult to give proper instructions of color matching without actually seeing the color. I am also assuming that the finish has an antique appearance to it.

You are destined to fail using these types of processes. They don't have a high level of repeatability.

I have used two methods to achieve a look similar to what you need. After staining and finishing the wood with whatever clear coat you use, try applying white primer designed to bond to glossy surfaces and rag off, leaving residue on the surface to match your sample. If the customer wouldn't mind having a clear finish over the "liming" you could apply a brushable waterborne finish with a little white paint mixed in after first staining, sealing, and sanding the wood. When brushed, this application will leave thicker, whiter finish in corners and depressions highlighting them and leave a cloudy wash over the whole surface. Another clear coat can be applied over that to protect it.

I hope this helps you, but every situation is different, so keep experimenting and you'll find something to work.

Like I said before it is difficult to give advice on a color without actually seeing it. The process I mentioned above could be gone into with a great deal of information and step by step processes. As far as repeatability I have run similar processes in production with great success. All too often people tend to discard methods due to a lack in finishing skills. I could be wrong here but if you run a finish room and consistently hold color within range on higher end furniture than you wouldn't have any doubt in your finishing skills.

I read everything twice that is posted and will add my "two cents worth". Sounds like the limeing is done with a filler as it filled the distressed areas. You talk about a matching white type of glaze that is on the surface also. This is called a "buff off glaze." The picture frame industry uses it a lot. I have seen it done with both waterborne types and solvent types. You fog this stuff on and it wipes off fairly easily after it is dry, in a powder dust. There are different types, some are made to come off easy and some don't. Many European coating companies have these products as do the OEM suppliers. You will need to ask for it.

From the original questioner:
The method we have settled on is to stain, top coat, sand, apply a white glaze (Sherwin Willaims S66W12). Let this flash for 1 hour then wipe off. Then final coat.

Also to avoid this type of job in the future.

Bob, regarding the buff-off glaze that you mentioned, M. L. Campbell has added something just like that to their product line.

Century Furniture, the manufacturer out of Hickory, NC uses something a little different. They use a greyish or an off-white powder that they apply on top of all the finish coats. It is available in a petroleum-based vehicle. It is not put on under the finish coats. Century calls this stuff a "French Wax". As far as I know, there is no wax at all in it. I do not know their supplier for this material. They being a large manufacturer can have this stuff custom blended.

Speaking of custom blending, outside of anies and people who use OEM finishes, I do not think that it is widely understood what is meant by this acronym and how this applies to the furniture finishing world. "OEM" stands for "original equipment manufacture". What it means in the world of finishing is that factories and cabinet shops which use enough materials to finish have their stains, coatings, and other materials custom-blended to suit their needs and their environments. Products marketed as readily-available or off-the-shelf are blended to meet the average needs of that buying public. For the manufacturer or large cabinet shop, it is like having your own personal tailor and your own personal cook.

If you do it just exactly as you described you should not have any trouble. We have done a lot the way you described and using that same product. It's actually quite fun and gets a very interesting finish. Gets a little messy in the wipedown.

Remember, you don't want a perfect job as destressing and glazing is not intended to be perfect. That was the hardest part for us to overcome. Once we came to the realization that we weren't looking for perfection it became easy. Carry on.

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