Happy Friday! I have lots of crafty things planned this weekend to reveal next week, but today I want to talk a little more about the headboard I made for the guest room last weekend. Building it worked out just how I wanted it to, but I definitely didn’t plan on leaving the pine bare. Since I’m going for a rustic farmhouse kinda vibe, I wanted to somehow achieve the look of aged/weathered wood. I hated the idea of using an oil-based stain in the middle of winter when I can’t open the windows or go outside, because the fumes are killer. So I searched around on Pinterest and found a few great blog posts (click/click/click) that offered up a great solution using products that you probably already have in your house (and if you don’t, they’re easy to find and cheap to buy).
- Black teabags
- Grade #0000 steel wool
- Distilled white vinegar (I’ve heard apple cider works too, but I used white)
- Cheap paintbrushes
Here’s the general idea: There’s something called “tannin” which is an organic substance that comes in a lot a forms and occurs naturally in varying levels in different types of wood, giving them their color (cedar, redwood, etc). Pine is a softwood (softwoods contain less tannin than hardwoods) that lacks tannin. Tannin occurs naturally in black tea. Remember that. When you combine vinegar with steel wool and let it sit for a length of time, it oxidizes (fancy word for rusts) and creates something called iron acetate. When the vinegar mixture hits the tea/tannin, it darkens the wood, creating the weathered look we all want. Magic/science/voodoo/chemistry, whatever. It works!
A note before we begin: whatever you decided to call it, it isn’t exact. You can experiment with different woods, multiple coats, just tea, just steel wool/vinegar, a mixture of both tea and steel wool/vinegar. I’ve read that you can warm up the tone by letting the vinegar/steel wool sit longer. I suggest doing samples on extra wood, if you have some. One more thing: iron acetate produces hydrogen gas, which is not something you ever want to inhale, and I read that you shouldn’t seal containers that contain it. But I’m pretty sure you need to seal the container to get the steel wool to oxidize. When I opened the mason jar that contained the steel wool/vinegar mixture, there was a little pop, almost like when you open a bottle of soda. That was the hydrogen. So here’s my warning: be careful. It doesn’t smell as bad oil-based paint fumes, but don’t go sticking your face near the container.
Edit 11/30/16: poke holes in the jar when you put the lid on! This allows the gasses to escape.
I started with bare pine. I tore of a small hunk of the steel wool (you use a super fine grade so it breaks down faster), put it in a mason jar, filled the jar with white vinegar, then sealed it with a regular mason jar twist cap. I let it sit for about 2.5 days, removed the leftover steel wool then let it sit another two days. You can see the difference below.
The steel wool/vinegar needs to oxidize for at least 24 hours, but preferably longer. I guess it’s probably a good idea to let the steel wool disintegrate completely (and it was well on its way) but I’m impatient. 2.5 days + 2 days without the steel wool still worked fine for me. If you let the steel wool disintegrate, you may want to use a coffee filter to strain out the bits leftover, but it’s not necessary.
When I was ready to stain the wood, I brewed a cup of black tea in a mason jar. I used two tea bags in a smallish jar, and let it seep for about a half hour. Then I brushed on two coats, allowing the first to dry before applying the second. For this project I’m using cheap cheap cheeeeap brushes that I got at Home Depot for $1 something. I didn’t want to stain the bristles of my good brushes, and you’re not really going for precision anyway. You can see in the photo below the top and right side of the wood has been touched with tea and is still wet. I think you’d probably get a richer contrast if you brew stronger tea and let it seep longer.
Let the tea dry completely, then comes the fun part. Using another (or the same) cheap brush, begin to brush the steel wool/vinegar mixture on top of the areas you touched with the tea. You’ll see an almost instant reaction, which will darken as time goes by and the wood dries.
It’s pulling a little more blue toned in photos than it actually looks in real life, which is why that was the last photo. The sun was setting and I was losing my natural light, so I’m glad I was even able to get the photos I did. I don’t want to show inaccurate pictures of the results because that’s the whole point! To see what color we ended up with. I did keep working a little, because it’s not done yet. I lightly sanded with 220 grit sandpaper, then went over again with 400 grit to make it smooth to the touch and a little more distressed. Then I wiped it down with a damp paper towel, let it dry, and went over the whole piece with Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax. I’m planning a whole post on Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and Wax, so stay tuned for how much I love her products/where I purchase them/how I use them. The wax seals the piece, which was important to me because I didn’t want any transfer to the white sheets and pillowcases. Once the wax dries, I’ll lightly sand it once more and buff it to a bit of a shine. I know a semi-shiny finish is kind of counterproductive considering I’m going for rustic, but I want to make sure the color is sealed and the piece is soft to the touch, since you don’t want to be leaning up against a rough surface when you’re sitting up in bed.
I’m super excited to put the rest of the room together. The nightstands arrived and are being built (they’ll be getting the same natural stain finish, combined with an Annie Sloan chalk paint concoction) and the art print I mentioned in this post arrived. I still need lamps for the end table, new pulls for the nightstands and a frame for the print. Keep your fingers crossed I score big at Goodwill, and have a good weekend!