As reclaimed wood gets more and more popular for DIY projects, the price has gone up. I receive emails frequently from people on how they can find cheap reclaimed wood. Not everyone has the time to hunt for piles of wood or they live in a location where it is hard to find. Years ago, before I started building furniture professionally, I was unable to find any reclaimed wood after moving to a new city. I hunted and hunted and finally decided to try and make “reclaimed” wood from new big box store wood. After all, I need a desk so I could blog! Hopefully this post will give you the confidence to tackle this DIY project.
It really is a very simple process. With a few store bought items, you can recreate a reclaimed look for far less than the market rate for reclaimed beams. As a matter of fact, you likely already have everything you need. Vinegar, steel wool and black tea. Yes, just three items! Ok, four…you need a rag.
The vinegar solution is something you need to make ahead of time. I have a dedicated container for this process since it is smelly. Fill a jar with white vinegar ( I have used apple cider and rice vinegar in a pinch) and throw a piece of steel wool in. What size jar? Whatever you have around. I use a glass peanut butter jar. How much steel wool? I typically use one full piece broken into smaller pieces, so it breaks down more quickly. Cover and let set overnight. I have found leaving it for 6 or more hours is the best. If you plan to do several projects keep using the same solution and add more vinegar and steel wool. Like I said before this solution can be a bit smelly.
The tea solution is a strong concentrate of black tea. I used good old Lipton or store brand black tea. The cheaper the better! I generally use 8-10 tea bags. I have had great success with 6 bags for 10-12 oz. of water. I make mine strong as I frequently add water and dilute so the solution lasts longer.
Hands down the most fun part of the process is giving the new wood the character of a 100 year old reclaimed floor joist or barn beam. I have been building professionally with reclaimed wood for years and handled over 10,000 linear feet of reclaimed wood. I have a few tricks up my sleeve to recreate the amazing variation found in old wood. Think about what a 100 year old piece of wood and the wear and tear it has seen over the those 100 years. Hit it with a hammer. Scratch it with a nail. Hit it with a chain. Use your imagination for this part! This part is fun and a FANTASTIC stress reducer.
Once you have “aged” the wood it is time to give it the reclaimed look with the vinegar and tea solution. Use and old rag or sock to apply the vinegar and steel wool solution. I wear a latex glove for this part so my skin does not absorb the smell.
Within seconds you will see the reaction. The darker spots are where I “aged” the wood. The more you damage the surface the more reclaimed the finished product will look. Once you have covered the entire surface let the solution dry.
Don’t be surprised if the dried product appears flat and gray. That is exactly what you want. Now, the moment of truth. Applying the tea solution. The transformation is quick and amazing. The wood really comes to life.
Once it has dried you can leave it, stain it a darker color, or seal it. You can repeat either the vinegar or the tea solution to get a more aged and darker finished result.
Please email me pictures of projects you have made using this technique. I would love to share them on my blog!