DIY Rustic Raw Wood Finish Process

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This DIY Rustic Raw Wood finish is so simple!

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 –

My pine washstand before sanding it down

We did a little sanding on this piece outside…

Sanding was all that was needed to get a raw wood look on this pine washstand!

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!

Raw wood finish on our pine washstand
Beautiful diy rustic raw wood finish
Raw pine washstand

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!

Raw wood finish tutorial

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 – 

How to get a raw wood look

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.

Sanding helps to get down to the natural wood

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. 

How to bleach furniture

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. 

White Wax application on pine wood

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. 

white wax finish on my pine nightstand for a raw wood look
How to use white wax
How to apply white wax

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!

DIY Rustic Raw Wood Finish
How to create a natural wood finish

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:

  1. Stripping
  2. Sanding
  3. Bleaching
  4. Sealing

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!

PIN IT FOR LATER

This DIY Rustic Raw Wood finish is so simple!

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44 Comments

  1. Hello! Love this tutorial. I am trying it out on an old bench storage chest. How long does it take for the bleach to dry to put another coat on? How long did you wait before putting the wax on. Thanks for the great ideas!

    1. Hi Sue!! I didn’t wait too long at all, I did 4 coats of bleach all in an afternoon. I think I just waited until the majority of the chest was dry. 🙂 I didn’t put the wax on until months later, but that was purely out of laziness haha!! You could probably wait a week or so to be sure your piece was dry, then apply the wax. 🙂

  2. Love your post! I am planning on going for the same look on my bathroom cabinets. What top coat would you suggest to hold up to such a high traffic area but still achieves that natural wood look instead of darkening it/having a shine? Thanks so much!

    1. Ohh that’s tough. I would play around with a small area and see what you like, but I think I’d go with a matte polycryllic? I hope that helps 🙂

  3. Great idea Thank you! Your blog post has inspired me to bleach a second hand entry table I bought :). Did you have any issues with making sure the bleach had a consistent concentration throughout each part of the piece? I would imagine that if one part had slightly more that some spots may look more “bleachy” than others. Do you have any tips on making sure that the bleach is evenly distributed? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Joy! So I painted my bleach on with a large brush and applied it when the surface was dry, that way I knew where I had already applied bleach. I hope that helps you! 🙂

  4. Andrea this is just stunning! You have really captured the wood’s beauty by revealing it’s true colour. May I ask what hardware you used? It looks like champagne gold cup handles and maybe antique brass knobs to my eyes? They compliment the lighter shade perfectly. You have inspired me to start a project like this of my own on an orange toned pine chest that doesn’t suit our country cottage. I’m not sure I will be able to get hardware like this though as I live in Devon, England! Sending love xxx

    1. Aww Katie that is such a sweet thing to say! Thank you so much. 🙂 I got my hardware at Hobby Lobby…I’m not sure if you have that store there? I know they ship but I don’t know if they ship worldwide. Anyway thanks again for taking the time to comment…it’s my dream to visit England one day! 🙂

  5. Hi! Love your video, super helpful. I am in the process of stripping my very orange dresser. It has proved to be quite stubborn and I’m thinking its going to need some sanding. What grain did you start with for the sanding? Also what did you use to remove the citristrip residue before sanding? Thanks for all your tips! I’m hoping my piece will turn out as beautifully as yours!

    1. Hi Haylie! So first, clean your dresser with mineral spirits to remove any residue. Then Start with a lower grade paper (maybe 60 or 80?) and move your way up as you finish the piece, ending with a 120 or higher. It’s all personal preference, I would just start in an inconspicuous area first to be sure you don’t damage the dresser! 🙂

  6. Hello.

    Does the smell of bleach stay ?

    Worried if I do it that my dresser will always smell of bleach

    Thank you

    1. Hi Katie! No actually, not at all! In fact you can wipe the whole dresser down with water to rinse away the smell and that should really help, too. 🙂

  7. Hi! I love this idea. I have an old wood media console that I painted with chalk paint but I want to strip it of all paint and stain to get this raw bleached wood look. Do you know if the citrus stripper will get the pain layer off?

    1. Hi Michelle, thank you and yes! The stripper should take the paint off, too. I have used it to remove paint an it does a good job. 🙂

  8. Love this! Not sure if I have access to an outdoor area – we live in a condo and because of COVID I can’t transport it to a family members house. Any ideas on how to bleach the piece without placing it outside?

    1. Hello, I would make sure you are in a well ventilated area first of all, open all your windows etc. Then perhaps a bathtub, bathroom or kitchen area with tile floors so bleach won’t ruin anything? If that isn’t a possible, you should be able to purchase a tarp at a local hardware store and do it there. I hope this helps, this is what I would do at least!

  9. I love how this piece turned out! So pretty! Can you tell me where your plug in sconces are from and perhaps the name of them? Beautiful!

  10. Hello! Do you mind sharing how you finished the pine piece? I just sanded down an old antique pine armoire and can’t decide how to finish it. I don’t want the wood to turn yellow. I have used a water-based matte varnish before on a pine dresser and it worked well, but just wondering what wax would look like on pine. I would love to know your experience.

    1. Hello, I actually bought the chest as is, but for everything else I followed this technique, sorry I couldn’t help more!

  11. Nice work! Looks really terrific. I like your brass pullers. You could also in the future try vinegar and salt with brass to get a very natural ageing if you wanted to. But you’d have to remove any shiny sealant on pullers first. It looks great on your cabinet the way it is. Just throwing in that extra bit about salt and vinegar incase you thought about it in the future with something else it might suit!

    1. Hello! All wax types are different so I would just follow what the directions are on the one you decide to use!

    1. I don’t see why not? Cabinets are a lot of work, but if you are willing to put the time in I think it could be beautiful!

  12. I am gobsmacked in love with your home/style!! 🥰 I am using it as my main inspiration on our current build. (#5 for us) I was curious: what finish did you use on your dining room table to keep it natural and yet protected from life that surely happens on it? 😊

    Congratulations on that precious, new little man! 💙

  13. I have a shelf that was must made for me. It is the raw natural wood. So, I’m thinking I should start with the waxing process? Can you advise? Thank you

  14. Saw this on FB. Thank you for this raw wood post. Wondering why I hadn’t thought of this instead of painting for updating some of our pieces.

  15. I have it bleached now and it’s a great color but when I used white wax it brought out the orange in some areas. Did you ever have that happen?

  16. Hi Andrea! I had to write to tell you what a beautiful piece you created. I have been loving the raw wood look but I’ve been afraid to put anything on my furniture. My son’s bed has been raw for awhile because I wanted to make sure the top coat/wax didn’t change the color. I bought the Waverly white wax and it looks amazing! It did not change the color of the wood at all! It is so hard to find something that won’t ruin all of your work. I hope that more people see your post because I’ve seen many comments about not wanted to change the raw wood look. The Waverly white wax is unbelievable! xo

  17. Hi Andrea! I had to write to tell you what a beautiful piece you created. I have been loving the raw wood look but I’ve been afraid to put anything on my furniture. My son’s bed has been raw for awhile because I wanted to make sure the top coat/wax didn’t change the color. I bought the Waverly white wax and it looks amazing! It did not change the color of the wood at all! It is so hard to find something that won’t ruin all of your work. I hope that more people see your post because I’ve seen many comments about not wanting to change the raw wood look. The Waverly white wax is unbelievable! xo

  18. Hi Andrea! I had to write to tell you what a beautiful piece you created. I have been loving the raw wood look but I’ve been afraid to put anything on my furniture. My son’s bed has been raw for awhile because I wanted to make sure the top coat/wax didn’t change the color. I bought the Waverly white wax and it looks amazing! It did not change the color of the wood at all! It is so hard to find something that won’t ruin all of your work. I hope that more people see your post because I’ve seen many comments about not wanting to change the raw wood look. The Waverly white wax is unbelievable! xo

  19. Since you said you used a Jolie brush- is there a reason you didn’t use white wax from Jolie as well? Have you tried it?
    I just ordered clear- and am I finding it is NOT what I wanted. Now I’m wondering if I try their white wax, or go with waverly. Thank you!

    1. All I had was clear at the time, but I did love how it turned out. It basically just sealed the piece, but didn’t alter how it looked at all. I have used white as well, and I like white, but it does alter it a bit. All depends on the look you are going for! I hope this helps!

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