How to Age Wood for a Rustic Look

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  • 2-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-30
What You'll Need
Steel wool
Rubber gloves
Mason jar
Black tea
Cooking pot
Paint brushes
Clean cloths
Paste wax
Baking soda
Wooden spoon
Scrub brush
Nails or screws
Old sock
Hammer or mallet

The look of distressed, rustic wood is a wonderful way to add some character and charm to your home or garden. Don’t have any aged wood to make an artistic piece? Try one of these plans to develop a rustic patina all by yourself. By following these easy methods you can customize the weathering effect to suit your needs. Use just one process or several of them together to create the look you want.

Vinegar and Steel Wool Method

Step 1 - Create the Vinegar and Wool Stain

Have you ever seen what happens to steel wool when it's been left in vinegar? Over time the wool dissolves because of the acid in the vinegar, creating an aged stain appearance. You can easily create your own vinegar and wool solution. Place a palm-sized chunk of steel wool into a mason jar. Pour a cup of vinegar over the wool. Allow the vinegar and wool to sit for about 72 hours. The longer you let the jar sit, the darker the solution will become.

Step 2- Prepare the Wood

Use sandpaper to remove any residue or stain from the wood you are using so that the vinegar and wool solution will adhere properly. If necessary, use a palm sander to remove difficult stains from the surface.

Step 3 - Apply the Tea Solution

Fill a large pot with a gallon of water and allow it to boil for one minute. Add five black tea bags to the boiling water. Turn off the heat and allow the tea to steep for about 15 minutes. The tea solution will not darken the wood when applied, but it will work with the vinegar and wool stain to create a darker tone on the wood. Brush the tea solution onto the wood.

Step 4 - Apply the Vinegar and Wool Stain

Use a paintbrush to apply the vinegar and wool stain over the tea solution. Brush the stain in long strokes moving in the same direction along the grain of the wood. Be sure to cover the wood thoroughly with the solution. Allow the stain to dry completely. If you want your wood to be darker, apply a second coat to the wood.

Step 5 - Finish the Wood Surface

Use a rag to remove any excess steel wool residue from the surface of the wood once it has dried completely. Immerse the rag in cool water. Squeeze any excess liquid from the rag. Rub the cloth over the surface, wiping off all of the excess wool.

Step 6 - Protect the Wood

When the surface is thoroughly clean, apply paste wax to your wood. This will help protect the wood surface. Read the directions provided by the manufacturer of the wax coating product before using it.

Baking Soda Method

Step 1 - Make the Soda Solution

Fill a bucket with warm water. Pour a cup of baking soda into the bucket and combine the mixture with a wooden spoon until all of the soda has dissolved.

Step 2 - Apply the Soda Solution

Use a brush to scrub the mixture into your wood. Immerse the brush into the mixture. Shake off any excess liquid. Thoroughly rub the liquid into the wood. Place the wood outside in a sunny spot and allow it to dry completely.

Step 3 - Finish the Wood

Use a clean cloth to rinse any residue from the wood. Immerse the cloth in cool water. Squeeze out any excess water. Rub the surface until it is completely smooth. Allow the wood to dry thoroughly.

Distressing Method

Option 1 - Distress Wood With Screws and Socks

Take a handful of small screws and place them into a clean sock. Tie the end of the sock to prevent any screws from coming out as you work. Hold one end of the sock and hit the wood with the covered screws until you have the distress level you want.

Option 2 - Distress Wood With a Mallet

Take out your rubber mallet or hammer. Use soft strikes to hit the wood. The mallet will create wide impressions in the surface of the wood and the hammer will make small divots. Continue the process until you have the look you want.

Option 3 - Distress With Sandpaper

Use sandpaper to remove areas of stain from the surface of your wood. The rougher the grain the greater the effect. Vary the force you use to apply the sandpaper to create a more naturally worn appearance.