How to Age Wood?

No article on wood crafts is complete without talking about the desired “weathered” look. How do you achieve that aged, lived-in look? How can you make your new wood appliance or furniture look like it’s had decades of history behind it? We are going to share with you just how easy it is. You have probably seen this aged appearance before in pictures or perhaps even at the antique store, wondering if a unique technique was involved. There isn’t any magic involved, but rather some basic drying techniques and adding substances that will age the finished product over time.

How to Weather Wood

There are several choices you have when it comes to the finished product. You can choose just how much weathering you want or need and then pick the best materials for that aging level.
Before application, your piece should already be sanded down to a smooth finish with no splinters or rough areas left behind.
This is probably the easiest way to age wood without having the added work of using paints or glazes. The depth of color will give an area more definition for things like wrinkles in wood furniture pieces and adding some highlighting lines on paneling pieces. It also fills in any small cracks, so they don’t end up looking too “chunky.”

1. Important Things to Remember When Aging Wood

– One of the biggest mistakes that novice woodworkers make is trying to weather a recently-sanded piece. If too much distressing is done to the project, you will lose some of the highlights and definition lines from the recent sanding job. Older furniture pieces should be prepped for this process before they even begin on.
– When finding areas to distress, look for places where there might be existing wear or scratches already in place. You can add additional detailed chips and divots (and even rust) using paintbrushes and wire brushes, and holders (this also adds definition). If your chosen piece has hardware as hinges or drawer pulls, take a little time to add some battle scars around them.

2. Recommended Products for Aging Wood

As with any project, there are several different products that you can use for aging your wood furniture. The general rule of thumb is to find what works best with your color choice and desired level of weathering.
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of distressing the piece yourself (a big time-saver), or if you need some more defined cracking around joints, consider using an airbrush or stenciling technique to get the job done instead. There are several different faux finish techniques, including crackle and chipping glaze finishes, among others.
The nice thing about these “faked” finishes is that they usually require very little work on your part. The process is generally completed by painting the piece and then using a blow-dryer to dry it out. You can add more definition by lightly sanding or brushing away at areas until you get the desired look.
The one thing you have to watch for with these finishes is cracking if they are used on a very humid day (you will know this when your project starts taking on a “wet” look). There are several types of glaze finishes that can be applied in order for this not to happen, but keep in mind that it will still take longer than if using an actual aging finish. Luckily, even if it does crack, with older pieces most people won’t notice with all of the other attention-grab

Grey Wood Stain

If you are looking for a way to age wood without having to go through the hassle of distressing it yourself, look no further than using an actual grain-filling treatment. The most popular brand and the one that I prefer to use is known as “Grey Poupon.” This colorant can be purchased at just about any home improvement store for around $8 per quart (it goes a very long way).
The nice thing about this product is that it can be applied on just about any type of wood, even ones stained with darker colors like black walnut or mahogany.
As mentioned above, if your weathering plan calls for paint glazes or stencils, you probably need to sand down the wood first. This is not the case with Grey Poupon, as it actually fills in some of the deeper grain on your wood, giving it more definition and allowing you to better show off areas like edges and corners (not something that sanding can do).
Once you have completed filling in the grain using one or several coats of this stain (don’t forget that the underside should be done too), consider adding a light sealant for added protection. This will also bring down any sheen on your piece (which may not be what you’re looking for if you are planning on painting over it).

Weathered Wood Accelerator

One of the downsides to using a grain-filling treatment is that in order for it to look natural, you have to apply several coats in a criss-cross pattern. Like many people with bigger projects know, this can become quite time-consuming, especially when you are trying to work on an exact plan.
But there is a product called Weathered Wood Accelerator (BonaKemi) which not only gives you the ability to quickly age wood but it also gives you the freedom of being able to pick up and move your piece after application without damaging or changing your finished project.
If you find yourself getting frustrated by how long finishing projects take, I highly recommend checking out this accelerator! Unfortunately, due to its unique formula, it is only available online and can be purchased from Amazon.com (I would recommend buying at least four bottles as you’ll most likely go through a lot of this stuff just to complete a medium-sized piece).
Here’s the rundown on how it works:

You have several different ways to apply this accelerator – just follow the directions that come with the product. One way is to simply squirt it onto your project and use a brush or rag to distribute it evenly. If you are planning on painting over top of this treatment, I highly recommend actually spraying directly onto your piece, depending on if you have an airbrush or not.

Aged Wood Accelerator

If you want to age wood quickly but don’t want the hassle of preparing it beforehand, this is the perfect product for you! It comes in a small plastic bottle and can be applied in just about any area that has been sanded down.
Once again, if your project involves paint glazes or stenciling afterward, then you will need to consider applying a sealant once finished.
While we’re on the topic of aging accelerators, here’s an interesting tip: adding a few drops of black acrylic paint into this formula will make it look like an old oil stain which is sometimes seen on vintage pieces. You’ll have to experiment with how much paint to add until you get the right color for your liking, but from personal experience, I can tell you that it works quite well.

Aging Wood Techniques to Try at Home

Salt and Heat

The first technique works best on dried wood, whereas the latter can be used for fresh or even treated lumber. In terms of quantity, you will simply need a few cups of each as well as a heat source such as a campfire or stovetop. As with any experiment involving heated objects, have safety equipment available just in case an accident were to happen (i.e., oven mitts, fire extinguisher).

For Dried Wood:

This is by far one of the easiest ways to make your wood look old – it only takes around 15 minutes from start to finish! All you have to do is completely cover your project with salt – make sure that all sides are covered in a thick coat. After that, you will simply need to hold your piece close to the heat source until it begins to char and smoke.

For Fresh Wood:

In order to produce this effect with fresh wood, you’ll need an outdoor stove or campfire in which you can add kindling and branch logs. Make sure that all pieces have been thoroughly dried out before adding heat. Once they start burning, place your wood next to the flames so that it chars once again – just be careful not to let any ash drop into the fire as it may cause a small explosion!

Improvised Wear and Tear

If you really want a piece to look vintage, then this technique is a must! Making realistic wear and tear marks on your projects requires sandpaper and elbow grease. Make sure that you have paper or sanding discs in various grits, from coarse to fine, so that the marks appear more natural.

For Dried Wood:

In order to add splintering effects, all you have to do is apply light pressure with sandpaper over areas of the wood that would typically be exposed to high amounts of friction, such as around handles or joints in furniture pieces. If your project involves planks in a wall, you can use a circular sander with 80-grit sandpaper for a quick speed pass (just make sure that you are standing to the side of it as the exposed end is shooting debris everywhere). The slower, more meticulous way is to use a handheld orbital sander with 80-grit paper. If you decide to go this route, make sure that no pressure is applied. You may skip this step if your wood has already been naturally split or worn down.

For Fresh Wood:

If you wish to age fresh wood but don’t have access to heat or sandpaper, then you can try using a paint stripper or even just thinner for plastics! Just apply it generously over the project and let it set in for several hours before wiping away any excess fluid. Once dry, take a sander with 100-grit sandpaper and go over any areas that are susceptible to damage during the use of your pieces, such as around handles or joints. Make sure not to press down too hard otherwise;, you’ll just end up removing half of the wood’s surface!

How to Grey Wood and Plastic

For this technique, you will need a pot and water – any type of jar with an opening wide enough to accommodate your project will suffice. Just make sure that it is wide at the bottom so you can fit your piece inside completely.

For Dried Wood:

Once in the container, add some hot water in order to cover the wood completely. Coldwater may also be used, but the effect won’t be as pronounced. It takes around 1-2 hours for dark grey or black marks to form on wood surfaces when exposed to boiling/very hot water, depending on how deep they are applied. The simplest way to check if your wood has reached proper aging levels is to take out smaller pieces every 30 minutes or so in order to gauge whether it has reached the desired level. Depending on the type of wood, you may need to boil or simmer for up to 10 hours.

For Fresh Wood:

For fresh wood pieces, which would require boiling water anyway when dried, there’s no need to place them inside a jar beforehand. Fill your pot with enough water to fully submerge your piece and bring it to a rolling boil. Once there, you can simply set your piece into it for several minutes before taking it out and repeating this process if necessary. Make sure not to leave the piece in too long, though, as boiling will most likely cause any glue holding PVC or ABS parts together to break down! You may find that letting your project.

Weathering Wood Using Paint

With this technique, you’ll be creating an artificial layer of grime over your piece. This is particularly useful for pieces that are intended to look used but still want them to look aesthetically pleasing.

For Dried Wood:

For this step, you will need acrylic paint in two colors – darker and lighter than the natural color of your wood (for me … Dark Earth and Beige). Take a bit of each onto a sponge or even just a rag and simply wipe it directly on the surface of your project. If multiple layers are required, feel free to add more paint. Just try not to go overboard with one coat, as it will affect how your piece dries out afterward! Make sure that you set it.

Bleaching Wood for a Weathered Effect

The last and simplest technique to weather wood and plastic using household items is to use bleach. Just make sure that you don’t use it on untreated/unweathered wood. It won’t really affect the look of your project this way, but I haven’t yet tried it on darker pieces, so I’m not too sure how well the bleach would take to the much darker coloring, although considering how it takes well to untreated wood.

For Dried Wood:

Using a cotton ball or even a cotton swab, lightly dampen it with some bleach before applying directly to your piece. You can also try spraying paint instead of using an applicator for this step as well! After giving it about 10-15 minutes, rinse off your piece and dry it. Depending on your preference, you may opt to leave some bleached sections or completely cover them.

For Fresh Wood:

If working with fresh wood pieces instead of dried ones, the process is basically the same as for drying! Just make sure that you don’t let fresh wood sit in bleach for too long, as it may cause the glue holding your pieces together to weaken over time. You can try soaking them for an hour or so and then leaving them out to air dry afterward instead. Keep in mind that there may be slight color differences between dyed and non-dyed woods – especially black – but not enough to affect how they look when weathered together. With proper application, though, almost any.

Using Tea to Discolor Wood

This method is the same as using bleach, except that you’re using tea instead! It’s actually a pretty common practice for woodturners to enhance the look of their pieces by staining them with tea. Depending on how deep your stain goes, you may have to reapply it multiple times until the desired color is achieved.

Using Dried Wood:

Just like what was mentioned before, there are benefits and drawbacks to this technique depending on whether or not your piece is dried or fresh, so be sure to keep either in mind. For sun-dried pieces, I’d recommend lightly moistening a cotton ball or swab with tea (preferably black tea) and wiping it over the surface of your project. You can also spray paint if you want to apply it evenly. Allow everything to dry out before repeating this step as necessary to achieve the desired look!

For Fresh Wood:

You may find that dyed woods don’t take much of a color change after being soaked in tea. This may not necessarily be a bad thing since one benefit is that you can mix and match pieces between different types of wood or even with plastics to make them look aged together. I’d recommend using warm – but not hot – water (the same temperature as your hand), which should work well for fresh, untreated pieces! Don’t try boiling it like what was mentioned for bleaching either because this will most likely cause glue joints to weaken very quickly.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Reverse Aged Wood?

For example, you can scrape off paint that has been applied using this technique, but the effect will only be temporary. The bleached wood, for example, may not appear to take on any color when wet, but it will dry out with a slight greyish tint. If you try applying fresh paint over it, though, it should repel fresh paints just fine!
Hot water seems to have the biggest effect because pieces soaked in hot water seem to have aged much better than pieces soaked in warm or cold water. It would be best if you could keep pieces submerged in very hot water for an extended period of time, so I don’t recommend boiling them unless you want your glue joints weakened dramatically! Just remember that there are benefits and drawbacks to everything, which is why I mentioned testing out a few different methods before settling on one.

Can You Seal Weathered Wood?

Not really. If you want to protect it from the elements for an extended period of time, then I’d recommend using a clear coat such as polyurethane or lacquer. Unfortunately, sealing weathered wood will also cause its color to change, which sorta defeats the whole purpose of sun-bleaching, in my opinion!

Do I Need to Prepare the Wood Before Aging it?

There are benefits and drawbacks to this, so it’s up to you which one you prefer. You can simply soak freshly-cut wood in water for a few days or weeks without doing anything else beforehand, though be prepared to see it take on some color when you apply bleach. It wouldn’t be impossible to reverse the process with treatment, but the bleached color may not take on much of a color change after being soaked in tea. Not only that, but I’ve read accounts where people have tried scrubbing the surface with a wire brush (to remove grime, rust, etc.) or steel wool (for blemishes like dings and scratches) without any real noticeable effect to the overall appearance.

How Can I Remove Spots in My Finish?

For small blemishes, you can use wood filler or even sawdust mixed with glue to fill in the damage. If you want to remove bigger sections of finish, though, I’d recommend sanding away the blemished area and starting over fresh by either applying a different technique (like bleaching) or using new pieces of wood!

What Causes Watermarks on Artificially Aged Wood?

Can you prevent watermarks from happening when aging wood?
Yes, in most cases, at least. The easiest way to do so is by applying a sealer such as polyurethane or varnish over the surface after it has been finished! You can also sponge on a couple of coats of watered-down paint instead, but this may not be as effective.

Are There Other Ways to Age Wood?

Why yes, there are! Check out this article for other methods such as using vinegar to age wood, and this one has instructions on how to make a blackened wood effect with household products

Why Do My Wooden Planks Have Different Colors?

This is usually caused by the growth rings in the wood that have been exposed to sunlight and moisture. The darker lines then tend to absorb more of these elements and change color while the lighter parts remain fairly unchanged since it isn’t getting as much exposure to sunlight and water.

Do I Need to Protect My Aged Wood?

Yes, this is recommended if you’re using it outdoors. The wood’s color may not change dramatically depending on how you age it, but the effects of weathering will still take their toll with time! You can use sealants or paints to keep your aged wood looking good as new for a reasonable amount of time.

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