You don’t have to wait decades for the perfect rustic piece of furniture if you know how to distress wood. Crafting a homey feel in interiors can be done with distressed wood furniture because it gives lived-in comfort vibes to an otherwise cold area. Older wood has a way of softening a room and adding a nostalgic touch to any space.
However, if your furniture still has that straight-out-the-store glow, and you’re wondering how to make wood look old, we’ve got several ways to distress wood and give it a beautifully worn finish— and you don’ t have to wait years to get it. Once you learn these distressing techniques, you can make over pristine pieces into something with character. Learn how to distress wood with a DIY project to age a piece of furniture in just a few days.
Mechanical Techniques to Distress Wood
When it comes to aged wood, a few dents and dings are a good thing. Use these flaws to mimic years of wear-and-tear before finishing with a stain. To start, you’ll need:
- metal chain
- Wood gouge
- Wire brush drill attachment
1. Attack the wood
Use tools and other objects to distress wood. Try hitting it with a hammer, mallet, or metal chain to create small divots. A wood gouge may be helpful to add a few nicks here and there. You can also press the side of a large screw into the wood or hammer the side of an awl to create a long scratch. Hammering a sock or cloth bag filled with nails will create an irregular pattern. Test the methods on a piece of scrap wood before you start beating up your furniture—you can always add more damage, but once you get started, it’s hard to remove dents.
2. Create aged wood texture
A wire brush attachment will remove soft areas of wood and let the grain shine. Fit the attachment into the drill and run the bristles back and forth over the wood, going with the grain. Repeat until the wood is textured. Finish by lightly sanding the surface with a fine-grit sandpaper.
3. Add insect damage
Wormholes are a trademark of reclaimed wood. To create the look—minus the bugs—drive an early into the wood, creating a random pattern. You can also drill screws through a two-by-four and use it to create small holes in your piece.
4. Staining method 1: Use vinegar and tea to distress wood
Once your wood is beat up, vinegar and black tea is a simple way to stain the wood and give a new piece of furniture that distressed look. For this DIY project you’ll need:
- White vinegar
- Steel wool
- Glass jars
- Black tea
- Hot or room temperature water
- Paste wax or polyurethane
- plastic gloves
Step 1: Make the vinegar solution
Start by pouring your vinegar into a glass jar, and fill it about halfway. Shred the steel wool and add it to the jar. Then, let the steel wool and vinegar sit in the jar uncovered for at least 24 hours. If you let it sit for longer, it will create a darker look (which is fine if it’s your preference) just don’t allow rust to form, or you’ll end up with an orange stain. The steel wool will dissolve in the vinegar after about a day.
Step 2: Remove old finish
If your wood surface is already painted or finished, you’ll need to remove the original finish using sandpaper, otherwise, the solution won’t adhere to the wood. You can do this while waiting for your vinegar solution to finish and it’s easy to learn how to refinish a table or another piece of furniture. To remove the coat of paint, start with an 80-grit sandpaper, sanding along the grain of the wood. As the top layers of paint come off, move to a medium-grit sandpaper (150 grit works well) and finish with a fine 220-grit sandpaper.
Step 3: Mix the tea
Once your vinegar solution is ready, mix hot water and tea in another glass jar. Once you apply both mixtures to a piece of wood, the tannins in the tea will react with the steel-wool-and-vinegar solution to create a darker finish.
Step 4: Paint on the tea
Use the paintbrush, rag, or dry brush to apply the tea to the wood. Allow the tea to dry, and then apply the vinegar solution to the wood. The aging process will continue as it dries, so you may want to wait before applying a second coat of vinegar.
Step 5: Protect the finish
When you’re happy with your newly aged wood, protect the finish with a paste finishing wax, such as Minwax, or polyurethane.
Staining method 2: Commercial stain to distress wood
Commercial stains are a simple way to quickly age any wood project. For this tutorial you’ll need: