Tips on a Ceruse Finish

Using a pigmented grain filler to accent the pores of finished wood (particularly Oak) is called "cerusing." Here are tips on succeeding with it. September 18, 2012

There's a technique (French I think) where you stain the wood, then apply white paint and wipe it off. The paint fills the pores giving an aged look. I can't remember what this process is called. I saw it on a show and wanted to learn more about it.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor Y:
That is called or referred to as "Ceruse" and it can be done with white pigments in oil or other clear bases, or you can also use white interior latex paint. You can also tint your pore filler paste with white to achieve the look also. If desired you can add other colors to the white medium and produce almost any tint of color desired. Or you can just use individual colors all together and forego the original look, it is up to you. These methods can also be used with plaster of Paris and titanium dioxide and/or other colors but it dries quickly and you need to apply fast and remove quickly.

The wood needs to be intricately prepared in the sense of both flat and uniform as to sanding. Once that is almost achieved, just before your final sand (which should be with 320 grit or finer), you need to wire brush out the pores so that they are perfectly clean and will properly accept the filler of choice. I use a soft wire brass brush for this purpose and also compressed air from my air compressor and a fine nozzle air gun.

Then after final sanding you can either dye stain or pigment stain the wood and seal the wood in with one good coat of sealer. I prefer a sanding sealer because after the ceruse is applied and dry I want to sand the rest of the surface to rid any trace pigment colors to insure the filler will just show up or be in the pores only. After that it is just a matter of building the clear coats to any desired level you need or want.

From contributor J:
A good cost-effective way to create pigmented water stains is to use off the shelf match pots (uk term) you find in decorating/paint supply shops and dilute them 1/2 and 1/2 with water, a great money saver, and standardized colors for a lot less cost than equivalent water pigment stains. Obviously make sure they are water based of course.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:

There are a couple discussions in the Knowledge Base about cerused oak. Make sure to use solid wood with large pores. Open the pores before dying or staining the wood (brass brush). Adjust how much you thin the seal coat (wash coat) you use over the base color. If it's too thick, you won't get enough of the glazing color in the pores. If it's too thin, the glazing color won't be limited to the pores and it will look hazy.

If you use a thin finish on the stained wood, you can use a colored wax (e.g., liming or cerusing wax) in place of the glaze to get the second, contrasting color. The benefit of the wax is that it's removable or you can change the color at a later date Do some good size samples on scraps or the backs of pieces to work out the technique that gives you the best results.

From contributor K:
I've been doing this using a breakaway glaze. We are an all WB shop and Renner has one available. If you’re a solvent shop you can get them from most of the big suppliers. Just spray on and scuff off.

From contributor W:
I would do the finishing steps as follows:

1. Wire brush to open the grain and pores.

2. Apply stain to make even color.

3. Apply a sealer coat or was coat.

4. Apply the latex paint or liming stone, let it dry and sand to let
the latex paint fill in the pores or grain.

5. Apply the top coat.