How To Make Wood Look Reclaimed And Old?

how to make wood look reclaimed and old

Wood is a popular material used in the construction of furniture, cupboards, and many of the items that we find in our home. The material is often also used for decorative purposes.

There are many different kinds of wood that can be used. Some provide a modern feeling, while others can quickly at a rustic and antique feeling to a room in the house.

When wood does not provide that rustic feeling, you might be wondering how to make wood look reclaimed.

For those who are after that antique look, buying a brand new piece of furniture will not give them the satisfaction, as the wood will be glossy and shiny, instead of rustic.

Luckily, there are many ways that you can use to distress wood and make it look rusty, old, and antique – even though it was just bought a week or two ago.

Be warned, before we continue, that the only way to get that real rusty look is for you to attack your own furniture.

It might sound strange, but I will explain what I mean by attacking your furniture later on in this article. I will share with you two different techniques that you can use.

The one is a little more destructive than the other one but can create a more realistic effect than the second option. In the end, it is really up to you to determine which option you will be more comfortable with.

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Initial Steps To Make Wood Look Old

Prior to starting this particular DIY project and finding out how to make wood look reclaimed, we should first take a look at some of the initial steps that will help you prepare for the actual process that you will need to implement in order to achieve the desired look.

I mentioned before that there are two main methods that you can choose from if you want to transform your new pieces of furniture into authentic pieces that look antique.

In order to utilize any of the two methods that I will be sharing with you later on in this post, you’ll have to follow the same preparation steps to ensure the wood is ready for the actual process.

I highly suggest that you get a few pieces of scrap wood in addition to the piece of furniture or another object that you want to implement these techniques on.

There are a few experiments that you might want to carry out – and once you do these to the actual furniture, you won’t be able to restore it to its original condition. By using some scrap wood first, you can determine what specific methods you want to use, what looks better, and what you want to avoid doing to the real object.

If you want to distress wood, then the first step that you need to implement would be to sand the wood. When you buy a new piece of furniture, there is a really good chance that it might come painted or with a varnish applied to it. In such cases, the techniques used in this guide would not work effectively.

You need to apply them to raw wood. Don’t worry, however, because after the techniques have been implemented, we’ll finish them off with a layer of protection to keep the wood safe and make it last longer.

Once the wood has been sanded and is in a “bare” or “raw” state, then you should be ready to move on to one of the techniques that can be used to make it look rustic and old.

How To Make Wood Look Old

After sanding the wood and ensuring that it is in the right state for treatment, the next step you need to take is to decide which of the two methods you prefer to utilize in order to achieve that desired rustic look.

I will start by giving a quick summary of the two different methods, which will give you a quick overview of them and allow you to choose the option that you will rather prefer. I’ll then go into more detail on each of the two methods to help you achieve the goal of getting new wood to look old, reclaimed, and antique.

  • The first method is invasive and required physical harm to be dealt with the wood, as well as a special vinegar solution to be applied. This method will give you the best results in terms of making the wood look older and “fast-forwarding time.” It does require more effort and often a lot of initial experimenting.
  • The second method is less invasive and mainly requires that you use a stain on the wood in order to create a rustic look, instead of applying special solutions to the wood and doing harm to mimic the dents often found in aged wood.

Now that I have shared some of the basic details of the two methods I’ll describe in this post, it is time that you choose which one you want to use.

In reality, both of them would provide you with great results, but I personally prefer the DIY method that includes getting a little rough with the wood before applying a stain. This really brings out that aged wood feeling that people often desire.

If you go over too much in detail and want to fill some of the deep insertions you did you can use a filler. We have a list of the top 10 fillers that are on point in quality and price.

Natural Method For Aging Wood

The first method I’m going to explain is the more natural option that requires a bit of destructive work against the piece of furniture. For this one, you’ll need the following materials and tools to get the job done:

  • White vinegar and steel wool
  • At least two glass jars
  • A paintbrush
  • Black tea pouch and hot water
  • Polyurethane (Varnish)

This method requires a little more patience, time, and effort than the other one. I have already mentioned, however, that the results will certainly be impressive.

First up, you will need to prepare a special solution before you get started. Use one of the glass jars and fill it approximately halfway with the white vinegar.

Now, add the steel wool to the white vinegar, but shred it as much as you possibly can. The jar should be uncovered, and the solution should be left to soak for about a day (minimum 24 hours).

While you wait for this solution to soak for the 24 hours, you should use a few tools in order to create natural-looking dents in the furniture. There is no denying that old wood tends to have quite a bit of dent in it – it is really what gives it that antique look.

For this step, I recommend using objects such as an awl, hammer, and a metal chain. Slam the items into the wood. I would, however, highly suggest that you test out different destructive techniques on a couple of scrap wood pieces first.

See what you like and then do that to the final piece of furniture you want to treat with the solution and make look old.

Another great way to achieve a grainy look is to attach a wire brush to a drill and then use it on the wooded areas that you will later treat with the prepared solution. After you have used the wire brush on the wood, you can sand it lightly, without making the surface too smooth again.

After waiting the 24 hours, the steel wool should be somewhat dissolved into the vinegar. Now, use the other jar to mix the tea bag with the hot water.

Let the tea bag soak for a couple of minutes, and then apply it with the paintbrush to the raw wood. After the layer of tea and hot water dries up, follow with the vinegar and steel wool solution. The layer should also dry before you proceed to the next one.

Finish off by painting with a high-quality varnish. Avoid adding additional stain as the vinegar and tea solutions already added a natural stain to the wood.

Staining Wood For A Rustic Look

If you do not particularly like the idea of preparing a vinegar solution or the other parts that I explained above, then simply staining the wood to create a rustic and antique look is also an option that you can opt for.

All you really need is some wood stain – there are many options that specifically provides you with a rustic look. You will also need some varnish to apply afterward.

Start by applying the stain. To achieve that perfect look that you desire, you might want to experiment with different types of stains mixed together. After staining, allow the area to dry before following with a layer of varnish, which will add protection to the wood.

This particular step can also involve a little bit of destruction if you choose. Simply use your hammer and other tools to create dents that look natural in the wood before you apply the stain and the varnish.


Wood is becoming a decorative piece in a modern day and also regaining its popularity in furniture designs, but many people want that old and rustic look, instead of the glossy new look that furniture presents when they are just purchased.

There are different strategies that can be used to make new wood look antique, with one being more invasive than the other one.

I shared both of these techniques in this guide to help you understand the pros and cons of the methods you can use.

If you are looking at how to make wood look reclaimed, then know that it is a rather simple technique, but you should choose the option that is more suitable to you and the specific type of wooden furniture you wish to treat.

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