So I may have been a bit pre-occupied with wedding plans to work on the several furniture pieces patiently awaiting their makeover. I see more time for those pieces later this week and am excited about them, but this week I decided to work on something small. I purchased a couple wood crates from JoAnn’s last weekend with a 50% off coupon – they are generally $11.99 so I was able to get both for this price which isn’t too shabby.
I’m still not completely sure what I’m going to do with them – maybe use them on our balcony with flowers and plants or as a stand.. still not sure although they will almost definitely be used as props in our wedding. Despite not knowing their purpose just yet, one thing I knew is I wanted to give them the aged, weathered,”old” wood look. I didn’t have enough mixture to “stain” both crates, so in this post I’ll show you what one of them looks like before and after. I’m thinking of maybe adding some sort of old label to them in the future like an old wine crate or something.
What you will need to make new wood look old:
- Tea Bags (I used 2 for this crate and that would be more than enough for 2 of them. The type doesn’t matter either. I used black chai and it smelled sooooo good!)
- Vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar but any kind will do) UPDATE: When I tried this technique for the second time I used white distilled vinegar and half of a medium grade steel wool. After 8 days the color in the jar still hadn’t changed and was as clear as day, but as soon as I took off the lid the steel wool started to disintegrate. Then when I stirred it the jar became dark and the mixture still worked perfectly :)
- Steel wool pillow
- 2 Jars with lids
- Paint brush or rag
Side Note: You can also add coffee grounds in with the mixture. This is optional and I didn’t use any for this specific project but have used it for many others to darken the stain.
Step 1: Mix the Steel wool with vinegar and let sit for a minimum of 24 hours. You don’t need a whole piece, maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of a whole piece will work. Place it in a jar filled with vinegar and let it sit for at least 24 hours with a lid on it. I used an old jar that had bouillon cubes in it previously, but would definitely recommend using a larger jar like a mason jar, old spaghetti jar, or even just a container with a lid. I have seen posts where people only waited a couple hours and others where they waited days, but most people have suggested it sit for at least 24 hours. I was too busy looking up venues and cakes and dresses to pay attention and mine sat for about 4 days. I did notice the color was rusty brown after 24 hours and even muddier by the time I used it.
Step 2: Brew some tea. After the steel wool has set for 24 hours you can brew some tea in a separate jar – any kind will do. I kept mine in a mason jar and I used 2 bags of black chai tea which was more than enough. You you can brew more if you plan on “staining” a lot more wood. I also did this and then forgot about it so it sat for about 2 days and was cold, but that didn’t matter. You should be able to use it after it sits for 10 minutes or so though.
Step 3: “Paint” your wood with the tea mixture. Now that you have 2 separate jars, one with steel wool/vinegar and the other with tea, you can paint your wood with the tea mixture using a brush (or rag). You will want to let the tea completely dry on the wood before continuing to the next step - this generally takes about 30 minutes to an hour. The photo below shows the top after I painted on the tea mixture. It did get lighter after it dried though.
Step 4: “Paint” on your steel wool/vinegar mixture and let it dry. Apparently the acid in the tea mixed with the steel wool/vinegar mixture works some magic. It may smell like vinegar but mine actually wasn’t too bad and the smell went away after it dried, although you could always rinse it off. The good news is you will immediately see a difference which is awesome and very satisfying.
Step 5: Enjoy your new, “old” piece of wood!
One thing I would suggest is making sure you have lots of newspaper down or do this in an area you don’t mind getting dirty. The steel wool/vinegar stain is actually pretty dark and I didn’t realize it may splatter and stain something. Some got on one of my dining chairs (which I need to redo anyway) and it may wash off but just an FYI. You may also want to wear gloves so it doesn’t get all over your hands, although after washing your hands about 10 times will get rid of it.
I love the way these look and can’t wait to add some more detail and dress them up. Keep in mind that different woods will vary in color but they should all get that weathered, aged look. Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave any questions or comments.
Update: Depending on the jar you use and how much you plan to “paint” I would probably fill it up 3/4 of the way with vinegar since the steel wool will soak some of it up. The longer it sits, the more it will soak up and the darker the “stain” will be. I used a small jar for this specific project but have used larger jars and then put the mixture in our kitchen sink, a plastic bin, and even our bathtub for other projects.
I later added a whitewash to the crates to make them look a little more weathered. I basically just mixed 50% white paint with 50% water and then painted it on the crate, waited a few minutes and then wiped it off with a rag.
Here are some photos of the crates being set up at our wedding reception:
Here is a photo of my DIY fabric bouquet on one of the crates. View more photos of our handcrafted wedding here.
You may also be interested in the following projects using the same staining technique:
Thanks for stopping by!