One of my favorite things ever is the look of old weathered gray wood that’s had years in the sun out to oxidize and produce an amazing patina. But unfortunately its getting harder to find and especially in the size that i need it in. So i had to come up with something else.
I’ve been working on some ways to make new wood look aged and finally found a technique/look that i like and what i think most closely resembles old wood. It involves Sweet Pickins Milk Paint in a couple of shades, vinegar and steel wool solution, some stain or glaze (or even dark paint), a couple old paint brushes and some new lumber. Its super easy.
Here are some 2×8’s that i am using to create some of my EAT signs that i sell here.
I’ve cut my lumber to size and have sanded down to smooth them out.
After my wood is prepped, i mix up some milk paint to make a stain. Milk paint is perfect for making a stain – ive been using it a lot lately. You can control how transparent you want the stain to be by adding more or less water. I would say that i did about 3 parts water to one part of milk paint. For this technique ive used Sweet Pickins Milk Paint in Suitcase – its the perfect gray brown. Ive also mixed up our milk paint in Suitcase and Galvanized for a bit more of the gray color, but i think the Suitcase alone is just fine. I just use a regular paint brush to brush on the stain.
You want to make sure that you don’t mix it too thick, you want to be able to see the wood grain through it.
After the paint has dried – which is really fast by the way, i take my sander to it and sand off the paint. Because the paint has penetrated the wood, not all of it will come off which you wouldn’t want it to anyways. You want to be left with patches of bare wood and patches of the paint/stained wood. It doesn’t need to be perfect – you want it to look random.
After you have done your sanding, its time to apply the vinegar solution. Vinegar is my all time favorite stain and gives wood a really great aged gray look (but its not enough alone for the look im trying to achieve). I talked about how to make the vinegar solution here. Basically you use 0000 steel wool and vinegar (any vinegar should be fine, but i just use regular white distilled vinegar) – add the steel wool to a mason jar, cover with vinegar and leave it for a few days. I often stir up my solution a couple times a day as its “cooking” but i don’t think that its necessary.
Just apply the vinegar over the entire piece of wood with a brush and let it sit for a while. Sometimes it dries really fast, sometimes it takes about an hour depending on the temps outside. As your vinegar starts drying you will see the wood slowly start to take on a gray look. This mixed with the milk paint patches will give you lots of color variation and depth to the wood. I love how each piece looks so different!
You could leave it like that and i probably would for other projects, but for the look i was trying to achieve i did a couple more steps.
After the vinegar stain has dried, i add some more color variation with some white milk paint. I like to mix the milk paint a little thicker than i normally would so that the paint wont penetrate into the wood. I believe i used Sweet Pickins Milk Paint in Window Pane for this project, but any of our whites would work.
For this next step we are going to dry brush the white on. I have used lots of brushes for this step and i like all different kinds – sometimes i just grab the cheap ones that are more like chip brushes or sometimes i use a good purdy brush. You can try both and see what you like best. The chip brushes are a bit easier to use but can tend to get yucky quickly with the thicker paint (as seen in the next pic).
Dry brushing is fairly easy but it takes practice. You want to make sure your paint brush is dry to start with and then just dip the ends in paint quickly, don’t let the paint penetrate into the brush. After you’ve got your paint on the brush its very important to give your brush a quick wipe with a towel. I just lay a towel on my work table, dip the brush, wipe it back and forth on the towel once and then its ready to use. If your brush is loaded up with paint, your going to get patches and globs of paint on the wood.
After your brush is ready to go, just take it and lightly drag it over the wood in the direction of the grain. If you haven’t done dry brushing before its probably best to practice on a scrap piece!
Just keep swiping your brush back and forth lightly until you build up as much white as you want. You will need to get more paint on your brush often as your not getting much in the 1st place and it will go quick. Again, it doesn’t need to be perfect and you want it to look random.
Pic below is with the boards dry brushed white – its already looking good!
Again, you could call it quits here too and be done but i like to take it one step further and add one more layer of dry brushing.
For the last step i used my glaze from Sherwin Williams just because it was handy. But you could use black/brown milk paint, any dark paint or a stain and would get the same results.
When working with glaze or a stain for dry brushing, i like to use a brush that’s made for dry brushing (i bought this one from lowes). Because the glaze/stain is thinner, its very important not to get too much on your brush – make sure you are lightly dipping just the ends and then wiping with a towel to get off most of the glaze/stain otherwise it will be way to streaky and noticeable.
I normally take the lid off of the glaze can and put some glaze on the inside of the lid and just use that to dip my brush ends into, that way i don’t get too much on the brush.
Just follow the same technique for dry brushing as we did the white paint – lightly go back and forth over the wood with the direction of the grain.
The pic below shows the left side with both the white and dark dry brushing and the pic on the right is just the white. I think adding the dark makes a huge difference and gives it so much more dimension.
And that’s it!! Super easy and quick and the final look is just as good as authentic aged wood – maybe even better! Pic below shows real old wood on the left and our new “old” wood on the right – super close and less slivers!