In a perfect world, we all have access to old barnwood that’s not only available but affordable. Instead of wishing and hoping, I learned how to make my wood look old. I guess I did it so well that I was accused of stealing barnwood for my projects! (True story!) In this tutorial, I’ll show you how I age new wood that you get from a building supply store, complete with the texture you get from 100-year-old barnwood.
Hi, and welcome! I’m Lisa from The Old Tree Cottage. Making home decor that looks like it could be genuinely old is my favourite style. Honestly, I like it so much and have done it for so long; I’m not sure I could paint a piece that looks new and not vintage-inspired!
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- Raw wood decor project. Need ideas?
- 2 tsp Black paint (any type will do)
- 1 cup water
- Elmer’s School Glue or a white wood glue
- 150 grit sandpaper
- White paint (Use your favourite brand)
- Paper towel
- Drill & wire cup brush (for adding texture to the wood)
- Clamp when you use the drill and wire cup brush
- Pliers (for adding texture to the wood)
- Orbital sander (optional)
- Clear lacquer in order to stop the wood from bleeding through to the paint
Read along as I show you my version of how to age new wood.
1. Add character & texture to age new wood
There are many techniques you can try to add character to the wood, but I’ll show you the steps I used for this project. Keep in mind that whatever you do, make it look organic, not overdone, or it will look fake.
- First, I used different parts of the pliers to get different effects when adding dents to the wood. Also, add some dings to the outside corners to make it look more worn.
- For this next step, the textured pattern you get will depend on the grain in the wood. You’ll need to clamp the wood and hold on tight when using the drill with the wire cup brush because it will jump around a bit otherwise. This technique removes the soft pulp of the wood, which then emphasizes the hard ridges left behind. When finished, this technique does a great job of imitating wood that has been outside in the elements.
- The final step is to sand your project either by hand or with an orbital sander. I used 150 grit in my orbital sander because that’s what I had. Sanding after the first two steps is important because you want to give the overall piece a more smooth, worn look with no sharp edges. Sometimes I’ll sand a little extra here and there on the edges to give it a more worn look in order to get a “perfectly imperfect” look.
2. Black water wash to age new wood
Some people like to use paint for the undercoat, but I’ve always preferred to make a “stain” made from watered-down black paint. When I distress the paint, I want the wood that shows through to look like old wood that’s been exposed and aged over time.
- Mix 2 tsp of black paint in an old container with 1 cup of cold or room-temperature water.
- Paint the wood with the black water wash and leave it to dry.
- Applying a clear lacquer to prevent the wood from bleeding through the paint is always a good idea when using white paint over wood.
3. Candle Wax & Glue helps to add the character
I combined two steps at once here in the aging wood process. The candle wax helps keep the paint from sticking in selected areas, making it easier to add character when distressing the paint. The glue makes the paint crackle which gives your project a more aged character. Thicker glue means bigger cracks. My preference is less glue.
- Rub a generous amount of candle wax over areas that might seem to get more wear.
- I applied an even layer of glue all over and then went on to the next step. Alternatively, you can just apply glue where you want the paint to crackle, keeping in mind to make it look organic.
- Once the glue was applied all over, I then went back with a paper towel and dabbed at the glue, leaving more in some areas than others because I wanted the crackled paint to look organic, not overdone.
- The glue should sit for a few minutes but still be wet before you do the paint in the next step.
4. Painting & Distressing to add character
Don’t overwork the paint on top of the glue because you won’t get as good results. Lastly, once the paint is dry, if you’re finding you have too many cracks, or the cracks seem too large, or even a combination, paint over those areas with the same paint colour. Doing this helps minimize the look while keeping the texture.
- Apply an even coat of paint all over, and then let dry.
- Take 150-grit sandpaper and hand sand to distress random areas you think might show wear. If you accidentally sand down to the raw wood, you can always paint it with a fine brush with the black water wash.
- I like to apply a beeswax finish if what I’ve made is more decorative. If it gets a lot of use, I’ll use a clear spray in satin.
Let me know how aging new wood turned out for you!
There are a lot of creative ways to age new wood. This is just one way that works well for me, and I’ve had a lot of practice over the years. One of the best pieces of unsolicited advice I could share with you is to experiment and find what works for you!
If you’re looking for a new project, have a look around my website for inspiration and tutorials.