Sunday, February 17, 2013

Distressed, For Less

What is it about distressed pieces that make us go ga-ga sometimes?  Distressed jeans, furniture, artwork, accessories, etc.--that sometimes go for major bucks!  Because we’re such DIYers, we wanted to do something ourselves to get this look for some recent purchases, without breaking the bank.

Heath remembered a technique he had seen recently, where someone used a blowtorch to burn places in wood to darken it—giving it a more distressed and aged look.  Hmm…a chance to use the blowtorch?  I’m in!!  Before I get to those details, let me explain the inspiration for the whole thing…

When we began plans for our son’s big boy room, we started with basic furniture pieces that we wanted to use.  The theme of the room is tractors, using basic "boy colors" of red, green and blue.  Because all of his clothes are stored in his closet now, he has plenty of room for a bigger bed, nightstands, bookshelves, a desk, and another large piece later if later needed.

We first threw around ideas for a piece to hold his books and toys, and we quickly decided that a case with cubbies would be nice to help organize all the smaller stuff.   We wanted to use pieces that were kind of “earthy” to go along with the whole tractor theme, and Heath mentioned some wooden crates he had seen at The Home Depot within the past week.  We finished our discussion {over lunch} and headed right to the store to check them out!

I immediately fell in love with the crates and was shocked to see the price--$8 each on sale!  HECK YEAH!!  Making them on our own would cost more than that, after the cost of the materials and our time.  We decided to use these to make not only a bookcase, but also 2 nightstands.  We filled our cart with 8 crates and headed home.

Before the burning began, Heath connected the crates using wood glue and 5/8” brad nails.

If we want to use these elsewhere in the future, they’ll just have to stay together…cause they ain’t comin’ apart!  We really don’t care that they won’t, since they were so inexpensive to create.

Alright, time for some heat.

I shot a video of Heath torching some spots on one of the pieces.  I figured it would be easier to show this rather than try and explain how long to hold it in one place, how close to hold the torch, etc.  The beauty of this technique is that there is no “perfect” result with it.  You can torch as much or as little as you want/need, depending on the desired look.

In this video, you get to see our furbaby for 5 seconds, hear Ian for 2 seconds, and listen to my southern-ness for 2 minutes :)  And apparently, I love the smell of burning wood...

We had some stain leftover from when our hardwoods were finished, which would eliminate the need for us to try and match up the color ourselves.  Bonus!!  Heath applied a coat of stain to all the pieces, using a disposable foam brush; and he wiped off excess using a rag.

Notice that you can still see the burned spots through the stain, which is exactly what we wanted.

Once the stain was completely dry, I applied a coat of semi-gloss polyurethane with another foam brush.

Once that dried completely, I ran over all the pieces with a stripping pad.

The reason for doing this was to smooth out any rough areas in the wood and any bubbles and drips from the first coat of poly.  I don't think this is technically the purpose of this pad, but it was effective.  The criterion for this being finished was if I could run my latex glove-covered hand over it and not hit any snags.  I didn’t bother with it being completely smooth, since after all--we're going for a worn look.

I applied one more coat of semi-gloss poly, to finish all the pieces. 

We left them in the basement, giving them plenty of time to dry and for the fumes from the poly to dissipate before we brought them into the house.

Here are the finished pieces in Ian’s room.  The nightstands are perfect for his lamps, new radio {that he proudly picked out himself}, piggy bank, small books, and puzzles. 

I ADORE these little lamps!!

The bookcase holds small bins and other fun toys and accessories.

Ian loves his new furniture, and we are amazed at how well the torching technique worked for these pieces.  We’ll definitely use this again, and I highly recommend trying this to “distress” wood pieces.  I've seen it done on wood that was already stained, but the wood had been sanded very well first to strip off all of the finish.  

Just please remember to be SAFE when doing this.  Make sure nothing flammable is near, work in a well-ventilated area, and turn the blowtorch off completely when not in use!

Thanks for checking out our latest project!  If you have any questions on this process, please leave a comment below or email me privately at

Linked to:  Home Stories A to Z; A Bowl Full of Lemons; House of Hepworths; Live Laugh Rowe; The Crafty Blogstalker; Create Craft Love; The Shabby Nest; The Taylor House; Repurpose My Life; Crafts A La Mode



  1. Wow this look so good! Thanks for linking up on the blog hop! I'm now following your blog. Stop by and say hi sometime!


    1. Most definitely! Thanks for stopping by :)

  2. REALLY great job! They look fantastic!!! Good luck with CWTS!

  3. this is a fantastic post. Please share here:

  4. I just bought one of these at Home Depot (they were on sale for $5.) so I couldn't leave them. My daughter bought one also. I didn't know what to do with them but I think I'm going back for more and doing what you did with yours!! I'd love to have you link this to What to do Weekends Party also. Following also. Linda

  5. THANKS for linking UP!!! Appreciate it for the resource. Linda

  6. This turned out really cool. Great job!!


Thanks for your comments! Keep 'em coming!