{how to weather new wood}

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This is a little 411 on how to make some new wood look old – or in my case my old wood look old again.

I sanded down my craft table with a palm sander to get all the potential slivers away and i was left with a table that had a “fresh wood” look – well, that was definitely not the look i was after.  I loved how the table looked prior to sanding, and i wanted that same old gray weathered look back.  I decided to sand it down and seal it because i want the top to get even more beat up – i didn’t want glass or anything on top.

Before sanding…

garage and farm table 050

After sanding…yuk, too new for me :(

table weathering 009

I did a little google searcharoo and found a few how-to’s to gray wood.  I picked the easiest one and gave it a shot.  One piece of 0000 steel wool, glass bottle and vinegar.  Just take the steel wool and rip it in small pieces, put it in the jar and cover with vinegar.  After 24 hours most of the steel wool will be dissolved.  Mine didn’t turn dark like this until the metal on the lid reacted with the vinegar and turned it dark – it was like my own little science experiment :)

table weathering 012

Then i just brushed it on the table and as soon as the vinegar touched the wood, it started to change.  I guess the steel wool reacts with the vinegar and when this is put on wood, it speeds up the natural oxidation process – neato.

But, let me just tell you that this little process STUNK!!!  Not like vinegar that you would think – but it was worse – seriously nasty.  It smelled like…i cant even think of what it smelled like…it made me gag every couple of minutes.  Gross, gross, gross…

So here’s half the table with the vinegar and the other freshly sanded – big difference

table weathering 014

This is what it looked like after all the vinegar was on – then i let it dry for a day – soak up all that vinegary goodness.

table weathering 016

After it was dry, i gave it a light sand and it is back to its good ol’ gray self – just the way i wanted it – i love when things work out like they are supposed too – it makes my world a happier place :)

table weathering 033

So, now that its all dry i will be sealing it with some Tung oil (thanks Christa!!) – i will post some updated pics soon along with my almost finished craft room :)

OH, and just think with what you could do with the knowledge of how to gray wood!!  You could buy some new picket fence posts and make some wood boxes that have the weathered look (remember the boxes that i posted about here?)… imagine a table with the top grayed and the legs painted white (i seriously need to do that one)… you can make some hand painted signs on a left over piece of lumber – the gray wood would look like its been hanging outside for years.  TONS of stuff that you could do – just use your noggin :)

87 replies
  1. taidyeoriginal
    taidyeoriginal says:

    This may be the most useful post I have ever read –and that is saying something! I wouldnt even have known or thought to google this! You are a girl after my own heart. There is nothing better than old, gross, gray weathered wood. Thank you for posting this! Cant wait for warm weather to give it a try!! ~tai @ taidye original

  2. Jessica @ Decor Adventures
    Jessica @ Decor Adventures says:

    Wow, this is excellent! I love reading about how to do those kinds of things. I think you can do something similar with rusty nails in vinegar, it makes an ebony finish or something? I'll have to find out.

    Anyway, can't wait to see the Tung oil too, I've never used that. I'm sure it will look great!

    • Sassafras Days
      Sassafras Days says:

      Yes, I’ve heard of the rusty nails too. As a matter of fact , it was on an episode of “This Old House” about 20 or so years ago. I used this stain on brand new Adirondack chairs. They turned out great! This is not a new idea, but to many it is.
      I did my front door with this treatment back in the 70’s, but had forgotten how until seeing the program. Now everyone is doing it

  3. Lisa @ Fern Creek Cottage
    Lisa @ Fern Creek Cottage says:

    What an interesting technique. Certainly not one I would have thought of on my own. The wood looks really great afterwards!! I may try this, but I'll have to buy a gas mask first ha, ha. :)

  4. Debilou~Mississippi Mama
    Debilou~Mississippi Mama says:

    I love your table and thanks so much for sharing how you aged it. I'm working on one now (its on the top right side bar on my blog) that I couldnt figure out how to give that old aged look.

  5. Robin {keephomesimple}
    Robin {keephomesimple} says:

    Holy Cow! This is mighty good knowledge to have around. I've been wanting to make some old-ish looking signs for my kiddos new play room but had no idea how to make the wood I had look old. Now I know! Thank you soooo much for posting this! I am so excited to try it out!

  6. It's Just Me
    It's Just Me says:

    YAY Sausha, thank you SO much for posting this. I am going to building a bench for my dining room table and I wanted an old farmhouse/barn looking one but I knew I wasn't going to be able to fine wood from an old farmhouse/barn being torn down. Now all I have to do is use you lil trick, outside of course, and I'll be all set : ) Thanks again ~ Deanna

  7. Lindsay
    Lindsay says:

    Sausha- like i said before you know everything… and if you don't you google it! Fab job on this tutorial, i was about the go rip some old wood of a old barn across the street! Really! But its okay we own the barn. anyhoo! AWESOME! Thanks for sharing. cant wait to use this!

  8. vanessa
    vanessa says:

    I found your blog via Ana White today and I am loving it so far. I posted your laundry pedestal on my blog- genius idea. Can't wait to keep on reading!

  9. Piszke a Birtokról
    Piszke a Birtokról says:

    Oh, perfect timing… one of my readers sent me this link. I have brand new wooden floor in my farmhouse, and for months i've been thinking about how to make it a bit worn or older looking, since I'm not really into paints and chemicals.
    It looks great, I must try it, thanks for this idea
    Piszke, from Hungary

  10. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    A day or two after posting this a friend at school told me how she wanted this very look for the walls of her soon-to-be built cabin. I sent her your link…exactly what she wants! She doesn't want to do it herself, but said she's more than willing to hire me to do it! Hope she's got lots of windows planned. Awesome post. Thank you! Can't wait to see the final finish with the tung oil.

  11. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    Can you help me? My vinegar solution is not changing colors…you said something about the metal of the lid….did you turn the bottle upsidedown?


  12. Sausha @ {show and tell}
    Sausha @ {show and tell} says:

    Nicole, dont worry about yours not changing color. Mine only did once my liquid touched the lid, but that doesnt matter (my liquid touched the lid when i was carrying it down the stairs). All that you need is the steel wool to break down in the vinegar and thats what will change your wood color.

    Hope that helps!!!

  13. Christa @ Stories of a House
    Christa @ Stories of a House says:

    Wow, this is a great trick! What a neat effect. By the way, Formby's Tun Oil is the only one I use now – get low sheen. It goes on like water and not like honey like Minwax does.

  14. lisaroyhandbags
    lisaroyhandbags says:

    I just found your blog and what a day to do it! This tutorial is brilliant! and yup, the possibilities are endless! definitely a new follower! :)

  15. Shannon {aka}|design
    Shannon {aka}|design says:

    Oh my!! Found you via the How To party at Lettered Cottage. What a post! We're planning to diy a vintage industrial wood and metal table and were looking at reclaimed wood for it's aged look. This could drastically reduce our cost!!! Thanks for posting.

  16. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I am distressing some café doors for Apple Works Orchard, where I work. They are new doors that need a white wash. We have other white washed items at the orchard but the wood is gray. I just put a wad of steal wool in a jar of vinegar. Can't wait to see how the doors looks!

    Thanks so much for the info!

  17. naja
    naja says:

    I wish I had seen this post before I stained my wine crates twice! Thanks for posting. I'm now looking for a posting of AFTER the tung oil was applied! I am going to try this on my kitchen table and will pain the legs creamy/distressed white. Blessings…

  18. Morning T
    Morning T says:

    Hi Sausha- I keep coming back to this post. I just stripped my dining room table and was hoping for a bleached wood look but my wood is way too red. I'm thinking I'll try this method to give it more of a natural, gray tint. Wish me luck!!

  19. Maleigh Canon
    Maleigh Canon says:

    So I tried this little experiment with distilled white vinegar and it didn't work at all. :( The steel wool didn't dissolve so I guess I'm heading back to the store to try it again with a different vinegar. Any suggestions?

  20. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    I've done this on a scrap piece of wood. My steel wool didn't dissolve all the way, but it seems to be okay. It totally changed when the liquid touched the metal lid! Kind of like magic. It looks like a walnut color stain. It's been on for a week now, with no change. I'm going to take some sandpaper to it and see what happens. And for those concerned about the smell…there is no lingering smell after a bit. Even up close.

  21. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    Follow up: Yes! Sanding is the final, must-do step. Mine isn't exactly grey (might be the wood?)- still a walnut color…but it has a beautiful worn, aged patina to it. Thanks!

  22. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    This seems to be the answer to my questions about weathering the wood. My next question to you is what type of vinegar is best.

  23. Catherine Sutthoff Slaton
    Catherine Sutthoff Slaton says:

    Sorry I'm a little late to the party. For those of you who have trouble with your steel wool dissolving, you may have to do a search for REAL steel wool. Oddly enough, all steel wool is not created equal. Some doesn't have as much steel content as others. I ran into the same problem and ended up aging my wood with a solution of baking soda and water. It went from high glass t&g pine boards to sanded down new wood and finally with the aid of baking soda and water, a warm silvery gray, like barn wood.

    • Donna Phelps
      Donna Phelps says:

      Can you please tell me what your baking soda and water mixture percentages were. I have heard this really results in grey tones rather than the warmer dustressed wood tones and that is what I am looking for, warm silvery grey. Thnx

  24. Ange
    Ange says:

    Just saw your post on Pinterest. Thank you for sharing this very clever idea. I am wanting to make an “old looking” barn door and this technique will make my job a lot easier.

  25. Melanie
    Melanie says:

    Just found this post. I did this too, and it works awesome. A couple of tips:

    – Let the steel wool sit in the vinegar for a couple of weeks. Yes, it has to be real steel. And yes, iron nails can be used instead.

    – Any kind of vinegar can be used. Experiment with different ones for different shades.

    – The colour doesn’t change much on pine boards. Pine doesn’t have tannin in it. If you use pine, you need to also stain the boards with strongly brewed black tea. Put the tea on first and let it dry. Then go over it with the vinegar for a nice antique oak colour. Or, brush the vinegar on first. While it’s still wet, apply the tea. The colour changes to a dark weathered grey.

  26. katie
    katie says:

    I used distilled white vinegar because that was all I could find, is that right? also my steel wool is not breaking down after 24 hrs and I am using the 0000 steel wool. Any suggestions or corrections I should be doing? thanks

  27. Cori
    Cori says:

    So I read this post months ago and have been dying for a project where I can try it. Now I am 28 weeks pregnant and designing my sons nursery. We’re going for industrial organic and my plan is to take new wood and use this technique to create a simple square molding for a chair rail around the room separating the 2 paint colors. My question is…is there a specific wood you would recommend or steer clear of? Thanks for the input and inspiration!!

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      honestly, i have no idea what wood is good or bad for this, i did it on redwood and it worked awesome!!

  28. Sherrie
    Sherrie says:

    I have an old library table that needed to be sanded down to remove slivers. However, I have sanded off the patina of the wood. A friend of my suggested leaving the disassembled table parts in a plastic bag with wood alcohol to age the wood? Have you heard of this technique?

  29. kellie
    kellie says:

    Hi I am about to try this out! I have my table sanded and I started soaking my steel wool and vinagar. . . it hasn’t changed colors yet. . I saw that some other people were have trouble with this too. How can you tell what is real steel wool because I got the 0000 steel wool so I just dont know what to do, any suggestions?? Thank you!!

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      i assume by now your steel wool has dissolved? I guess every steel wool/vinegar combination is a little different and it may just take a little longer than others.

  30. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    I am trying out the weather wood technique from your blog and am also having a problem with the steel wool dissolving….it’s been sitting almost a week and nothing yet…I saw were it needs to be 100 % steel wool was wondering if you have a suggestion on a specific brand…I checked the package that I bought and cannot find where it says it’s 100 % steel wool …..

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      i just used the store brand from lowes, the 0000 kind. I just did another batch and this time i threw in a couple rusty nails and it seemed to speed up the process – it took a few days for it to start turning brown and then about a week – week 1/2 for all the steel wool to dissolve.

  31. Kelli
    Kelli says:

    How did it work with the tung oil? I just used this technique with the Steel wool and vinegar but when I applied the tung oil to a sample piece the greyness/weatheres look went away, did this happen to you as well?

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      in the beginning, it looked a little darker, but as it dried it turned back to the greyish…but all wood is going to take these things differently, so its just a lot of experimenting!!

  32. Patty
    Patty says:

    LOVE YOUR BLOG! I’ve done this with Apple Cider Vinegar and it works well. Also, have read that to give it a blue-ish tint, add copper penny’s instead of the steel wool. I’m planning to try this next!

  33. MC
    MC says:


    I’ve read about this steel wool & vinegar trick on a number of website but yours is the best (am a visual learner :-)). However, after 2 attempts at soaking the steel wool in vinegar for more than 1 week each time…the solution remains as clear as pure vinegar. For my first attempt, I broke down the steal woolpad into tiny bits and covered that with vinegar in a glass jar (old jam jar with the original, clean lid)… nothing.For my most recent attempt, I used bigger chunks of the steel wool and plain white vinegar. This has been in my garage for 2 weeks now and the solution is still very clear. What am I doing wrong?


    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      so, ive made this solution about 4 times now (getting ready to make another batch tomorrow in fact) and it has turned out different every time. Im using the same vinegar each time, but i have used 2 different types of steel wool. Sometimes it turns gray/dark really quick and sometimes it has taken a couple weeks. The batch i made last time, i threw in a couple of pennies as someone else had mentioned and it turned rusty color really quick. So maybe throw in a couple of nails or pennies and see what happens. And try the solution anyways, even before the steel wool has dissolved, i bet you will still get the wood to look aged :)

  34. Chris
    Chris says:

    After finding this site, I had some GREAT novice success with my first vinegar stain job. You can see what I was able to accomplish inside the red box of the first picture.


    And then… I tried using a white vinegar and steel wool solution that had set for a week or so before trying to use it. Worked great as a home made stain and would look good on a new fence where all boards looked like this however, in trying to ‘match’ an old look, I’m probably no better off then I was with the new white boards so… Anyone know of a good wood bleach or some means of backing off the stain look on the boards below?


    I believe too that the first boards may have been pine and that was an apple cider vinegar w/steel wool that had only set over night but took 2 or 3 coats to get where it is. THe second solution in pic two, was pretty much a one coater but much darker and nastier looking when applied.

    Again, though – in the bottom picture, I’m just trying to find something that will remove some of the stain and better match the surrounding boards.

    Thanks for any ideas,

    • Chris
      Chris says:

      Just for sake in comparing notes with others…

      I believe the boards in the first picture to be pine and used apple cider vinegar that had 0000 steel wool soaking in a small plastic bucket (not sure if glass would be an improvement or not), over a 24 hour period. I used this same fresh solution and approach on about 3 different occasions to get what you see within the red box.

      On the second picture, those boards are cedar and having read other opinions on different sites, I used white vinegar with 0000 steel wool and that fermented concoction set for a week or so before using it. Made a great ‘stain’ but as you can see, the match isn’t what the first one was.

  35. Steve Zee
    Steve Zee says:

    It does take a few days or more normally to “brew” the solution. Also, a strong black tea (as Melanie mentioned) applied first works even better.

  36. Louise Patterson
    Louise Patterson says:

    You can also age wood, oak works very well, with caustic soda or bleach, just make a paste with caustic soda (wear gloves) rub on, leave for awhile and wash off. Or pour bleach on, leave and then wash off.

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      good idea on the caustic soda – i will have to try that! Sherwin Williams also has a bleaching solution for wood – havent tried that one yet though…

  37. J
    J says:

    After treating furniture with the vinegar/steel wool batch, do you think it’s okay to apply Thomson’s Waterproofing or will that change the color? I’ve just started using my first batch on my patio furniture and everything looks great so far. A lot darker than I initially thought it would be, but I’m hoping the color will mellow out once the furniture dries. Anyway, any help on the waterproofing question would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      I think it should be fine without changing the color too much, i havent used thomsons so i dont know for sure, i assume like any other clear coat, it will make the wood look a little “richer” and just a little darker

  38. Shannon Ireland
    Shannon Ireland says:

    I just tried this with a hallway organizer my dad built for me — oh my GOSH what a stink! Caustic! YUCK! Truthfully, I’m a bit panicked — the stain did NOT absorb evenly whatso-ever… leaving a lot of really ugly streaky lines all over! EEK! I’m *praying* a good sanding will put it to rights, so I don’t have to explain to my lovely dad why I suddenly decided to PAINT his beautiful wooden masterpiece. Hopefully….? Is this normal?

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      oh no!! Every piece of wood takes the solution differently, so its best to try it on a scrap 1st. Ive done some wood and it doesnt turn colors at all and some the second i put it on.

      I hope you were able to even things out and it turns out well for you :)

      And yes – it is so so stinky! It will go away soon though!

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      how long have you had the solution soaking? Each time i have done this, i have used different brands of steel wool/vinegar and each time it takes a different amount of time. Also – the steel wool doesnt need to be completely dissolved before the solution will work – try some on a scrap and it may already have been soaking long enough and will turn the wood colors :)

  39. Lindia
    Lindia says:

    Hi- I followed a tutorial on Craftaholics Anonymous for aging wood using the tea plus the vinegar solution (http://www.craftaholicsanonymous.net/how-to-age-wood-tutorial-guest-post-from-que-linda). I used regular Lipton’s tea and wiped the solution on cedar fence planks and left to dry. I poured plain white vinegar over 000 steel wool in a plastic pitcher. I let it sit overnight and the next day I didn’t think it broke down the steel wool so I stirred it. As soon as the stick touched the steel wool it basically disintegrated. I wiped the vinegar solution on the cedar and as soon as it touched the wood it changed the color to a beautiful patina. The only smell I noticed was the vinegar and it lingered for a few days- until I sprayed the wood with air freshener, lol. I wish I could show you what I made but I don’t have a blog and I don’t know how to post pictures.

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      i bet it looks awesome :) I use the steel wool/vinegar a lot but havent done the tea thing yet. I will have to give that a try one day :)

  40. L. Atkinson
    L. Atkinson says:

    An old standby recipe that miniaturist artists Noel and Pat Thomas labeled as their “bug juice”, to weather new wood. If anyone’s planing a rather large project that requires lots of bug juice, other bits of metal that rust, work well, pickling in vinegar, to! Some of the best desolving bits include old rusted nails and paperclips,..to name a couple. If you’re out of steal wool, look around for anything that’s small and rusting that you’ve got no other need for and start bottling!!

  41. Jill
    Jill says:

    Just a note on this vinegar concoction. I had a couple brewing in different mason jars. Guess I wasn’t supposed to cover it or cover it so tight. One of mine exploded all over my kitchen! Glass and stain everywhere, please be careful and don’t make my mistake.

  42. Tori
    Tori says:

    This is just a thought I had while reading through all the comments, some of you have mentioned using pennies. I have read somewhere that this will give it a turquoise patina. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But my thought is that you would have to use older pennies. the new ones don’t have as much copper in them, which i believe is what causes the reaction. Just my two cents! =)

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins}
      Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} says:

      yes, i have read that but the pennies have to be before a certain year, which i cant remember, because the pennies now have very little copper.

  43. Rich
    Rich says:

    I was trying to make the new cedar I have turn gray/silver like sun washed wood so I recently tried some experiments with steel wool and vinegar.

    48 hours with 0000 steel wool and white vinegar – the steel wool started to dissolve some but I needed to strain out the liquid before applying it. It worked quite well in staining the cedar to a medium to dark brownish color and slightly lightened once dry. Too dark for what I wanted though.

    24 hours with 0000 steel wool and white vinegar – the steel wool didn’t dissolve so just pulled out the steel wool from the jar and then applied. It stained the cedar to a medium brown color and lightened some once dry showing a little gray/silver but again too dark for me.

    Straight white vinegar – I put some in a spray bottle and sprayed it on the wood. This seemed to gray/silver the wood slightly but still leaving too much of the color behind. So not strong enough.

    I am going to try a 12 hour solution next and also the baking soda/water suggestion I saw in another response.

    Hope this helps anyone else trying to do the same.

  44. Tati
    Tati says:

    I can’t find steel wool that doesn’t have soap built in to it! Tried rinsing the soap out with water but it doesn’t seem to work! This won’t work, right?

  45. Bill
    Bill says:

    Get apple cider vinegar. Already has some color.
    Get anything rusty and soak for a couple days, rusted nails, pipes etc. More rust the more color.
    Vinegar works best at hotter temperatures. Soak outside in hot sun.

    White vinegar is a stronger acid then apple vinegar.

    Wear gloves and do outside

  46. Steve Mattson
    Steve Mattson says:

    I have some helpful tips on the oxidizing solution. I was very skeptical about the recipe after starting my solution and reading a lot of this feedback, Here is what i found:

    1. Most of the Home stores out there seem to sell RHODES AMERICAN steel wool. Per their website this is 100% steel so don’t give up on it because it doesn’t dissolve in 24 hours.
    2. I mixed 3 different batches in 2 different mason jars and one pickle jar and it DOES NOT dissolve in 24 hours. In fact after 3 days the solution in the jar still looked clear until I shook it up. It then got quite dark but the steel wool was not totally dissolved (not even close). I took the lid off and stirred the solution and it helped to break up the steel wool.
    3.On the 4th day of the solution steeping I decided to try a scrap 2X4. I coated with black tea and let it dry. Then i shook up the oxidizing solution and applied the first coat. The wood did not get darker for at least a half hour (which is longer than what the directions suggested). It did start darkening within the hour and I actually brushed additional solution on which helped to accelerate the darkening process and it did achieve the desired color.
    4. Engaging the solution with the lid (as suggested in some of the feedback) had no effect that I could tell.
    5. The oxidizing process does cause a pressure build up in the jar. The lids on mason jars will distort. I let pressure off periodically to avoid the explosion others had experienced.
    6. Be patient – The process works but make take longer than you expected. Don’t be afraid to experiment when you start getting some darkness in your solution after shaking it up. Hope this helps


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