HOW TO: Faux "Burled" Wood

So here is the dresser I spoke of yesterday that was
 my guinea pig for turning into a burled wood dresser.  
Note to anyone about to try this:
Start small first.  Jewelry box, side table... not a dresser...
and practice first too.



 You will need to paint the piece a warm golden-orange in a satin finish.
Benjamin Moore "Amber Waves 2159-40" is a good start, but basically if you were looking at a sample of real burled wood its the lightest tone in the wood you are trying to match.

The materials you will need to do this are:
 -an assortment of brushes (a few small fine artist brushes, round stiff stencil brush for the knots, a good softening brush,  2-3" flat brush for applying glaze, inexpensive chip brushes, stippling brush)
-a good latex glaze (I used Liquitex, but I do not recommend. 
It dried way to fast and needed an extender.)
-Arcrylic artist paint in Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna and Black
-Oil Based wood stain in Mahogany and English Chestnut or Cherry
-sea sponges torn in small pieces
-a wide toothed comb
-clean rags
-dishes or palate to mix paint

In reality, pieces of burled wood rarely measure larger than 12" x 24", so keep that in mind if you have a large area to cover. You might want to tape out sections to mimic a veneer or inlay.
I only burled the drawer fronts of this dresser and used a very simple faux wood finish for the rest.

Step 1:
Mix a glaze of 3 parts glaze with 1 part Burnt Umber and 1 part Burnt Sienna.  You may need to adjust this depending on how strong the pigments are in your paint, and add an extender if the glaze is drying too fast.  Paint the surface with a coat of glaze.
Step 2:
Working quickly, take a stencil brush and dab Burnt Umber for the burls across the surface.

 Step 3: 
Stipple the surface by dabbing with a stiff brush...
Step 4:
Using a damp sea sponge  dab randomly over the surface and then using a softening brush feather out the surface. (sorry my glaze was drying too fast and I don't have a picture of this step)

Its going to look pretty crappy, but it will get better soon:

 Step 5:
Now take the stencil brush and dip it into some more Burnt Umber.
Using the faint shadows of your last dots reapply more "knots or burls", this time giving your brush a little swirl as you apply, use a smaller brush to vary the burl sizes...
 It should be starting to look more like this...
Step 6:
 Take a thin small artist brush and dip it in a mixture of  black and burnt umber paint.
Add small dots to the existing larger dots. 
Outline the edges of some:
let dry

 Step 7:
Now to add "grain".
Take a flat brush and dip it into the initial glaze you used in Step 1.
Using a wide toothed comb brush through it so that the brush becomes separated:
 Very lightly drag the brush over the surface. 
Wiggle it to create a grain texture. 
Keep repeating until the surface is covered... let dry
You can stop here, but I wanted to darken my piece up more and add more depth.
I mixed 1 part Mahogany stain and 1 part English Chestnut stain:

Using an inexpensive chip brush I brushed the stain over the entire piece:

 I then took a rag and blotted it off.  I feathered out the entire surface with my softening brush.
 You are basically done.  I stippled some more stain to areas I felt were too light and around the burls, then feathered out....

As for the sides and top, I brushed on the latex glaze, sponged off, feathered and let dry.
I then brushed on the stain, used a crumpled rag to blot off and then feathered.  Its a pretty generic faux grain and it doesn't distract from the focal point which are the drawers.

 Here is the finished piece. It is still wet here, but once it dries I will be coating it with clear satin polyurethane.

There are MANY types of burled woods, and last night when I was painting this piece I started with a more oval shaped burl look.  If you follow me on Instagram (@danikaherrick) you might have seen this:

It looked a bit more like tortoise shell actually.  I had to stop before I finished my last drawer because one of my boys became ill.   In the morning light I realized I was too heavy handed in many areas due to poor lighting and it felt really "painted":
 When I went to finish it I had lost my rhythm and the bottom drawer came out with circles instead of ovals and the color was off too.  
I wound up messing up the upper drawers in an attempt to blend it all so I had to redo them.  
Boo.  Sucked.  
Lesson:  Try to have good light when doing this, and try to do it all in the same time period
 so they feel "together".

I am happier with the new upper drawers though, they feel more like wood...
I have added hardware, and it is waiting to go into the boy's room.  
I think the boys are getting the brass lantern I found too:

I will try to get a how to video of this for you to make it easier.  
Please let me know if you have any questions!


Natty by Design said...


Natty by Design said...


Ashley said...

Wow...just wow. I wish I had something more intelligent to post, but I'm dumbstruck by your talent.

My Interior Life said...

Crazy good! I know I would muck it up, but I so admire your talent. I'm actually hoping to buy a burled dresser tomorrow off CL (fingers crossed) so I don't have to create one. I'm pretty sure I lack the patience and more importantly, the skill!

Trissta said...

OMG. You did paint it. I was thinking that you papered it or something when I saw it on instagram last night... But son of a... You, lady, are pretty crazy amazing talented!!!!!!

Much Love,

LindsB said...

Seriuosly, is there anythign you cant paint? You are seriously genius lady!

LindsB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LindsB said...

PS if you find it missing one day, chances are its at my house, and I'm holding it for ransom.

Bri@Meyouandawiener said...

Awesome job lady! High fives and shit.

nothere said...

Love it! Would like "recipe" for the top and sides which look great, too.

Unknown said...

Youre the master! This is so awesome and so timely since Im going to attempt a faux tortoise on a chair soon. Thanks for the step-by-step, you did a fantastic job!
xo Nancy

Rosemary said...

Most Excellent job!! Great step by step instructions with pics.


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