Easy Ways to Age Wood and Make It Look Old
Many DIY enthusiasts use SA Pine for their projects because it is affordable and it does lend itself to quite a few different methods if you want it to look aged or old.
Unlike the U.S., Australia, and the UK, we don't have the luxury of being able to pick and choose the wood we want to use for projects unless we are prepared to fork out the cost for expensive hardwoods. Our local supply of sustainable timber is SA Pine which is grown on large areas of land around our coastal regions. SA Pine is readily available at Builders or other hardware stores or timber merchants and is affordable and easy to work with. Since pine is a softwood, cutting and sanding is quick and easy and won't blunt your tools. But making everything using pine means that we get to miss out on some pretty amazing projects that can be found on social media.
A great way to give pine a unique look is to use wood stain, but even that has limitations if you want to create a piece of furniture that looks aged. Having the ability to age wood lets you bring a unique finish to furniture projects or gives you an easy way to create rustic, distressed, or cottage furniture without too much effort.
Let us take a look at the different methods you can use to age wood or make it look like an antique:
1. Scorching or Shou Sugi Ban
Shou Sugi Ban is the art of scorching wood by using a blow torch to burn the surface. I have used this method plenty of times over the years, trying pieces that have a medium-burn finish that brings out the grain of the wood to a totally burnt finish where the effect achieved leaves the wood looking cracked and glossy black. A good way to learn how to achieve this look is to have some pieces of pine on hand and try different levels of heat to scorch the wood until you have the desired finish.
Using a blowtorch allows you to control the amount of burn on the wood. The result below is achieved simply by running a blowtorch lightly over the wood to scorch the softwood. A layer of resin provides a high-gloss finish.
2. Use Acetic Acid - Vinegar and Steel Wool
Another popular method for give wood an aged finish is to use vinegar and steel wool. The acetic acid is poured into a container and steel wool is added and left until the steel wool starts to rust. After filtering the solution to remove any debris, this solution can be applied to pine to immediately give the wood an aged or worn look. The resulting finish is a greyish colour that resembles wood that has been left to age naturally.
3. Use Assorted Hardware and Tools
A very easy way to make any type of wood look worn and aged is by using a variety of accessories. Handy tools to use include hammer, screwdrivers, chains, assorted nails and power tools such as a planer or angle grinder. The easier solution is to purchase untreated and non-PAR timber at Builders, as this already has a rough finish that lends itself to aged wood with only a little bit of help from you.
4. Use Gel Stain
Gel stain is a wood stain with a gel consistency that is easy to apply and you can vary the depth of colour by adding more coats. The reason I recommend gel stain rather than wood stain is because gel stain is a gel that does not bleed into the surrounding wood but wood stain does. In combination with Step 3 above and using 2 or 3 different gel stains, you can achieve a worn and aged patina that comes with aged wood.
5. Use Acrylic Paint
Apart from using vinegar and steel wool as mentioned above, using acrylic paint is another affordable way to make pine look aged. Having personally tried all the methods listed above, paint was not only affordable but easier to do than some of the other methods. Another plus is that you can play with the ingredients required to apply the level of finish that you prefer. I used acrylic paint to make pine look aged in several projects, including making pine resemble reclaimed pine for a sofa table for my lounge.
Although not a method for ageing pine, a distressed finish or whitewashed finish can be used in conjunction with any of the above methods to give pine the appearance of an antique piece of furniture.
Acquaint yourself with the various methods of ageing pine and you may even discover something new that is perfect for what you want to make.
The Final Word
I am sure that there are many other methods out there that have been tried and some work while others don't. To find the one that works best for you, try all of the above on scraps of pine to see which one gives you the best results and the most authentic finish for whatever you are making.