How to Apply a Ceruse Finish

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 | Antiques with No Comments »

In the 16th Century, wooden beams and paneling were generally filled with ceruse (white lead) and wax to repel insect. The process resulted in a finish that highlighted the natural pattern of wood. After a while, the ceruse finish became a fashionable way to enhance the look of wood and has become a trend even up until today.

Antique French Louis Philippe Burled Walnut Commode

Getting a ceruse finish can be done professionally or at home. When taking on a project like cerusing, the processes and details are very important to achieve the desired effect.


As with any refinishing and restoration jobs, it is important to start the process by cleaning. This removes dirt and dust that may have settled with use or storage. It also ensures a better finish.

If you are not starting with raw wood, strip the varnish first with a varnish/paint remover and a brush. Once the varnish is removed, rinse the wood thoroughly with water. Once dry, raise the grain by using a good wire brush. Next, smoothen the surface by sanding. Most experts recommend fine grain sand paper for better results. Finally, remove sawdust and other debris with a tack cloth.


Fill the grain with the cerusing material of your choice. Make sure to apply the material correctly by carefully following product directions. Using a clean cloth or a brush and apply a liberal amount of your cerusing material. For better coverage, focus on one section at a time and make sure to follow the grain on every application. After the application, immediately wipe down the excess using a clean cloth. Be sure to let it dry thoroughly.


Protecting your furniture helps ensure that the stain will stand the test of time. It also helps avoid scratches that can give your antique furniture a worn out look. When the finish is completely dry, apply a protective coating such as varnish, shellac, or sealer. Make sure that the coating is completely dry before sanding it lightly.

A ceruse finish can give your furniture that elegant timeless look. Here at Antiques on Old Plank Road we have several wood furniture pieces that have the distinct look of a ceruse finish.

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