If you want to give a new wood an aged look, you don't have to wait years for it to wear out naturally. One of the simplest and fastest ways to age wood is to apply a paste of baking soda and water. After application, just let it dry in the sun and rub it with a cloth. Baking soda dissolves the tannins in the wood, giving it a partially faded and worn look, similar to an old barn or log.
Part 1 of 3: Choosing and Preparing Wood
Step 1. Choose a variety of wood with tannins for a more noticeable impact
Sodium bicarbonate chemically reacts with tannins, which are acidic compounds found in plants, including trees. However, some types of wood have higher tannin concentrations than others. Types with the highest concentration include cedar, pine, red oak, redwood and mahogany.
- Harder and darker woods have more tannins.
- The tannin concentration varies from tree to tree. This means that two cedar planks can age differently when treated with baking soda. These differences and imperfections are part of the aging process.
- You can use baking soda on woods with a low tannin concentration, but the results will be much less noticeable. In that case, it's better to use a different aging technique.
Step 2. Turn defects into highlights by aging a wood with imperfections
Of course, you can age fresh, intact wood with baking soda. However, to save some money or take advantage of stored planks, try using discarded, damaged or defective wood. The aging process will give imperfections a charm.
If you want to wear down new wood, you can strike it with some tool, such as a bag of screws or a hammer. Hit it repeatedly or rub the sharp edges along the surface of the wood
Step 3. Sand the wood to remove the finish
If the wood you want to age has been painted or dyed, sand the top layer to expose the untreated part underneath the paint. For wood that has been painted more than once, you may need to use a chemical remover.
- Wear protective eyewear, long-sleeved clothing, and gloves when using a sander or chemical remover.
- When using chemicals, work in a ventilated area such as a workshop or open garage.
- If you want your project to look more aged or worn out, you can leave paint remnants on some parts of the wood.
Step 4. Place the wood on two trestles or on a cloth and leave it in a sunny place
If you are aging one or several individual boards, use two trestles and place the wood on them. If you are working with furniture or a piece of wood that is too large for the easels, spread a large cloth or towel on the floor to protect the material.
- Exposing the wood to direct sunlight will accelerate the baking soda aging process. This process occurs even without sunlight, but applying baking soda will take longer to dry, and you'll probably need to reapply the product more often to get the look you expect.
- If you want to age both sides of a board, just turn the wood after finishing the process on one side.
Part 2 of 3: Applying Baking Soda Paste
Step 1. Mix a solution of one part baking soda with one part water
Add the baking soda to a large bowl or medium bucket; then pour in water and stir the mixture well with a spoon. The goal is to create a medium density paste that you can apply with a brush.
If you're aging smaller planks, you can start with a cup of water and a cup of baking soda
Step 2. apply a thick layer of baking soda paste with a brush.
Dip the brush into the paste and pass it towards the wood grain. Completely cover the surface with a thick layer of paste.
If the paste is too thick, add a little more water to the solution; if it's too watery, mix in a little more baking soda
Step 3. Leave painted wood in the sun all day for best results
Leave it in the sun for at least six hours so that the baking soda can dissolve the tannin in the wood. The longer you stay, the more noticeable the impact.
Step 4. Apply white or cider vinegar to speed up the aging process
If you don't have access to a location with direct sunlight or if you can't wait six hours, spray vinegar on the wood surface after applying baking soda. Leave it for 10 minutes - in the sun, if possible - before starting the removal process, which will be the same in either case.
- You can use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, just put some of the product in a spray bottle.
- You will notice foaming when applying vinegar to baking soda.
- Although vinegar significantly speeds up the process, you may need to repeat the application more times to get the same results as you would using just baking soda.
Part 3 of 3: Cleaning and Finishing Wood
Step 1. Scrub the surface of the wood with a wire brush
Rub enough to remove all the baking soda paste. Press the wood harder if you want to scratch it for a more aged look. Some of the wood may peel off during the process.
- Unless you want to add more scratches and marks to the wood, rub the brush in the direction of the fiber.
- If you just used baking soda and left the wood to dry in the sun for six hours or more, the paste will be dry and crumbly. If you add vinegar and wait only 10 minutes, it will still be damp and pasty. In any case, scrub the wood with a wire brush in the same way.
Step 2. Clean the wood with a damp cloth
Clean the wood in the direction of the grain. Due to the tannin, you will likely notice dark, reddish stains appearing on the cloth. Continue cleaning until all traces of baking soda paste are removed.
You can also rinse the wood with a hose or under a faucet. However, this way the wood will take longer to dry
Step 3. Wipe the wood with a clean cloth and let it dry naturally
Run a cloth along the fiber and remove as much moisture as possible. Then let the wood dry completely in the open air.
After drying, you will see the full extent of aging achieved with baking soda
Step 4. Repeat the entire process to further age the wood
If the wood color still isn't to your liking, add a fresh layer of baking soda paste the next day or whenever you can. Follow the same procedures to apply the paste: add the vinegar, wait 10 minutes or more than six hours, and finally scrub, clean and dry the wood.
Repeat the process as many times as you like. With each application of baking soda, it will dissolve the tannin even more, giving the wood a grayer and more aged look
Step 5. Apply varnish if you want to finish the wood
Choose a varnish that complements the color obtained from the aging process. Apply the product with a brush along the fiber; then use a damp cloth to remove excess varnish immediately after application.
- Apply one or more layers depending on your preference. Allow the varnish to dry completely before reapplying.
- You don't need to apply nail polish if you prefer a more natural aged look.