Today I want to show you how I created this DIY Rustic Raw Wood Finish! Some pieces can be more stubborn than others, but this tutorial will show you just how simple this process can be!
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This DIY rustic raw wood finish is honestly so simple. It may take some elbow grease, but I love the look of raw wood so much that I’m willing to put in the effort!! This process can transform thrift, antique and any other wood furniture piece you love and really create a staple item for your space!
Before I begin, there’s one thing you should keep in mind. Every piece of furniture is different and reacts differently to these steps.
Sometimes for a raw wood look, step one is all that’s needed! It just depends on the piece. I refinished a pine wash stand and literally all I did was give it a light sanding and it turned out beautiful. Here is the washstand before –
We did a little sanding on this piece outside…
And she turned out so beautiful! All we had to do was one step and this nightstand went from an orange finish most would pass up at the thrift or antique store to a beautiful raw wood finish!
This cabinet I’m about to share below, however, was a completely different story!
DIY Raw Wood Finish Process Step 1 – Stripping
Here is a photo of the cabinet I purchased on Facebook marketplace for only $25. You can see that the top is damaged and the color is very orange.
This is the perfect example of a piece most would pass up, but I encourage you to look at the character and condition of the piece, especially if it is a good price. I loved the look of this and knew I would be able to use it so I snagged it up right away!
The first thing I would suggest you try is stripper. I love using Citristrip because it doesn’t have a harsh chemical smell, and it’s safe to use indoors.
I love how stripper helps to protect the integrity of the wood as well as the details in the design of your piece.
Now there are times when stripper may not be necessary. You can find this out by testing a small area of your piece with sandpaper. If a light sanding immediately reveals the natural wood, I would say skip the stripper.
If your piece has a heavy lacquer finish or topcoat, however, I would definitely start with stripper as sanding will just take so long.
You may finish stripping your piece and love the result.
In this case, with my cabinet, the stripper took off the glossy topcoat but it didn’t touch the heave orange stain. I stripped it once more, and still it was too orangey red. Here’s a screen shot I took of the process while sharing it in my stories on Instagram –
When I didn’t achieve the look I was going for, I then took it outside and started on the next step.
DIY Rustic Raw Wood Process Step 2 – Sanding
The next thing I decided to do was sand my cabinet. Now you want to be so careful with sanding, because if you go too far or press to hard in certain areas, you can damage your piece and lose beautiful details found in vintage and antique furniture.
Since my cabinet was pretty flat and somewhat square on all sides, I wasn’t worried too much about that. Sanding the orange finish helped tremendously. You can see the difference in the top and sides of the cabinet after sanding, below.
I like to start with a course grade of sandpaper, and then move to a finer grade to leave my finish feeling smooth to the touch.
After sanding down this cabinet, I decided I still wanted it to be just a tad lighter.
DIY Rustic Raw Wood Finish Process Step 3 – Bleaching
The next thing I did might sound crazy, but it worked SO well. I had never tried this before so I was a little skeptical, but the results were gorgeous.
I took a very large paint brush and dipped it into some household bleach that I poured into a bucket. Then I literally “painted” the bleach all over the cabinet while outside in the sun. The heat of the sun really helps to activate and dry the bleach out faster.
I repeated this bleaching process three or four times until I got the look I was going for, and when the final coat was dry, I wiped the whole cabinet down with a damp cloth.
Isn’t this piece gorgeous?! What a transformation with simple bleach. I was so excited this simple step to achieve the raw wood look worked as well as it did!
DIY Rustic Raw Wood Finish Process Step 4 – Sealing
The final step in the process of creating a raw wood finish is sealing your piece. At first I tried using a clear wax, but unfortunately the wood was so raw and porous that it just drank in the wax and immediately darkened. I didn’t want to ruin all my hard work in lightening the wood, so I chose a white wax instead by Waverly.
I didn’t want my wood to look white washed at all, I simply wanted it to look like raw wood so I applied a very thin coat using my wax brush that was sent to me by Jolie. I love this brush! You can find similar options here, but this is the only brush I have personally used. I also used a clean cotton cloth to wipe away any excess.
I love the way it turned out! As you can see, I switched out the hardware as well and that along with the raw wood is gorgeous!
So if you are hoping to achieve this raw wood look on any furniture piece you find, be sure to follow these four simple steps! Just remember once again, each piece is different so you may not need to do each one:
My friend Brittany over at Vintage Society Co. also has a great article on achieving a raw wood finish if you’d like to check out her post as well!
Have you ever tried this raw wood process before? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!