Expert Answers: The Look of Weathered Wood

How do you achieve the look of weathered wood when the only material you have available is new? HANDY has the answer.

Q: I can never find enough weathered wood for my scroll saw projects. Is there a product I can apply to make new wood look weathered? - Handyman Club member LeRoySchad, Hudson, KS

A: Stain. At least, that's the easy answer. Wood darkens as it ages, so any darkening agent will tend to make wood look older. Thinned-down gray or white semitransparent deck stains produce very convincing results, according to Associate Editor Dan Cary, who's spent many years developing tricks for artificially aging wood. Strong concentrations of coffee or tea also can be used to give wood a natural-looking aged finish.

Obviously, darkening is not the only change wood undergoes as it ages. Classic weathered wood has a very rough surface texture. The roughening, which follows the wood grain, occurs because the softer wood wears away faster than the harder wood. You can replicate this effect simply by raising the grain of the wood before staining it. Just sponge a little distilled water onto the wood surface and let it dry. You can also distress the wood — beating on it with a cloth bag full of keys is one popular technique.

Several commercial products designed to age wood are also available. They're typically used for finishing but could be useful for aging raw stock before or after cutting. Old Growth Solutions makes wood-aging products that use a two-step process involving activators and binders to color and oxidize the wood. You can find these products ($15 to $26 a quart) in Woodworker's Supply stores and catalogs. - HANDY