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Wood Distressing Explained

11/26/2019
by Katie Eckelberry

Wood Distressing Blog Header - Geitgey's Amish Country Furnishings

When it comes to Amish hardwood furniture, there are countless opportunities for customization. From stain to style to wood species, you can craft a piece that is perfectly suited to your needs and taste. One form of customization you may not have considered, though, is wood distressing. Wood distressing can add instant character and intrigue to hardwood furniture, giving your new dining table, bedroom furniture, desk, or any piece the look and feel of an aged and well-loved heirloom while conveniently disguising the wear and tear that is bound to occur over time. 

If you’re thinking of buying a piece of hardwood furniture, there are many different types and levels of distressing that you should be aware of, and this guide is here to offer you a better understanding of all the options available to you!


Pristine Furniture:

As the name would suggest, pristine furniture has no distressing at all. Furniture with a pristine finish is built from lumber that is surfaced or sanded uniformly to create a smooth, unblemished finish for those who want a clean, brand-new look as opposed to a rustic look. This finish is the default for most of our hardwood furniture.

Pristine Wood - Geitgey's Amish Country Furnishings

Rustic or Character Grade Furniture:

Another way to achieve a distinct look, and possibly save some money, is to select a “Rustic” or “Character” grade of a species rather than a “Select” grade.  Rustic grading allows for imperfections in the lumber that would not be present in Select grading. These can include but are not limited to sound knots, open knots, mineral inclusions, voids, insect and animal damage, wind shake splitting, and various other natural occurring imperfections.  

Rustic lumber can usually be obtained in any species but is especially popular in Cherry, Quarter Sawn White Oak, and Walnut. Rustic grades will typically take stains the same as the Select grades and are generally less expensive than Select grades.  

Rustic Wood - Geitgey's Amish Country Furnishings

Roughsawn Furniture:

Unlike pristine furniture, roughsawn furniture is built from lumber that is never fully-sanded or surfaced uniformly. Instead, roughsawn pieces are left in a state that allows the marks from the saw blade that was used to originally cut the log to stay visible, adding visual interest to the piece. Roughsawn furniture can be band-sawn or rotary-sawn. A rotary-sawn piece will have a slightly rougher finish with successive arcs across the board, whereas a band-sawn board will have parallel lines from the blade and is also likely to be slightly smoother than a rotary sawn piece. 

Rotary Sawn - Geitgey's Amish Country Furnishings

Additionally, a piece of roughsawn furniture can either be hit-skip sanded, a process that smooths the wood somewhat, especially in any high spots, but does not fully remove the markings and texture of the wood, or it can be left completely rough for a more rustic look.

Band Sawn - Geitgey's Amish Country Furnishings

Hand-Planed and Hand-Worn Furniture:

If you are a fan of classic, quaint craftsmanship, hand-planed furniture may be just the thing for you. In this process, a piece is planed by hand with traditional tools to create a distinctive, antique look. Hand-planing is available in various degrees.

Hand Planed Top - Geitgey's Amish Country Furnishings

Similarly, a piece that is hand-worn will be sanded by hand to simulate the expected wear of wood over the years. This technique typically involves sanding the edges and corners of a piece to create the illusion that they have been naturally smoothed over by time and use.

Physically Distressed Furniture:

Physical distressing is probably what you think of first when you hear the words “wood distressing,” but there are several styles and levels of physical distressing that you can select. Physical distressing is achieved through the use of tools and can be ordered at a light, medium, or heavy level.

Physical Distressing - Geitgey's Amish Country Furnishings

Physical distressing may include creating dings, dents, and faux powder-post beetle holes in the wood to imitate the wear and tear that would accrue over years of use. Heavier distressing can have more prominent gouges, splits, and dents as well as simulated cracks. Physical distressing is a popular choice for those with children and pets as it alleviates the hassle of trying to protect the piece from every little scratch and camouflages the small damages that are bound to occur.

Physical Distressing - Geitgey's Amish Country Furnishings

Wormy Furniture:

As you may have guessed, wormy furniture refers to a selection of a species of lumber that, at one point, had insect damage. Of course, before construction, any and all remaining insects are removed by kiln-drying, and their presence can be seen only through the small worm-holes that have been left in the wood, adding a unique, rustic look to the piece. If you’re interested in wormy furniture, check out our Ruffsawn Furniture collection that features pieces constructed from Roughsawn Wormy Maple.

Wormy Wood - Geitgey's Amish Country Furnishings

When you purchase a piece of Amish hardwood furniture, you have an abundance of opportunities for customization, including the option to add any one of the above types of distressing to your piece. Or you can combine several types of distressing to create the perfect “story” behind your piece of Amish hand-crafted furniture. Whether you choose hand-planing or physical distressing or roughsawn furniture, the addition of wood distressing can give your new piece a unique, distinguished sense of character as well as eliminate the anxiety of trying to keep it looking perfect. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the wood distressing options available at Geitgey’s Amish Country Furnishings, feel free to call, email, or visit. Our sales team would be happy to help find the right finish for you!

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