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How To Distress And Wax Chalk Finish Paint | Cedar Chest Makeover

I get questions weekly about how to wax chalk finish paint or does chalky type paint have to be waxed. Sometimes I wax and sometimes I don’t it all depends on what brand Chalk finish paint I’m using and the type of furniture.


Painting A Vintage Cedar Chest

My project today is a cedar chest and it’s waxed. There is a definite reason I waxed the project and I’ll share that with you.

Seems like every month I have at least one cedar chest makeover. I guess I have a thing for cedar chests. This cedar chest is painted, distressed, and waxed, and it is gorgeous (shameful bragging). Today is Furniture Fixer Upper day and we have another great lineup of projects. Links at the bottom of the post.


The details on the chest made it the perfect distressed paint candidate. There is just something about a paint finish with no special technique, no stenciling, no antiquing, that is just blah. Distressing the paint adds depth and interest.

Making Repairsdrawer for cedar chest

This is the first cedar chest I’ve ran across that had a drawer. The drawer in this case was falling apart. My first thought was to repair it but my second thought was to trash it.

how to repair and paint furniture

I turned the cedar chest upside down and removed the drawer slides. It was as easy as removing screws and knocking loose the glued blocks.

Cavalier Cedar chest to be painted

The thing that first caught my eye when I spotted the cedar chest at my favorite junk shop was the open space on the bottom between the beautiful detailed pieces. I liked the look.

Then I learned there was a drawer for that space. Not for me. There was something missing though and I could take care of that.

nailing wood trim to furniture

The flat edge of the chest where the drawer was missing needed a detail. I found the perfect piece of trim in my wood stash. I cut it to size and attached it to the chest using my Ryobi brad nailer ( a life saver).

added detail to vintage cedar chest before painting

See what a difference that makes? All it took was a little bit of time and look at the added drama.

cedar lined cedar chest

The inside of the chest was in really good condition. It smelled good too. You don’t have to worry about cedar getting a yucky or musty smell. I think I forgot to mention I paid $40 for the chest. Not bad, not bad at all.

Cleaning The Cedar Chest

inscribed cedar chestIt was a bit sad to see but there is a wood tag with an inscription attached to the inside top of the chest….”Thelma from Victor”. I sometimes wonder if family members know what actually happens to their family heirlooms.

The cedar chest is a Cavalier brand which I’ve never heard of before.

damage to the top of a cedar chest

The top of the chest had what looked like sticky or oily spots here and there. Just to be on the safe side I lightly sanded the top.

sanding damaged furniture

I didn’t want to take the chance of something bleeding through the paint. Better safe with a little work now than bad news and a lot of work later.

cleaning furniture before painting

All that was left to do was clean the chest all over with Simple Green. Time to paint.

Selecting The Paint Color

selecting blue paint colors for furniture

I went to select a paint color and came up with 4 I liked. I painted samples on a piece of wood and liked all of them. I thought I might do a two tone finish…..and I did start brushing on a second color on the cedar chest but I didn’t like it. Not enough contrast. So one color only.

The color I decided on was the second from the left, Cascade. (By the way I did a Facebook live and asked which color everyone liked the best. Be sure and follow me on Facebook.)

Painting The Cedar Chest

one coat of paint on furniture

This is how one coat of paint looked. I applied a second coat after this one dried.

distressing painted furniture with a battery powered sander

Distressing The Paint

After the paint dried I distressed all the lovely details then ran the sander over the whole chest working on the edges and a few spots on the front and top. Just sanding off a bit of paint in some areas but a lot of paint on the carved details.

I tried sanding by hand but I was having a hard time getting the paint off so I pulled out my power sander. It did the job in no time at all.

distressed paint before waxing

This is how the chest looked after sanding it all over. You can see the whitish or lighter areas where the sander was used. To hide those areas you need to wax the paint.

Waxing Chalk Finish Paint

how to wax distressed chalk finish paint with clear wax

I use Howard’s wax for most of my furniture projects. For the cedar chest I used the neutral color wax. I applied the wax with a lint free rag. You can see in the photo above where I wiped the wax on the chest the distressed wood is darkened.

The white streaks on the paint disappear when waxed also. The wax will dry in about 30 minutes. Next use a lint free rag and polish the wax. The paint will have a nice soft sheen.

When I want to darken, age, or antique painted furniture I use tinted Howard’s Wax, color Walnut. I like Howard’s because it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and it adds a really nice sheen or patina to the painted finish.

Adding Special Details

adding details to furniture

The lock had been removed from the chest and there was a small metal insert left in place. I found a brass keyhole escutcheon in my stash of stuff and drilled holes so I could place it over the metal piece.

adding key hole to a cedar chest

The brass was a bit too shiny so I spray painted the piece with Rustoleum Antique Brass Metallic Spray Paint.

distressed furniture has depth


The keyhole escutcheon was the finishing touch the cedar chest needed. The Cascade color paint is a winner. The distressing is icing on the cake.

how to distress and wax chalk type paint

You can see where I sanded the corners, edges, and details rather heavily. The detail trim I added at the bottom in place of the drawer looks like it belongs there. I did good. The cedar chest is larger than most I’ve worked on. It will be a nice piece for blanket storage or maybe a coffee table.

before and after cedar chest makeover

I thought about not painting the cedar chest. I was going to clean and oil the finish but after closer inspection there were too many damaged areas in the original finish.


how to repair and paint furniture with chalk finish paint

I’m glad I didn’t go with a two tone paint finish. With the amount of carved details, the feet, and general look of the chest two colors would have taken away instead of showcasing the cedar chest. Patting myself on the back.

Want to know how to distress furniture without the mess? It’s called wet distressing and you will be amazed at what I use to wet distress the paint. See my video below….

Wet Distress Paint

chalk type furniture finish painted distressed and waxed

The red accessories really pop against the turquoisy blue paint. One of my favorite color combinations. So what do you think of the cedar chest? How about the color and distressing? Leave a note before you head out on the tour.

Supplies used in this project can be found on Amazon:
FolkArt Home Decor Chalk – Cascade
FolkArt Chalk Brush
Howard’s Wax – Neutral
Simple Green Cleaner
Ryobi Sander
Ryobi Brad Nailer

Furniture Fixer Upper Projects

Click the text links below the “before makeovers” photo collage to take the Furniture Fixer Upper Tour…..

August Furniture Fixer Upper Projects 2019

Refinish A Table – Just The Woods
Night Table Makeover – Confessions Of A Serial Diyer
Built In Kitchen Pantry Makeover – The Interior Frugalista
Fuchsia Sunset Painted Dresser – Salvaged Inspirations
How To Stencil Bone Inlay – Girl In The Garage
Waxing Chalk Finish Paint – Petticoat Junktion

As always, thanks for being here and have a great day, Kathy

Kathy Owen founder of Petticoat Junktion
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Author: Kathy Owen
Kathy Owen is the founder of the home decor blog Petticoat Junktion where she shares tutorials on painting furniture and upcycling thrifty finds into unique home décor. Her DIY projects have been featured on the Home Depot Blog, Plaid Crafts, Behr Designer Series, and in numerous magazines. Kathy’s newest website is HappyHomeDIY.com

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  1. I love that color. You come up with such cool stuff. Can never wait to see what your gonna do next. I have a bird cage just like the one in your picture. Right now it has a small cement dragon swinging in it. When Halloween gets here it will contain a raven.

  2. “I did good.” LOL. Yes you did Kathy! The carved details are beautiful and you really made them pop with the distressing. Great idea adding the trim to the front too. It’s a winner!

  3. Love the color you’ve chosen, and pics are gorgeous! That combination of white/ red and turquoise… yummy!

  4. Wow, you find the best chests! It was smart to remove that drawer and with the added trim, you’d never know it was even there! love the color too!! XOXO

  5. It’s beautiful, Kathy! The color is gorgeous with just the perfect amount of distressing. I bet Thelma and Victor would be pleased.

  6. I love what you did to the chest and especially the distressing. It looks great – I would love to have a stash of knobs, trim etc that you always seem to have. Enjoy reading your posts and seeing your creativity!

  7. That sad chest now has a new life. I sort of agree with Nancy, above, about wood grain and such, but the surface of this need a pick-me -up. You are always so bold with your colors, I’m not half as adventurous as you. Everyone thinks I’m kinda out there-I think, but I tend to be reserved on colors. Muted, but not neutral or orange or yellow. You always hit the mark with your color choices.

  8. So sweet that you found the inscription on the inside. I sometimes wonder the back story to these old pieces too. Anyway, LOVE the color and makeover Kathy. I’m heading over to take a peek at your FB LIVE now.?

  9. I like the after, but to be honest, I liked the grain of the wood a bit better. If it had been me, I think I would have tried to clean up the woo, remove he orange finish, and finish with oil. I am not expert at this, but, sometimes, it makes me a little sad to see beautiful wood covered up

  10. Girl, I love everything you do. I’ve been following you a couple of years. You are so creative. I thank you so much God Blessed you with creative!!