How to Age Wood [5 Easy Methods]

You are going to love learning how to age wood to give your wooden furniture a totally original and vintage touch.

There are three effective ways to age wood: mechanical, chemical and thermal. Depending on the chosen method, the final result has certain differences.

The mechanical method includes two types of processing: brushing and patination. Both types can be used together or separately, depending on the material and the desired result:

  • Brushing – the wood surface is treated with a metal brush to remove soft fibers and expose the annual rings. As a result of such processing, the top layer acquires a pronounced relief, which is further emphasized by the application of glazing compositions. This method is the most laborious and is used mainly for hard wood species – pine, larch, spruce, oak, walnut;
  • Patination – surface treatment with coloring compositions followed by grinding. It is used for soft woods, as well as wood with a weak texture – maple, cherry, beech and others. Wood wax and wood stain can be used with the paint to make the pattern brighter.

The chemical method of aging wood consists in treating the top layer of wood with various compounds that change the color of the fibers. Suitable for this are ammonia and products containing alkali, for example, liquid for cleaning stoves or sewers. This method can only be used for wood species containing tannins, that is, deciduous. Chemical processing of softwood will not give the desired effect.

The thermal method of aging wood is the burning of wood with a gas burner or blowtorch. The type of wood does not matter. They do not burn much, if only the texture of the fibers is more clearly manifested, and then remove the carbon deposits with a metal brush. Next, cover the surface with wood stain or varnish to give the wood a more decorative look. In general, the process is not complicated, but it requires caution and safety.

Type of WoodHow to Age Wood
Hardwoods: pine, larch, spruce, oak, walnutMechanical method: use brushing
Softwoods: maple, cherry, beechMechanical method: use patination
American chestnut, Birch, Acacia, Eucalyptus, Red mangrove, IronwoodChemical method: use ammonia
Hardwoods and SoftwoodsThermal method: use blowtorch

How to Age Wood by Brushing

how to age wood by brushing

The method of aging wood by brushing is simple, but not every wood species is suitable for it.

 Spruce, larch, oak, wenge have large fibers and the result will be impressive. 

Alder, cherry, birch, teak, on the other hand, are not suitable woods species for aging through brushing due to their fine-grained texture. 

When you decide on the material, you need to prepare the tools. 

The brushing method consists in removing the upper soft fibers from a wooden canvas using a stiff metal brush and other tools. 

This is the closest to reality way of imitating naturally aged wood, which allows you to give it a pronounced pattern and pleasant texture.

You need

  • Rigid metal brush.
  • Abrasive brush or sandpaper. 
  • One of three coatings: varnish, wax, oil. 

Steps how to do it:

  1. Wet the item with water to keep out wood dust when processing. 
  2. Walk along it with a wire brush, moving along the grain. A hard brush will pick out soft fibers without damaging hard ones. The wood will become more embossed. The deeper the relief, the more aged the tree appears. 
  3. Use an abrasive brush or emery paper to remove any burrs and roughness from the surface. 

It remains to apply the coating and wait until it dries. To enhance the decorative effect, you can paint the product in two colors. The grooves are in a light shade, the convex relief is in a dark one.

Sometimes you want to restore the look of your old furniture! Check this helpful article I wrote , how you can treat you furniture to give it a brand new look!

How to Age Wood with Wax

how to age wood with wax

Another method how to age wood is with wax, which helps to get the effect of a destroyed top coat of paint. 

It can be used on untreated wood as well as on already painted wood and furniture.

This is a versatile technique that can help give wood or wood furniture an antique look. Suitable for painting in one or more layers.

You need

  • Paint in two or three colors (depending on the result you want).
  • Wax (you can use a regular candle).
  • Rag. 
  • Varnish.
  • Fine sandpaper.

Steps to do it:

  1. To get the job done right, sand the wood. 
  2. Choose a color that will be the main one. For example, the darkest of the three. Paint the wood in it, making wide, uneven strokes, let dry. 
  3. Take the candle wax and, using strong pressure, rub the places where you think there should be holes in the color. 
  4. Then apply a light shade, wait until dry.
  5. Wipe well with a rag where the wax has been applied. The paint will lag behind there, giving the product an old and shabby look. 

Read this step by step guide how to remove candle wax from wood like a pro!

If you are happy with the result, then the third layer can be skipped. If you want to change the color, then repeat the entire procedure. At the very end, cover the product with a fixing varnish.

Click here to learn how to treat wood in 5 different ways!

How to Age Wood with Vinegar

Helpful TIP!
Before starting, keep in mind that softwood is better for this aging technique, since it will be easier when working .

A solution of vinegar and metal wool can quickly give to the wood a noble, aged look. 

This method of aging wood is useful in darkening wood . The first step will be to dissolve a piece of steel wool (rinsed well beforehand) in a jar filled with white vinegar.

Wait between one to five days depending on the shade you want to obtain. The longer you wait, the darker the color will be. In the meantime, sand the board or wooden object to be treated to remove old paint and varnish stains.

You will need

  • Vinegar
  • Steel wool (shredded metal sponge will do) 
  • Container for mixing them
  • Gloves
  • Wax
  • Brush

Steps how to do it:

We recommend treating the wood product with black tea before applying the solution. In reaction with vinegar, it gives very rich colors. 

  1. Put on gloves and crush steel wool into a container (you can use a regular glass jar). 
  2. Cover everything with vinegar. After a few minutes, a chemical reaction will begin, the solution will darken. The longer the solution is infused, the darker the color will be. 
  3. After a few hours, it can be used.
  4. Moisten the wood with black tea and leave to dry. 
  5. Then spread the vinegar and steel wool solution. It will immediately begin to be absorbed and give a dark shade. 

When the surface is dry, you can make one or two more layers of mortar. Wait until the wood is completely dry and varnish it to give it a finished look. Also waxing can be used instead of varnishing. 

Sometimes wax can be very difficult to remove from wood. Don’t worry, I have written an easy guide to help you with this. You will find the best methods available!

How to Age Wood by Burning It

how to age wood by burning

Firing is in demand when you want to quickly age the wood material and have tools at hand for work.

Safety Rule!
Everyone knows that wood and fire should be treated with caution. Therefore, make sure that you have extinguishing water – or even better a fire extinguisher – handy. In addition, I strongly advise you to do the flaming outdoors far away from flammable materials.

You will need

  • Gas torch or blowtorch
  • Metal brush
  • Protective glasses
  • Varnish

Firing instructions without pretreatment

Use a blowtorch or gas torch to quickly burn the wood. Do not keep the blowtorch in one place for a long time to prevent fire.

With brushing

  • Pre-treat the wood surface with a wire brush, choosing soft fibers. This will give the wood the necessary bulge. 
  • Then fire at an accelerated rate, also avoiding fire. 
Helpful TIP!
Do not forget about safety glasses, they must be worn at the very beginning of work. With both methods, the final step is to apply the varnish.

Step 1. The workpiece is placed on a non-combustible surface or placed vertically, after which they start firing with a burner. The wood is processed as evenly as possible, the top layer should be charred by about 2-3 mm in thickness.

Step 2. After cooling, the charred carbon deposits are removed manually with a brush or with a grinder. The intensity and duration of this treatment depends on the desired texture.

Step 3. Having formed the desired relief, take a grinding attachment and process the workpiece again. Here it is important not to overdo it and not remove excess, otherwise the effect of aging will be insignificant.

Step 4. Since the color of the wood changed when burning, dark and light areas appeared, there is no need to paint. Now all that remains is to cover the wood with colorless varnish or protective impregnation.

Do you know what wood varnishing is? Find out here the answer and What is Varnishing used for?

How to Age Wood with Patination

Mechanical processing alone is not enough to obtain the desired effect of aged wood.

What to do with the wood next? You can age wood with one of the types of varnish. The material looks very interesting after special processing – patination. It allows you to make the surface of the material even more embossed. Patina is a peculiar, unique gloss gained by the material over time.

What is the patination process? This is the application of special stains and compounds to the treated wood surface. Based on each case, it should be selected individually, in accordance with the desired shade and color of the product.

Steps how to do it:

Step 1. Use any wood primer and brush it carefully onto the wood. The primer should penetrate well into all grooves and depressions. Allow the workpiece to dry.

Step 2. Apply the first coat of paint. Acrylic paint is best suited, since it is not prone to peeling, adheres well to the surface, and does not leave streaks.

Step 3. Sand the workpiece with fine sandpaper. Wipe off the dust and apply a layer of patina with a brush. It is best to choose a patina for wood in the color of bronze or gold, with a metallic shade. It is not necessary to evenly distribute the paint here, on the contrary, the difference in the density of the coating will only emphasize the aging effect.

Step 4. When the patina begins to set, you need to take a dry cloth and wipe each wood areas. After the paint has dried, the wood is covered with a transparent varnish.

The choice of color depends only on your preferences, you can take any shades, the main thing is that they are saturated and contrast with the shade of the patina. The paint is applied with a brush, evenly distributing the composition in a thin layer.

In order for the base coat to be completely dry you should wait 24 hours.

The essence of this method is to make the deep pores of the wood appear contrasting and dark against the general background, lighter.

Conclusion

You can of course also combine all of the methods mentioned. If you want to age wood artificially, you can be really creative. 

However, always pay attention to irregularities so that it cannot be seen later that you have intentionally scratched your piece of furniture, for example.

Learning how to age wood does not require special knowledge or experience, and everyone can do it.