We have a lovely antique oak console table in our store currently (take a peek here). Lots of people have asked me recently how to create a limed oak effect on a piece of furniture so I thought it might make a useful blog post although we also cover it in detail on the Paint Like A Pro weekend course.
I think it's really interesting that the technique we use today is designed to create an effect that harks back to a bygone era of the highest levels of quality and craftsmanship. In the 16th century, ceruse - a derivative of white lead - was used originally in cosmetics and highly favoured by the rich and famous including Queen Elizabeth I.
Snow white skin was absolutely de rigeur for the nobility classes and was thought to reflect the delicate femininity and wealth of those who attained the lofty heights of clear, pale and unblemished skin. The reality was that pox and skin problems were all too commonplace during the 16th century so women in particular resorted to a variety of slightly mad concoctions to pale the skin. One of the less brilliant ideals was to mix ceruse - a highly toxic lead substance derivative - with vingear and then apply it to the neck and face. As one can probably imagine, smearing your skin with such toxic substances is only going to go badly wrong and the end result was that users were left grey and shrivelled. Oh dear. The detrimental effect of using ceruse in this way became apparent and those in search of the clearest, palest skin soon moved on to other wacky remedies such a paste of alum and tin ash, sulphur, and also foundations made of boiled egg white which were apparently also very popular.
Although ceruse fell out of favour as the make up of choice, it became hugely popular with furniture makers who used the ceruse to fill the porous open grains of oak planks. Today we use a mixture of chalk white waxes and specialist liming wax to create this effect.
In these closer up shots you can see how the waxes have settled in the grains giving it a really smooth and attractive finish.
Antique Oak Console Table available from West Egg.