A weathered wood finish is very "in" right now. There are different variations of the same look going around right now, but one of my favorite is the weathered wood finish you see on several pieces from Cost Plus World Market. Below is a great example of how the finish looks on their "Clayton" coffee table.
|World Market "Clayton" Coffee Table|
I've spend some time playing around with stain and paint, and I think I've come up with a darn good, super cheap, knock-off. You can see it on my DIY Crate, which I recently posted a tutorial on. I particularly like this finish on rough-sawed or textured wood, but it will work on any unfinished wood. Keep in mind, different species of wood oxidize at different rates with different tones.
To start, you need to make an oxidizing solution. Cut wood will oxidize and turn different colors, naturally (think wood fence pickets), but can take months or even years. An oxidizing solution creates the same process, but instantly.
The ingredients you need are simple to find. You need a glass jar (I typically use an old pasta sauce jar), one or two clumps of fine steel wool, and distilled white vinegar.
Place the steel wool in the jar, fill with the vinegar, screw on the cap, and put the jar somewhere out of mind to do it's magic, periodically shaking the jar to mix the contents. The longer you let it sit, the more concentrated the solution becomes, the darker your oxidizing result will be. This jar of solution I used has probably been sitting on the shelf about 6 months! Pretty isn't is?
You don't have to let it sit nearly that long to get a good result, but I would suggest a minimum of 48 hrs. Keep in mind, the finer the steel wool, the quicker it will dissolve. So if you are in a rush, try using a finer steel wool. Also, if you are wanting a warmer colored finish, try throwing a few copper pennies in with your steel wool.
Application is easy. You can use either a bristle or foam brush. Simply brush the solution on the entire surface, making sure to saturate the wood. Be careful! The solution is very thin and easily makes a HUGE mess!
Wear gloves. This is what happens when you don't wear gloves. Beautiful, "Oompa Loompa orange" fingers and nails for a couple of days.
Once you have applied one coat of the oxidizing solution to the entire surface, allow to dry thoroughly. Once completely dry, you can move onto the next step. Mix up a wash from 50% warm, light grey paint and 50% water. (My wash was a bit more grey than the picture shows). You can use any kind of water-based paint for this.
Then, you are going to use a "dry brush" technique. To do this, very lightly load a dry paint brush with the paint wash. Next, lightly drag the bristles across the surface of the wood, trying to catch only the raised grains. Less is more. You can always go back and apply more wash, but you can't remove it.
Work in small sections. After dry brushing the paint wash, immediately blend with a rag.
Try to vary the amount of paint wash you apply. Naturally, all wood does not oxidize at the same rate, or in the same pattern. For a more realistic result, create darker and lighter areas. If you want a softer look, apply more pressure with the rag when you blend.
Seal with either wax, hemp oil, or a matte Poly, and here is the finished result.
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Green Willow Pond