How to Age Wood

Four Methods:Aging Wood Using Steel Wool and VinegarAging Wood Using Stains and PaintsCreating Crackles in Your WoodDistressing Wood

Aged wood is a beautiful way to add character to your home or garden. Don’t have time for that rustic patina to develop naturally? Then try one of these methods to create the appearance of aged wood without waiting.

Method 1
Aging Wood Using Steel Wool and Vinegar

  1. Image titled Age Wood Step 1 preview
    Know what happens when steel wool and vinegar interact. Placing steel wool in vinegar will, over time, dissolve the wool. This combines with the vinegar to create an aging stain.
  2. Image titled Age Wood Step 2 preview
    Create the steel wool-vinegar solution. Fill a glass jar with vinegar, and place a fist-sized chunk of steel wool inside it. Let it settle for a minimum of one day, but up to five days for a darker solution.
  3. Image titled Age Wood Step 3 preview
    Prepare your wood. Sand it to remove any stain or coating which might prevent your aging solution from adhering properly.
  4. Image titled Age Wood Step 4 preview
    Make a tea stain. Boil black tea to brush onto the wood prior to using your steel wool solution. Tea contains tannic acid, which reacts with the vinegar stain and darkens it. The tea will not add any color by itself, it will only make the wood appear wet.
  5. Image titled Age Wood Step 5 preview
    Apply the steel wool-vinegar solution. Use a paintbrush to give a thorough coat to the wood. You should see an immediate change in color, which will dry after a few hours. Only one coat is necessary to give the “aged” look, but multiple coats can be applied to darken the wood.
  6. Image titled Age Wood Step 6 preview
    Finish the wood. Allow time to dry, and then use a damp rag and cold water to remove any residue from the steel wool. This can be the finished product, but if desired, a wax coating can be applied to preserve the effect.[1]

Method 2
Aging Wood Using Stains and Paints

  1. Image titled Age Wood Step 7 preview
    Apply a coat of sun bleach stain to your wood. Allow time to set and then wipe off the excess. This will remove any previous color or stain from the wood, and enhance the natural grain and texture.
  2. Image titled Age Wood Step 8 preview
    Add a layer of early American stain. This particular stain gives the appearance and color of wood that has been left for many years. If desired, this can be the final step.
  3. Image titled Age Wood Step 9 preview
    Make a rustic stain. Combine your own unique combination of a color glaze, antiquing glaze, and mixing glaze. Be sure to use all three glazes from the same brand, so as to insure proper color mixing.
  4. Image titled Age Wood Step 10 preview
    Apply the rustic stain. Use a paintbrush to thoroughly coat the wood with the stain. There are multiple methods to do this:
    • Apply a single coat for a lighter look. This also can give the appearance of slightly newer wood.
    • Add multiple coats of stain to create a more worn look. This will also darken the wood, giving it a richer color.
    • Create “freckles” on your wood by flicking stain using a paintbrush or toothbrush. This will give irregular small spots of dark color on the wood. [2]

Method 3
Creating Crackles in Your Wood

  1. Image titled Age Wood Step 11 preview
    Paint your wood. Use any hue of your choice, but it must be an acrylic paint.
  2. Image titled Age Wood Step 12 preview
    Apply white school glue. Use a generous amount to completely coat the wood. You should apply enough glue so that it appears opaque. Allow it to partially dry, until tacky.
  3. Image titled Age Wood Step 13 preview
    Add a second coat of paint. Brush the paint over the still tacky glue, and allow time to dry.
  4. Image titled Age Wood Step 14 preview
    Wait for the crackle effect to start taking place. It may take several hours for it to appear, after the glue and paint completely dry.[3]

Method 4
Distressing Wood

  1. Image titled Age Wood Step 15 preview
    Distress wood with nails in a sock. Pour nails or screws into a sock, and hit the wood until it reaches your desired level of distress.
  2. Image titled Age Wood Step 16 preview
    Hit the wood with a hammer or mallet. Soft strikes with a hammer will create small divots in the wood, while a mallet will make wider impressions.
  3. Image titled Age Wood Step 17 preview
    Rub the wood with sandpaper. This will remove areas of stain and give the wood a rough texture, as is likely to occur in a natural setting over time.
  4. Image titled Age Wood Step 18 preview
    Make "wormholes" with drywall screws hammered into a 2x4. If you want to give your wood the appearance of having been eaten by worms over many decades, you can try to give it wormholes yourself. Hammer or screw the drywall nails into the 2x4 completely so that their ends stick through the bottom of your makeshift hammer. Next, strike the piece of wood with your wormhole hammer repeatedly, creating small puncture marks.
    • To create a more interesting wormhole pattern, be sure to hammer your drywall screws into the 2x4 in an irregular pattern. Turn the wormhole hammer around and strike your wood at different angles to create a more natural looking effect.


  • Different types of wood's age and stain differently. For example, pine wood turns a grayish-brown while redwood becomes a deep shade of sienna brown when using the vinegar-steel wool solution.
  • Before aging your own wood, ask around for real aged wood from old barns or houses. Many people have unused aged wood left on their property that you can buy or use with much less work.
  • Lumber supply companies and art supply companies often offer "aged" or "pre-distressed" wood for sale.


  • Wood
  • Sandpaper
  • Steel wool
  • Vinegar
  • Glass jar
  • Paintbrush(es)
  • Black tea
  • Wax coating (optional)

  • Sun-bleach stain
  • Early American stain
  • Colored glaze
  • Antiquing glaze
  • Mixing glaze
  • Toothbrush (optional)

  • Acrylic paint
  • White school glue

  • Nails or screws
  • Old sock
  • Hammer or mallet
  • Sandpaper

Article Info

Categories: Woodworking