How-to Create a Verdigris Finish While Wood Furniture Finishing or Refinishing

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The finish I'd like to describe for you is called verdigris (sometimes spelled "vert-de-gris", meaning the "green of Greece") which is the color that copper and bronze turn when exposed to moisture and/or time. (Think Statue of Liberty.)

This is sometimes on the fringe of "furniture finishing," but it's fast and fun and good looking on a variety of objects that are metal, or at least could be metal. I personally think it loses some of its effect when done on something that would obviously be made of wood, but to each his own...

There are two reasons that I'm mentioning this finish now. The first reason is because this is a look that works well in latex or acrylic. There are some finishes that are clearly (in my mind) better done in oils, others in water-based. With out- door temperatures in the single digits as I write this, I'm not too keen on running a fan to keep down the fumes of oil-based stuff, and verdigris works quite well in stink-free acrylics

The other reason to offer this addition to your repertoire is that you already know how to do 95% of it, and if you like making your own gifts, this is one that is fast enough to do in one evening and gift wrap it the next morning.

The verdigris that I'll describe it a natural looking one, which is a soft blending of the colors that appear. Within those colors is room for variation, favoring some over others if you prefer, and of course you're always free to experiment with your own ideas. The basic technique of verdigris is the same as faux granite, but with these colors:

  • A black, or dark brown base color. I prefer to use raw umber for (what I think is) a deeper, or richer color than black provides.
  • A blue-green. This will be the dominant color. Something in the range of turquoises works well here.
  • A lighter blue-green. I get this color by adding some white and a touch of bright yellow to the darker blue-green. This color will then be harmonious, but a visible step lighter and slightly greener than the darker turquoise-y color.
  • And finally, a rust color. I get this by adding a little orange to burnt sienna brown, and maybe a tiny bit of white.

To get the effect, start by painting the object with straight paint, either the black or umber. There can be a certain "scaliness" to the texture of verdigris, so surface prep and painting techniques aren't critical (though again, I don't think you should have obvious woodgrain patterns telegraphing through if the item is made of wood).

The base paint doesn't have to be completely dry to continue, though if it's too wet, you'll get a muddy blending with the dark blue-green that goes on next. Use a sponge just like the video demonstration for faux granite to apply the blue-green. You can use straight paint for all of the colors, but I prefer the softer, more translucent effect that you get by mixing the colors with an equal part of glazing liquid.

I also like to use a sponge, or a part of the sponge that has a little finer pores than for the larger, distinct flecks of granite. The whole effect will be much quieter than most granite textures. But otherwise dab the color on, covering about 70% of the base color.

Follow right on top with the lighter version, maybe mooshing the sponge a little here and there to get a range of transitions from the full dark blue-green to the full light blue-green. Try a 15 - 25% coverage.

And finally, finish up with a little rust color, oftentimes smeared on with an almost empty (of color) sponge.

A variation is to keep the two browns predominant with the blue-greens used more sparingly. It's easy to experiment to see what you like.

This really needs no topcoat protection, or you can apply a water-based varnish clear to change the sheen (I like an eggshell gloss on this) if you want.

Verdigris can look good on furniture hardware, picture frames, metal tables and chairs, (that definitely counts as furniture) baker's racks, fireplace utensils and screens, and many small objects like candlesticks, trivets, etc.

If you walked into a crafts store, you'd probably see plenty of stuff that would look appropriate with this finish. So if you like giving handmade gifts, here's an easy and enjoyable opportunity.

- Dave

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