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April 01, 2010

How to Age Wood with Cheap, Easy Homemade Stain

That beautiful silvery colour of salt-stained, wind-beaten shingles on the East Coast is so lovely.  It's the colour of clouds beaten together with storm-heaved waves.  The colour of driftwood and wisdom.

I've been trying to get that colour on new wood since I built a rustic Japanese-style garden lantern in 2001 on my workshop series Anything I Can Do.

Nine years of desire have finally culminated in a dead easy staining process to achieve a seaside patina on pine.  I haven't tried it on other wood varieties yet.  (It's still early in my patina-producing career.)


In my earlier post I reported my discoveries in 'ebonizing' - turning wood black using a mixture of homemade rust stain and tea.  

To stop the tea from moulding in storage, I blended it with an equal amount of my Rusty Vinaigrette stain (Rusty Vinaigrette Recipe: A handful of rusty old nails in 2 or 3 cups of vinegar, aged for at least a week in a covered jar).  The vinegar stopped the mould process in the tea, and created something I called Mag's Magic Mix. 

But mixing the tea and rust stain in one jar set off the chemical reaction in the jar, rather than in the wood it's applied to. 

So by the time Magic Mix is brushed on wood, the chemical reaction is much slower to interact with the tannins in the wood.  Instead, it goes a silvery grey, the colour of mystery and cashmere. 

This finish is stable and will take a light sanding without losing the silvery patina. 


You can see that my 'ebonizing' process (above - various test patches alternating layers of tea and rust stain) is much deeper and more intense than the silvery 'aged' look of the Magic Mix. 

The experimenting continues.  If you try it, please let me know what sorts of results you get.  We chemistry hacks gotta stick togethuh.   



my favorite one is the second one.. i like how the black color came out just right too! very very beautiful maggie and what ya have and the black color is a beautiful magic mix!!

bruce mac nutt

hi try eco wood treatment , that will give all your wood projects a silvery aged look ,


Thanks for the product recommendation, Bruce. Do you have a link to suppliers?


bruce mac nutt

hi mag the link is www.ecowoodtreatment.com


This is exactly what I was looking for. I have a question- were you using white vinegar? Also- do you think it has to be rusty nails?
Thanks for your help!!
xo Becca

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Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie