How to make new wood look old

Written by mary beth lentner
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How to make new wood look old
Distress new wood to give it an aged, weathered look. (old wood image by Dzmitry Lameika from

Make a newly built woodworking project look decades, even centuries, old rather than fresh from the home improvement store, by employing a few antiquing techniques. Do-it-yourself antiquing techniques "age" new wood and give it a worn, weathered appearance. From adding rustic wood beams to your kitchen ceiling to building a primitive garden bench that needs to look old, these wood-ageing techniques can be used for just about any project involving new wood.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Wood
  • Gloves (latex or non-latex depending on allergies)
  • Protective face mask
  • Brown shoe polish and brush
  • Candle wax, paste wax or petroleum jelly
  • Latex paint
  • Paper towels
  • White spirit
  • Paintbrush
  • Blowtorch
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Hammer
  • Chain
  • Wire brush
  • Lye-based oven cleaner
  • White vinegar

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  1. 1

    Coat the wood with brown shoe polish if you want the wood it to appear slightly aged. Use a shoe polish brush to wipe the polish back and forth across the wood grain so that the polish really settles into the wood. This technique works nicely for small wood projects such as wooden birdhouses.

  2. 2

    Determine where natural areas of wear and tear would exist on your wood if it were, in fact, old. (Some examples include seat edges, corners and cabinet doors.) Then use a paper towel to rub candle wax, paste wax or petroleum jelly into those wear-and-tear areas to give the wood a distressed look. Paint over the entire wood surface (including the areas that you waxed) using the latex paint colour of your choice.

    After the paint is dry, use a paper towel to wipe in a side-to-side motion over the areas that you waxed. You will start to see the wood grains under the paint, which gives your wood piece a distressed, aged look. After you are pleased with the look of your piece, coat it with white spirit, a natural de-waxer, using a paintbrush.

  3. 3

    Carefully burn certain areas of the wood using a blowtorch. This will give your wood that darkened, worn look popular on many primitive hutches, corner cabinets and farm tables.

  4. 4

    Give your wood that century-old barn look that is weathered and worn with dents and blemishes by beating the wood with a hammer to create nicks and scratch marks. Then hit it with a chain and rub it with fine-grit sandpaper to achieve even more bangs and dents. Lastly, use a large wire brush to wipe the wood with the grain. This will give the wood a time-weathered appearance that will even fool Mother Nature.

  5. 5

    Don a protective mask and gloves. Spray your wood with a lye-based oven cleaner for an old, grey wood look. Use the cleaner outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Wipe off the excess cleaner and add a coating of white vinegar using a paintbrush. The white vinegar will neutralise the lye-based cleaner.

Tips and warnings

  • Antiquing techniques can be used on pieces that are already constructed or on lumber before it is made into a project.
  • Always wear protective gloves and a mask when working with paint, cleaners, stains and sprays.
  • Follow the directions and use extreme caution when using a blowtorch and other tools.

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