I have been obsessed with getting a reclaimed wood table for a long time. Obsessed. But such tables usually cost at least $1000, often much more. So I needed to figure out how to get the look of reclaimed wood without breaking the bank. I managed to do it without breaking $70.
This is what the $40 table from craigslist looked like before:
This is what I turned it into:
And another picture:
It was a LONG process to get her to this point. But faking reclaimed wood isn’t easy, though it does come pretty cheap. And, it’s your lucky day: I will tell you how I did it!
1. Sand all the original finish off. If you don’t sand down the original finish, the staining process will take a LOT longer. As I learned the long/hard way. I used a belt sander and a palm sander, and even then I didn’t get the flat surfaces sanded enough. Sanding the legs enough was nearly impossible because of the curves and bulbiness. I suppose I could have used a chemical stripper, but that sounded scary and I wasn’t sure if it would work.
2. Distress this thing. I used a variety of objects – be creative. Mine are just some suggestions.
I used a BBQ brush to simulate rot in various places, I rubbed it very hard against the legs in patches.
Whip the table with the chain to create dents. Adding the bolts and nuts and wingnuts onto the chain helps keep the dents and dings from being too uniform. I did this all over the table – some areas took more of a beating than others. You don’t want the distressing to be too uniform, or it won’t look natural.
Use a hammer on the table to make divets also.
Chisel out cracks and divets. Also, use the chisel a little bit on the feet/legs to show more age.
Hammer a group of nails through a board, and use those nails to re-create “worm holes” by hitting the table with the nail-y side of the board.
Hit the worm holes in a few concentrate areas. Worms eat up in one space – they won’t be all over the table.
3. Stain the piece. I used Minwax Jacobian stain – it’s a super dark brown/black that screams age. You brush it on, let it sit for a bit, and then wipe it off. Unfortunately, I didn’t sand it down enough the first time, so my table ended up looking like this:
4. Stand and stain again. However, once you have done one coat of stain, it’s hard to sand because the stain makes the wood a little gummy, even after a day of drying. So do the best you can, and if you do better than I did, you can probably skip step #5 where I go in and fake the stain with paint in places. If not, don’t worry. We can fix this.
This is what the table looked like after sanding and the second coat of stain:
5. Paint the areas of the table where the stain didn’t sink in enough. I used a mixture of brown acrylic paint, black Valspar Antiquing Glaze and a little bit of Martha Stewart Tintable Antiquing Glaze. I used a dry brush technique to paint the lighter areas. With this technique, you want a light hand so that the wood grain shows through, and you want the brush strokes to mimic the grain itself. I also own a great brush cleaner (the tan round tub in the picture), which I use for my artists brushes, but it works really well on any type of brush. It even removes oil paint remnants, once you have done what you can with paint thinner.
6. Then I applied three coats of rub-on poly, with a satin finish. I didn’t want anything too glossy, because I wanted to keep the sort of rustic-looking finish of reclaimed wood.
7. Find some trick to make the legs and table skirt match the table top, even though you cannot sand them enough to apply more stain. Tricky. But this is where my mom comes in. My mom is a genius when it comes to, well, pretty much any product you can possibly find a hardware. I should really write more about my parents at some point, they are a riot. They are also where I learned everything about DIY. Anyway, my mom suggested that I use Minwax Gel Stain because you can actually apply it over wood that already has a finish on it. The jar of Minwax Gel Stain says to apply the stain and then wipe it off, but instead, I applied the stain and left it to dry. It worked beautifully. My only complaint is that the finish on the legs is slightly glossier than on the table top itself. I am still figuring out if there is some way to address this, but we’ll see. As is, I am pretty darn happy.
This is a picture of how the Gel Stain works. You can see I have already stained the left leg, but the right leg is still waiting for stain.
8. Rejoice in the fact that you now have spent less than $70 creating a table that looks more akin to something people pay thousands for. Maybe do a little happy dance. I mean, I may or may have not done a little happy dance. And happy dancing is good for the heart.
9. Take WAY more pictures than necessary to share your joy on your blog. And have a yummy dinner party to showcase all your hardwork.
Well, I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.
I’m linking up at the following parties: