We’ll get to the blah-blah-blah on how I painted this vintage red buffet in a minute, but for now let’s go straight to the “after” pictures. Here it is!

red buffet_final1

red buffet_final closeup2

red buffet_final closeup1Yeah, baby! I (FINALLY!) love this buffet. If you recall, this is the buffet that didn’t turn out as I originally planned when a weird seam mark appeared where two pieces of wood were joined together on the tabletop. My Plan B, Plan C and Plan D for this buffet weren’t so great either. I said a lot of bad words while working on this piece—but I learned an awful lot, too.

I havent failed quoteOK, so I didn’t try 10,000 things, but here’s a quick rundown of what I did that didn’t work:

  • steamed off damaged veneer
  • sanded
  • painted
  • distressed
  • waxed
  • sanded again
  • decoupaged paper napkins
  • sanded some a lot more
  • java gel stain (this stuff is cool—I’ll have more about it in a later post)
  • sanded yet again because …

… the java gel stain looked awesome from this direction (and it covered up the weird seam! Hooray!) …


… but it looked splotchy down here in the corner.


That isn’t the java gel stain’s fault—it’s mine. My sander lingered a bit too long while trying to get rid of a few stubborn specks of the decoupaged napkins. The spot that sanded down all the way to bare wood did not take the stain the same as the rest of the tabletop that was sanded down only to the paint. It looked and felt different—and not in a good way.

I felt defeated. This buffet was kicking my butt.

Who lets a silly piece of vintage furniture kick her butt?


exhausted all possibilitiesThat’s when I tried one last idea (and came up with a catchy quote of my own!)

crackle the heck out of it quoteOK—so my quote isn’t as profound as any of Mr. Edison’s, but the idea worked. (Hooray!)

Crackling gives your piece an aged look and a little extra texture. It is a great technique for covering up flaws.

Here’s a quick crackle tutorial:

1. Basecoat your piece. This will be the color of your cracks.

On this buffet, the basecoat/crack color is General Finishes Gel Stain. Java is the color.

2. When your basecoat is completely dry, apply a “crackling medium”.

HINT: Don’t waste money on expensive “crackling mediums”. We use plain ol’ Elmer’s Glue around here.

3. Brush on the glue. The thicker the glue, the thicker your cracks will be. Pounce the glue in areas where you want the cracks to be really thick and dramatic.

DSC_0060 2


4. Wait a few minutes for the glue to dry to the point where it is tacky/sticky, but not completely dry.

HINT: If you aren’t sure if your glue is ready to apply the second color of paint, it is better to err on the side of the glue being too wet than too dry.

5. Apply your second color of paint over it. Be careful not to agitate the glue by going back and forth over it with your paintbrush. As the paint and glue dry together, the cracks appear.

This buffet is painted in American Paint Company’s Fireworks Red and sealed with APC Dark Wax.

red buffet_final closeup1

* * *

Crackling is a simple technique, but it takes a little practice to make it consistent. My mom is the Expert Crackler in this operation. Here’s an article about how she achieved the look on this antique dresser/mirror.


She base coated several bright colors on an old enamel bowl to achieve this rainbow look. Isn’t it cool?

turquoise chair with bowl

bowl crackle closeup

This pedestal is a great example of thick vs. thin cracks.


She applied the glue very thick down the sides of the pedestal column for those nice big cracks. Those dainty cracks on the top and the base are where she pounced the glue lightly.

DSC_0028As you can see, you can do a lot with crackling. By choosing different color combinations, you can make a piece look elegant, rustic or downright funky. It is a great technique to have in your painter’s bag of tricks—especially when you have an issue that needs to be camouflaged like I did on my buffet.

I’m so happy with the final result—and even more happy that I didn’t give up when all of the other techniques I tried did not work out.

just because quoteI modified this last Thomas Edison quote for anybody out there who paints furniture and is having a bad day:

“Just because something doesn’t look like how you planned it to look doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful. Keep trying!”

~ Courtney

5 thoughts on “DIY Paint Tutorial: When All Else Fails, Crackle The Heck Out Of It

  1. You’ve given me a new technique to try. Your “after” pictures are terrific, but the Edison quotes really made this a delightful read. Thanks for sharing. I saw your link at MMM’s furniture party. Ann Marie @ Iris Abbey

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