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How to Make New Wood Look Old and Weathered

Whether you are putting up wood paneling, making a wooden crate, or building a piece of furniture out of wood, you may want to have your new wood look old and weathered to add a bit of character and charm to your project. 

Here are a few tips and tricks to make new wood look old, distressed, and weathered.

 

Tips & Tricks for How to Make New Wood Look Old and Weatheredphoto courtesy of Christian Lau flickr.com/photos/christianmlau/8061316277/Distressing Techniques to Make Your Wood Look Weathered:

Use Wood with Flaws
An easy way to make your wood look weathered and distressed is to purchase wood that most would consider to be undesirable.  When shopping for wood for your project, hand select the most distressed pieces out of the stack instead of picking the ones on top.  Make sure to only select distressed wood but avoid warped wood that would make your project more difficult.

Sand Sharp Edges
Weathered wood does not have clean sharp edges like new wood cut in a factory.  Using a power sander or sandpaper and manual power, sand down all of the sharp machine cut edges with a coarse grit sandpaper.

Beat it Up
There are many ways to beat up your wood to make it weathered.  You can hit it with a metal chain, throw rocks at it, hit it with a hammer, put some nail holes in it, scratch it with something sharp, scrape it irregularly with a planer, roll some screws across it, let your dogs scratch it with their nails, scrape it with a wire brush, scratch it with a hand saw, let your kids ride their bikes on it, do an art project with the wood as the drop cloth, walk on it with golf cleats, or jump all over it.

Raise the Grain
Using a blow torch, and all safety precautions you can think of, lightly "toast" your wood using slow and steady strokes making sure it does not catch on fire.  After the wood is nice and brown, use a wire brush to brush off the charred bits.

 

Application Techniques to Make Your Wood Look Old:

Stain
Experiment with several stains to get the aged look you want for your wood.  If you desire a very lightly stained wood, consider wetting your wood slightly before staining it and immediately wiping off the stain.  For a darker stain, simply follow the directions on the can.  If you want a stain to just the surface and not the distressing, brush on the stain rather dry.  If you want a barn board affect, stain with a gray stain.

Faux Antique Paint
If you prefer a painted finishing instead of a stained finish, you can make your wood look old by painting in an antique style or you can crackle paint your wood.  Click here for the steps to paint your wood in an antiqued style.  Click here for tips on how to crackle paint.

Diluted Paint
You can paint your distressed wood with paint that has been diluted with water.  First try a solution of 50% water and 50% paint.  You can add more water or more paint until you get the consistency you desire.

Paint Then Sand
You can lightly paint your weathered wood, then sand most of the paint off after it has completely dried.  The paint will stay in the crevices, however the top of the wood will be raw.  This technique gives the appearance of wood that was painted but the paint has worn off over the years.

Oxidation
To make your new wood look old and gray, you can oxidize it.  Fill a glass mason jar with vinegar and add bits and pieces of very fine steel wool.  Let the vinegar sit with the lid on for 1-2 days or more.  The vinegar and steel wool will combine to create an iron based solution.  After the vinegar has soaked, boil 1/2 cup of water in another jar and add 2 tea bags.   In a well ventilated area, "paint" your wood with the tea and let it dry.  After the tea is dry, "paint" your wood with the vinegar mixture.  The wood will transform over the next 5 minutes or so.  After the vinegar mixture is completely dry, lightly sand the surface with 220 grit sandpaper and cover with a finishing wax or tung oil to protect the finish.

Burn It
Many people like the charred look of burnt wood.  Burning wood tends to bring out the grain and give the wood a constrasting color.  You can burn wood using a butane or propane blowtorch, but make sure you complete this project outside and away from flammable items with a water source nearby in case the wood or something else catches on fire.  The process can be time consuming, so make sure to allow several hours or more for your project, depending on its size.  Simply hold the lit torch about 3 inches away from the wood and move it slowly side to side.  After you get the look you desire, wipe down the wood with a damp rag.  After it is dry, you can apply a finish coat if you desire.  Buildings in Japan have actually been constructed using burnt wood since the 1700's in a process called shou sugi ban, which means burnt cedar, because the wood originally used was cedar however other types of woods are now used.  The burnt wood is fire and insect resistant, making it a perfect building material.  Shou sugi ban wood tends to have a dark stain or alligator skin appearance.

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