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.

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.

Coursed oak and 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 it’s grain. The results were amazing and have continued to be used in the design world. Cerused wood is available in multiple furniture styles, including headboards, tables, lamps and of course, cabinets both 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. 

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. 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. See a renovation project done with cerused oak.

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. Oak is the number one choice of wood when in comes to doing the cerused effect as it has a 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.

How we can help

As you can see there is a lot that goes into cerused wood 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. 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.