I recently received a question asking "how I distress"...I then realized I always mention when I distress a piece, but I never describe how I do it. There are probably hundreds of different methods that everyone uses. I will describe the method I use, but please know, there are other ways to go about this.
First, you really need to know your sandpaper. There are different grits/textures. The lower the number on the sandpaper, the higher the grit. For the most part, the grit number is printed on the back of the paper.
So, as you can see from the above photo this is a 60 grit sandpaper.
There are also sanding blocks....
For the majority of my projects, I use a palm sander. You can get ones at reasonable prices from $60-$75. Well worth the investment if you plan on using it often.
I personally determine the grit I will be using depending on the project I am doing. If I am sanding a finish right off the piece I use a very textured sandpaper. Usually a 50 or 60 grit. For example, I used it on this round table I just recently did. The before photo has a very thick maple color stain on it. Most likely a few coats. It took me about a 1/2 hour to sand this finish off refreshing the paper once.
The finished table can be seen HERE.
When distressing the painted finish on painted wood such as a piece of furniture, I use anywhere from a 100 to 120 grit. On large pieces I use my palm sander. I rub the sander all along the edges and areas that would have naturally worn over time had these been pieces that were 100 years old. You will learn how to use the sander through trial and error.
You can see on this hutch below that the sander got the edges of the entire piece. I am also sure to highlight any knicks and dings. For these, you angle or use a corner of your sander to get these areas. In addition, I lightly use the sander to the entire piece to fade the paint and give it a more natural appearance.
I also use my palm sander on my signs. I reinforce the edges by pressing harder with the sander, but also fade the lettering and any imperfections on the wood. The palm sander works perfect for these and again, I use about 100 grit on these. You will get the feel for the sander the more you use it. Please note also that you do not have to use a palm sander on any of this. You can literally just fold your sandpaper to a comfortable size and do it by hand. It just takes a lot longer and more elbow grease.
When doing metal, silver, tin, etc., I use my sanding block which was the second photo shown above. The reason I use this is because it has a smooth surface. The grit on sandpaper tends to scratch or dig into metal. I like to use a sanding block with an angled edge to get into hard to reach spaces. Again, I emphasis the distressing on edges and any embellishments. Here are some samples with the sanding block.
Distressing is not difficult, but definitely takes trial and error as mentioned above. I still paint over parts I have distressed that I am not happy with. It's simply a matter of getting comfortable with the sandpaper and areas you are working with. If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.