What is Cerused Oak?

Post by Stacey Walker. Stacey mostly works behind the scenes for Walker Woodworking, managing day to day operations, and marketing. Stacey has helped many clients create their dream space.

Wood is everything for a project as it can determine the tone, style, and overall appeal for a space. For over twenty years we have crafted cabinets of the finest quality in almost any wood that can be imagined but we admit that there are a few that can be more popular than others. Cerused Oak has remained a popular option for several years and we understand why. It is beautiful and elegant but what it is exactly? Although many know that the term Cerused Oak has to do with a beautiful finish on furniture, this elegant technique has its roots in the cosmetic industry. Originally created using a white, lead-based powder, it was used in cosmetic facial powder by women between the 1500 to 1600’s to whiten their faces including Elizabeth the First, remember her snow white face?  

Once they realized how toxic the powder was for the skin it was banned in the cosmetic field but shortly after, the French discovered that it could be used to create a beautiful finish on wood with open pores such as oak. This finish has since been used throughout the decades to bring elegance and beauty to a variety of wood furniture and blended with a myriad of design styles.

Cerused oak and cabinet design.

This term is used to describe a unique finishing technique that showcases the beautiful wood grain without causing any damage to the wood itself. Ceruse was a white lead-based pigment, which after proving to be toxic to the skin was repurposed in the furniture industry.

It has the ability to mute the original wood color while at the same time emphasize the texture of its grain which is the perfect recipe for stunning cabinet design. The results were amazing and has continued to make its mark in the world of design. Though its popularity has gone up and down, it seems to hold its own and is fairly certain to remain a continued choice for homeowners.

Because of its versatility, Cerused wood is available in multiple furniture styles, including headboards, tables, lamps and of course, cabinets in both the kitchen and bathroom. The best part is that the toxic lead ingredient has been removed, and now contains a liming wax which is a mix of clear wax, white liming paste and paint. This means that it is not toxic or harmful to any member of your household whether they are the two-legged or four-legged kind. 

The beautiful look of Cerused wood compliments a broad variety of design styles such as farmhouse, traditional, and even a coastal vibe. The rustic yet charming aesthetic makes it the go to choice for many designers who want to have cabinets that look like they belong there. When looking for an old-fashioned feel for a modern day home, Cerused wood is your best choice.

How the look is attained

Before the wood is ready to accept the finish, it must be prepped which is done either by removing the existing finish if it was previously done or sanding unfinished wood to make it ready. This is a critical step and one that cannot be rushed or accomplished by skipping a step or two. The main trick to cerusing is the opening of the wood grain, this enables it to accept the color and is usually done using a wire brush. 

Once the wood is ready, the finish is applied such as a stain or dye. After the finish is done it is time to massage the ceruse into the wood grain ensuring that it is pushed evenly into the open pores of the wood. The final step is to apply a sealer. Again, spending as much time as needed to cerused the wood is a top priority, there are no shortcuts to quality. The results can vary depending on the type of wood that is used and a wood that is bare or raw can have a more dramatic result versus one that had a previous stain. This often means that each project is unique, possessing its own beauty, charm, and character. See a renovation project  we did with cerused oak, the homeowners were delighted with the results.

Best wood types and finish options

While this technique can be used on any wood that has a visible grain, some wood species are more suitable than others. The best wood choices include ones that have a unique or distinct grain and open pores so it can better accept the cerusing. Oak, however, is the number one choice of wood when it comes to doing the cerused effect as it has heavy grain markings and very open pores. 

Some other advantages to oak is how the wood is cross-cut which highlights the grain motif even more, when the ceruse effect is added the piece is completely transformed into something amazing. Mahogany is another large pored wood that can be used. Cerused woods are not limited to just the light finish, gray and black are also an option that can make for a beautiful statement piece in any room. Having several colors to choose from also opens the door for so many design possibilities. If you are wanting a special finish that will not just enhance the natural beauty found in the wood grain but possess a timeless look that you can enjoy for many years, cerused oak is your number one choice.

How we can help

As you can see there is a lot that goes into cerused oak or other woods and that can be a little overwhelming if you are not familiar with the process or have limited time. That is where we come in, our wealth of experience can save you time and money while giving you exactly what you want. Knowing which wood and finish is the perfect choice for each client is something that we pride ourselves on because our goal is to make your journey as enjoyable and effortless as possible.

Our designers will help you through the selection process including which grain pattern and finish best suits your style. Our goal is to help you have what you envisioned your project to be and remain in the budget you planned. Come visit our showroom to see some examples or peruse our project gallery. We look forward to connecting with you and planning your renovation or remodel.