Aging Raw Wood – Stain Need Not Apply!

Ever hear about aging raw wood with a vinegar/steel wool solution? Recently here at the
Sage & Twine workshop in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, I decided to give it a try with some raw pine boards I’m using for signs.

To make the solution, I poured 2 cups of vinegar into a recycled, glass pickle jar and added a clump of steel wool. Some recipes suggested using a 60% vinegar/40% water solution but I went full strength.


The reason I went full strength was because I also added some brewed, cooled, black tea (5 bags in about 1 cup of boiling water).  I let it sit overnight, swirling every once in a while.


Do this outside if you can.  It’s quite odiferous!  I sanded and wiped both boards with a tack cloth before applying the vinegar solution.   I also took a hammer and chain to them to give the wood more of a distressed, beat-up look.  I applied the day-old solution with a 3″ chip brush. Below is how it looked right after one application.  The one on the right has one coat of the solution and the left board is flipped to the plain ol’ raw pine side.  You can see a little bit of a contrast, but not much yet.


About an hour later, I gave them another coat of the solution.  It didn’t seem to change much at all, so I decided to wait and check it the next day.


Here’s how it looked the next day after two coats of the day-old solution (obviously, one of the boards is flipped over so you can see the raw wood vs. treated board).  WOW!


Things got busy for me with some other projects and over a week passed (boy if I had a dime every time I said that!)  When I finally got back to this little diddy, I took a look at my solution. The steel wool had completely dissolved and it was now black (see below).  It was also a little foamy on the top.  Chemistry rocks!


Since I wanted more of a grey look, I decided to apply 2 more coats of this blacker solution to the boards. Here’s how it look right after I finished the second coat.


And here’s how it looked the next day after it had some time to dry and process the wood.IMG_3883

I definitely see the grey that came out after applying the older (darker) solution.  It’s still not exactly the look I’m going for. I’d like less brown and more grey – more like aged, barn wood.  Since I’m a big-time experimenter, next time I’m going to use the older, darker solution first without tea and see how that goes.  I’m still glad I tried it.  Oh, and the smell disappeared like vinegar usually does, thank goodness. Who needs stain?  ;0)

~ Amy

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