How to Age Wood

How to Age Wood the Right Way

When a long period of time passes, and with some help of the weather, wood creates a fine, thin layer that adds a wonderful look to any project you’re working on. However, if you haven’t already planned and waited for this effect, you most likely won’t find the type of wood that has this trait. Thus, you can count on faking the impact instead of reliable results. The question is; how can you do it? How can you age wood properly?

That will be the subject of our guide today, as we’ll be teaching how to obtain that desired look for when you need it without having to wait it out over a period of years!

Without further ado, here’s how to age wood the right way:

How to Age Wood: Here’s What You Will Need

For the most part, you won’t be needing many materials to deal with this issue. You may even get away by going tackling it without having any of the suggested items, but here’s a summary of the most important ones anyway:

Alternatively, you can also obtain a comparable result with a stain that is found at stores, as many of the brands that exist today make such products that’ll make your wood look beautifully aged. Next, we’ll give you a nice DIY way to get a better result for cheaper.

How to Age Wood Step by Step

How to Age Wood: First Step: Making Iron Vinegar

First of all, in order to obtain the finish you’re hoping for, you’ll have to prepare a particular compound that’ll be vital to the process, which is iron vinegar. What you do first is take a chunk of steel wool, the size of a baseball and put it in a mason jar, then pour some white vinegar on it and leave it alone for a while.

Now what will happen is the reaction that takes place when you put acid and metal together: the vinegar will start breaking down into the steel, and the resulting solution is what will give you wood that desired weathered look by oxidization.

You can always customize the final mixture by varying the time you leave steel sitting in the vinegar, as the more you do, the more pronounced the effect will look on the wooden surface. In our case, we use 0000 steel wool simply because the process is much more rapid than with the coarse variety.

Second Step: Working With Pine? This Step is Sure to be Your Cup of Tea

To give most types of wood that rusty old look, iron vinegar does an excellent job. Pinewood, on the other hand, is a whole different story since the effect is a lot less pronounced. This is why you should prepare some tea in order to bolster the weathered out appearance.

The active agent in tea is, in fact, the tannic acid which results in a more somber and drastic look. The tea layer is vital when working with pine; otherwise, the effect won’t manifest as you’d expect. With other types of wood, this won’t even be a problem since the solution works just fine on its own.

What you now need to do is to heat 8 ounces of water until boiling, then pour it on top of two black bags of tea. Now put it on the side since we’ll be needing it later.

Third Step: Testing Your Finish

You should probably keep a piece of wood on the side for testing purposes so you can see the effect in action without affecting the whole project in the case of undesirable results.

The first thing to check is the similarity between the wood and the testing piece and make sure they are the same type. Then, cover the scrap wood with painter’s tape, wrapping it with a thick layer near the middle. You’ll be comparing the effect by using the agent on one side and not touching the other one. Don’t forget to brush the surface with tea if your material is pine, and let it adequately dry out.

Now that you’re ready to use the solution apply your iron vinegar with a paintbrush in a thick layer on the wood’s surface, and you’ll notice a sudden modification of its color, and the sought-after result will be obtained in just a few hours. Most pieces of wood wouldn’t need more than one coat of the product to get the desired look, but don’t hesitate to add more if you want it to be more accentuated.

Finally, you can inspect the expected finish through the test piece, and if you like it, you can pursue the full project. Otherwise, if you’re not happy with it you can feel free to experiment with other types of wood, in fact, it’s encouraged until you get a look that you are satisfied with.

Here’s a short video that explains the finishing process:

Fourth Step: Finishing the Wood

Now that you’re done with the testing piece and you are satisfied with the obtained results, you may now repeat the process and apply it on the full project. And since you already know the steps needed to get that perfect, weathered look, you just now have to do the same for the other wood, and there you go!

How to Age Wood: Final Step: Distressing the Wood (Optional)

Now that you have that good old appearance to your wood, you can further accentuate this look if you want once the layer of the solution has completely dried. In fact, there are many effects that can be added in order to make the wood look even more authentic, and your only limitation is your creativity. A nice method we might recommend as a bonus is to beat the wood with a sock filled with nails and screws. Here are some cool methods that you can try:

How to Age Wood: Final Thoughts

Mastering the technique of giving wood an aging appearance is an art in and of itself that’ll make for a great pass-time and brings out the creativity in you. Moreover, the job is as simple as it gets, and you don’t need many materials to get it done efficiently.

In the end, we hope that this guide will help you obtain the weathered look you desire. If this was of any help, don’t forget to share with your peers!

If you like this guide, don’t forget to take a look at the rest of our articles, where we like to review different tools, such as table saws, contractor tables saws, portable table saws, and even log splitters.


Hello, I've been working with power tools since I was a young kid helping out grandpa on the farm. My interest in building things started with him and helped me decide to make a career out of construction. I've built just about everything from pipe organs, custom cabinets, to houses.