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Can you control the amount of "aging" or how dark it will be?

My Hypothesis is that if you dilute the vinegar it wont be as dark.

The reason that I'm asking is that I want to seal (water based poly) after staining so as not to darken the wood past the desired effect.

The wood that I will be working with is pine. I'm trying to achieve the "barn wood" look on the tables and cabinets that I am building.

Thanks, Old Bark
 

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The compound is iron acetate, from the iron and the acetate from the acetic acid (aka vinegar).
Back in the 1700's and maybe earlier, the process was called "ebonizing." The depth of the darkening depends on the how much tannin there is in the wood as that's the reaction complex. The more that you slop on and the longer it sits there (rinse with plain water) the color will deepen to the limit of the available tannins. Plenty of people still use it. Make up the goop then test it in various dilutions on scraps of the subject wood. Keep track of the time (hours? I can't remember the process from 1965!)
 

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I've played around with this on oak once, but for pine I think you'll control the darkness more by how much tea you use on the wood. By itself it won't have much tannin and so it won't gray too much. However, it may be that without tea is as gray as you want. Experiment first. With my project I'd been hoping to get a nice black finish to make some white oak and red oak match in a repair I was doing. The white oak turned jet black and the red oak was gray/brown. I evened them out with some gel stain as a glaze, so all was not lost, but it can be hard to predict what will happen.
 

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Finally! A thread I can reply to that I know something about after reading for a year. I even registered a name just to make this reply!

I've been woodworking for about a year. I only work with construction grade pine, usually 2x4 type stuff, often free from Craigslist. I'm afraid of screwing up expensive wood, so I have done lots of projects using scrap wood.

I'm also a fan of the aged barnwood look. I have built 3 benches and am about 3 days away from finishing my farmhouse table to go with 2 of the benches. The benches are 100% finished, all I have left to do with the table is dry fit, glue, and finish. I am again using vinegar and steel wool.

Here's my experience so far... Your wood will turn black. You'll be nervous and scared at first, and some of the pieces of wood will stain with different colors. No problem! Use the vinegar and steel wool BEFORE you do your final glue up, but after your dry fit. Let the work dry overnight, you don't care how black it turns, don't rinse it either, just let it turn black. Next day, hit it with sand paper. I vinegar it before I do my final sanding and then when I sand, the black turns into the aged look I'm after. Also, since the sanding is uneven, this process will leave streaks of black and grey in your work. It makes for a really nice look, you'll hate to put stain over it when you 're done.

For a final finish, I start with an oil based prestain conditioner, I used Minwax. I then used Minwax Weathered Oak, it's a tip I got from that Ana White lady's blog. I let the weathered oak stain sit for 10-15 minutes, it's really really thin. Then I wipe it off with a towel and immediately apply another coat of stain, but this time I use Minwax Golden Oak. (I'm not endorsing Minwax, it's just what they had at my local box store, so I stuck with the same brand all the way through.) The golden oak I let sit for about 5 minutes, then I wiped it off. I let it dry for 24 hours.

Next day, I loved it, but it looked a little bit too red. I hit it with 220 grit to smooth it out, then put on another coat of the weathered oak, really heavy too, and let it dry for 20 minutes before wiping off. Then I let it dry another 24 hours.

The next day, I hit it with the 220 again, and then applied a few coats of wax. I'm in love with the final project!!!

I'm don't have pictures on this computer of anything, nor do I have many of the actual process, but I will be doing my table this next week, I'm happy to post detailed pictures here as I go.

Some other things I tried:
- I tried stain first, then vinegar/wool and barely got any ebonizing at all. Even though I sanded before the vinegar, the stain prevented the ebonizing.

- I tried the really strong tea and coffee. My wood didn't change colors at all, it just got wet. Forget about that idea with construction grade pine.

- I tried skipping the golden oak, and I didn't like the combination of vinegar and weathered oak in the final stage. The wood simply needs more color that the golden oak stain offered.

- I tried assembling my project including final glue up first, and then vinegaring and staining it as most projects are done, but this failed due to the massive amount of sanding to remove the black. Vinegar first, then sand, then assemble, then precondition and stain.

- I tried using the golden oak first, then the weathered oak, and I had to sand it all down and start over. The golden oak was too powerful and made my piece look like oak instead of barnwood. Let the weathered oak seal the wood a bit so only a little of the golden oak stain can penetrate. It'll be enough.

- If you don't like the final project, sand it down and start over. It's ok, that's why we use cheap wood. Besides, we're learning, go easy on yourself and your mistakes.
 

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Rick Mosher
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I like using Ferrous Sulfate powder instead of waiting for the steel wool and vinegar. I just put some powder in warm water, stir and I'm ready to go. More powder, blacker color. Less powder lighter grey. Like vinegar and steel wool it only works on woods with tannic acid. If the wood doesn't have tannic acid you can pre-treat it with tannic acid first and then use your Ferrous Sulfate. In that case the tannic acid would be called a mordant. Tage Frid and George Frank go into detail about using chemical stains in their books if anyone is interested. You can buy most chemicals on the internet but Wood Finishing Enterprises specializes in wood working.
 

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Wood Snob
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I've really learned something new here. Thanks to all. I would much rather stain or treat wood like this then use pigmented stain.

Al

Friends don't let friends use stamped metal tools sold at clothing stores.
 

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MyTable.jpg

This was raw 2x4's 2 weeks ago. Most of the finish is from vinegar and steel wool, but I also put some commercial stuff over the top of it, but it didn't change the look much.
 
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