So, I know the post title is kinda an oxymoron though it actually does make some sense. You see, there are elements of both ‘actual’ and ‘artificial’ in my experimental process. Anyhoo, read on to see what the heck I’m on about…
With a new baby due in (gulp!) just four weeks time (when did that happen?) Charlotte will soon be vacating the nursery in favour of a ‘big girl’s’ room. For now the nursery will remain un-touched – at least until we discover if this new bundle is a boy or a girl – though over the past few months I’ve been slowly working on Charlotte’s new space. I conceded months ago that it would never be properly finished before the new addition arrived though figured as long as there was a bed and window dressing the rest could happily wait.
I’ll be sure to divulge all the room’s details when I actually get around to deciding on and implementing them (I’m kinda just letting this one evolve) though for now I wanted to share a metal dipped treatment I experimented with on the bed legs.
A while ago I picked up two colonial style single beds from eBay for just $25 each…
Photo from eBay listing.
I know, I know, you’re cringing right now, though never fear…I have a vision…kinda.
So, why two beds? Well, more on that in a future post (it might have something to do with the fact that I can’t leave well enough alone and may, or may not, get slightly crazy ideas).
Anyhoo, whilst I liked the timber tone of the beds they were badly coated with an obviously streaky stain so I decided a distressed painted finish was the best option, though I also wanted to add something a little different…I just wasn’t sure exactly what.
When I began preparing the frames for painting I noticed there were cute little brass caps on the tips of the upright posts (which were previously masked by the colour of the stain).
Seeing them gave me some inspiration so I decided I’d try a faux brass ‘dipped’ effect on the feet!
I know brass is on trend right now though to me it has always been desirable. Done right, it’s classic and timeless and I’ve always loved it and used it in my home. I prefer the deep tones and dirty patination of antique brass over the yellow hues and perfect sheen of polished brass though I guess they both have their place.
The following tutorial merely outlines the experimental process I used to achieve the metallic look I wanted. Depending on the type of brassy finish you’re after, you can tweak the process, omitting or adding steps as needed. To create as realistic as possible an effect, I used a multi-layered approach though there are loads of single application products you can try (including spray paints, waxes and standard liquid paints) if you’re after a quick, easy metallic hit! Without layers I find the results are usually somewhat flatter, though, like I said, it’s all just a matter of personal preference :-)
STEP 1 My starting point; as per the rest of the bed the feet were hand painted and distressed.
Granted, I didn’t need to do this (seeing they would be ‘brassed’ anyway) though given that at painting stage I was still a little uncommitted to my ‘dip experiment’, I did it regardless (so just in case I backed out at least the bed frame would still be consistent).
I used a sample pot in Dulux ‘Irish Moor’ ($8 – which is from the green colour spectrum though presents more like a blue) from Mitre 10. I know sample pot paints are s’pose to be for colour testing only and are not really recommended for actual application purposes, though I find the Dulux ones fine for finishing furniture if you also use a sealer (and, when you only need a reasonably small amount, they are much cheaper than a whole 500ml tin).
STEP 2 I applied a layer of imitation gold leaf.
So, here’s where the post title comes into play…imitation gold leaf sheets are actually a composite of metals made-up predominately of brass. So, my dipped legs are technically ‘authentic’ brass, though the antiqued appearance is definitely ‘faux’. If left unsealed imitation gold leaf will tarnish naturally over time as per real brass (though we’re talking ages and I wanted the look NOW!).
I’d never ‘leafed’ before and at first found it a little challenging, probably because I was impatient and didn’t use the proper adhesive. Lesson learned; don’t use ordinary craft glue because you don’t have leafing size and can’t be bothered getting some, leafing size makes things easier (and better). To apply the leaf follow the manufacturers directions and try to be patient, and remember, if you’re going for an ‘antiqued’ finish it doesn’t need to be entirely perfect – in fact, it’s probably better if it’s not!
Having never used gold leaf before I wasn’t sure how it would look. I was really impressed with the metallic sheen though thought it was a little too gaudy, which is why I decided to persist with some extra layers. If you’re after a bright golden finish (or are patient enough to wait for the leaf to tarnish naturally) you could ignore my additional layering steps and leave your piece as is.
I used Monte Marte Imitation Gold Leaf Sheets ($4 for 25 sheets) and Leafing Size ($3 for 60ml) which I found in the arts and crafts section at a local discount store. You can easily find them online or in most craft stores. I used around three sheets of leaf per bed foot. Don’t be put off by the dull appearance of the leaf through the packet (as I initially was) because there is a layer of semi-transparent paper over it (as I later discovered!).
STEP 3 I applied a sparing amount of metallic wax.
I’m not convinced how necessary this step was though it did seem to tone-down some of the stark straw-ey brightness to a more subtle champagne-bronze (due to some shadowing the colour looks a little deeper in the photo than in real life). To apply the metallic wax follow the manufacturers instructions. The key is to use only a small amount at first then build upon it as necessary to achieve the tone you’re after. Though don’t over do it. You don’t want to deplete the gilded sheen of the leaf. I found that buffing the wax harder in some areas wore away some of the leaf, though in a good, naturally aged kinda way which I think helped with the final patina. If you’re after a slightly muted golden finish you could skip my following step and leave your piece as is.
I used Amaco Rub ‘n Buff in ‘Gold Leaf’ (around $12 for a 15ml tube) which I already had. It is expensive though a small amount goes a super long way. You can find it at discounted prices on eBay or Amazon.
STEP 4 I finished by painting on a glaze.
Rather than using a traditional brown glaze I actually decided to try a predominately orange one. I know this sounds kinda crazy though I was looking at some of the actual aged brass I had lying around my home and noticed the pieces that appealed most to me had a subtle amber glow.
To make my glaze I mixed a small amount of acrylic sealer with a dash of orange craft paint and a tad of brown craft paint (just so you know, a tad is around a third of a dash – ‘course I just made that up :-) then applied it sparingly with a brush (you may also want to wipe off any excess as you go with a damp cloth). As per applying the wax, the key with glaze is to start with a small amount and build upon it as necessary – it’s kinda like making icing (frosting); you can always add more liquid if needed though taking it away is a little more tricky (and having to add extra sugar always results in waaaay too much mixture which you then have no choice but to lick off the spoon)! Mmmm, icing…did I just digress?
I used Cabots Cabothane Clear Water Based Satin Sealer ($20 for 500ml) cause I already had some, and simple cheap acrylic craft paints ($2 for a 75ml tube). You only need a small amount of glaze and can use any acrylic low-sheen sealer as the base (or, you can of course use proper glaze medium which has a retarded drying time and is probably easier to work with on larger projects).
I’m really, really, really happy with the results! When compared to some of my actual aged brass it’s a pretty close match. It’s not quite as smooth or reflective as real metal though it has a lovely lustre and authentically aged patination. I’m totally digging the grungy texture and warm amber glow. I realise the depth of colour is completely a matter of personal preference, which is cool, cause with a glaze you can adjust the level of tint and amount you apply to make it as subtle or intense as you like.
All up, I used under $10 worth of product to complete all four bed feet – bargain!
I found a few online examples of actual antique brass so made a little collage to compare…
Not bad, eh?
My dipped bed legs will eventually be partially concealed by a new bed skirt so will only end up being a subtle little detail in Charlotte’s new room though now I know how to achieve a realistic faux brass effect I’m looking forward to trying it on a larger, bolder scale!
PS I haven’t forgotten about my chippendale chair and lumber cushion posts…if I haven’t gone into labour they should be coming up next week :-)