We’ve been working feverishly to finish building a set of farmhouse style tables for our wedding reception while it’s still bearable to construct things on our deck (saws and drills are notoriously hard to operate while wearing mittens). Here’s a sneak peek of some more progress (and a quick shot of our seemingly oblivious pup):
The lumber for these tables has been entirely sourced from local big box stores (we needed some big cahootin’ 2×10-ers, so salvaging scrap lumber from of the basement was a no-go this time around). The thing about old lumber is that it’s rugged, it’s uneven, it’s splintery, and 99.5% of the time, it just looks beautiful, full of character, full of tale and history. It makes my heart thump-thump, and it usually makes my car very dirty, which is OK, since I’m not driving clients or anyone wearing clothing nicer than jeans and sneakers these days. The thing about brand new lumber is that it’s strong and generally smooth, albeit too flawless, blonder than Elle Woods, and planed within an iota of its life, eliminating all sense of raw character or history. Those damn lumberjacks. I don’t have anything about blondes, for the record, I just don’t have a thing for pine lumber, which is ironic since I just bought $150 of it for gigantic wooden wedding tables. I don’t actually have a thing against planed wood either; Pete and I also have our eye set on acquiring our own wood planer one of these days for the sole purpose of being able to restore some of the grimier pieces of reclaimed lumber we’ve sourced. It’ll be a $500 investment to keep us from having to buy mass manufactured lumber from the back fo the second tier of shelving at Lowe’s, wherein I’m bound to get into mischief and inevitably topple the lower level stack of 2×4’s into the aisle. Why hasn’t anyone gotten around to figuring out a better storage method for lumber at these presumably DIY-friendly stores?
I digress. Part of my plan all along was to take these pine boards, all of which are undeniably brand-spankin’ new, and give them a natural distressing. One of the tutorials I came across most often involved staining the wood with apple cider vinegar that a piece of steel wool had soaked in. Best test this situation first with Julia’s bathroom stepstool before I sacrifice one of our new tables.
Here’s now it (allegedly) works: You soak a piece of 100% steel wool in a small vat of vinegar. Word on the blogosphere is that it works best when the container is sealed. The steel actually starts to disintegrate. After 24 hours, remove the steel wool, and apply the tainted vinegar (in which the wool had created an acid oxide) like you would apply a stain. In a short period of time, it should darken the wood noticeably into a transformed state of old ass lookin’ wood. Best thing about this strategy? No horrible oil-stained brushes to clean. Am I right, or am I right?
Well, the unfortunate foreshadowing of most tutorials that I poked through is that, like most stains, different woods respond differently to stain, and with that said, I’m not so sure that pine had the reaction that I was anticipating.
The first coat on the surface looked like this after 5 minutes, a whole bunch of wet nada:
I soaked the steel (and a second brand of finer steel wool) in the vat of vinegar for another night, assuming that it just needed more down time.
After the second rub-down I let it dry fully before photographing the progress. The step stool (and my hands, for the record) smelled like an easter egg dying competition, and the pine only looked like this:
Unimpressed. Furthermore, micro granules of steel were latching onto the surface, creating little black dots. You can see them a little bit after coat #2, and with even more intensity after coat #3.
Note how one of the edges looked after coat #3. It was noticibly aged, but not really in the way that I expected. Instead of looking like the color of rustic, dry barnwood, it looked like dirty lumber that I store under our moist workbench.
Paired with pine, the apple cider vinegar stain just looked… bad. As shown in this next picture, I really only focused on testing the top of the step stool (and now I wish I had started my test on the underside). It doesn’t even look as nice and evenly aged as our deck boards, which in my opinion are still in fair/un-aged condition. Strange, huh? #bigfatfailure.
And so, whether or not this looks appropriately distressed to you, it’s not quite the look I was going for and now I’ll be starting from scratch.
If you have any other tips for an au natural staining success, send them my way.