What a lame title for this post. I know. Anywho, I had a sweet client contact me on my Facebook page and ask me if there was anyway to get a farmhouse finish on an old oak table. She said her mother in law told her it was impossible. I actually hear this a lot and I am not only here to tell you, but also to show you that YES, you can get a farmhouse finish on oak. When I told my client that it was in fact possible, (actually, I believe I said "well your mother in law don't know about me!" HA! ) she was super excited. She had a round oak pedestal table with claw feet, a leaf and 4 oak chairs. She asked for the table and chairs to be white, with some light distressing and the table top to be stained dark.
I always stain first. Some people do their painting first and that is fine. There actually is no right order to do them. First the existing finish was stripped off using Citristrip. This was heavily painted on and left to do it's thing. This is a messy process but it's much easier than trying to sand off existing finishes and eating up a lot of sandpaper. Once the finish is removed, you will need to sand with a high grit sand paper to smooth out the surface.
I should correct one thing that may be misleading. Oak is absolutely beautiful in it's raw state. It's durable and heavy and the wood grain is gorgeous. What's ugly about oak is an oak finish. Seriously, all that orange....blah. It reminds me of hot wing sauce.
Once it's down to it's raw state, you can use a wood conditioner so you get an even stain if that's the look you're going for. However, since I was going for the worn look of a farmhouse table, I chose not to condition the wood. First I applied General Finishes Java Gel to get the initial dark finish. I always apply my gel stains by hand, using a clean lint free rag. I find that when wiping it on, I get more control over it and it also has a nice rubbed on finish. I did one coat and let it dry for 12 hours. In other words, I watched 4 episodes of This is Us on Hulu and went to bed. I heart that show so much.
The following morning, I went over the Java Gel using a sanding block to smooth it out. Next I applied one coat of General Finishes Antique Walnut Gel Stain. You could just apply another coat of Java Gel or leave it as is with the one coat, it's all a matter of your preference. I added the Antique Walnut to give the top a little more color definition so it would have a more worn look. I let that dry for 12 hours and I started to work on painting the chairs.
When I tell you this next process you will think I'm surely crazy and must love extra work. I am crazy but what looks like extra work is actually in the long run less work when it comes to distressing. My goal was to get rid of that ugly oak finish. Now pay attention because I'm about to drop a little tricky trick that either most furniture refinishers don't know or don't want you to know. To get rid of the oak finish, I painted all the chairs and the table base in General Finishes Black Pepper Chalk Style Paint. I always do this little trick when I am using a stark white paint. There are two reasons for this. 1. To cover that ugly finish obviously. 2. Painting it black first, will mute the white so it's not so bright. It gives it a natural aged look. Perfect for that farmhouse look.
Once I had base coated everything with black, I began to paint my first coat of white. If you've ever painted with white you know you usually have to do numerous coats. Since I had base painted in black this did save me from having to do numerous coats of white to get coverage. My intent was to have some of the black show through to give an aged, worn look. I used General Finishes Antique White Milk Paint over the black.
Remember when I said painting it black first would save me time in the long run? I didn't do any distressing on the chairs. When you hand distress it can take a lot out of you. Allowing that black to peek through the white, gives it a natural distressed look and saved me a ton of work.
The final process was to seal the stain on the table top. I used 3 coats of General Finishes Gel Top Coat. This stuff is so easy to use. You simply wipe it on, level it out and let it dry. It's a durable finish and is pretty much goof proof. Just make sure, like you would with all top coats, to watch for pooling by making sure to wipe it out of cracks and crevices.
I think we proved Mother in Law wrong. :-)
If you are local you can purchase General Finishes products through me. If you aren't local and are interested in their products, you can visit their website www.generalfinishes.com to find a retailer near you.