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How to Fake Reclaimed Wood

How to Fake Reclaimed Wood

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:

I didn't take this pic. The guy from craigslist did.

This is what I turned it into:

Doesn't she look nice with my blue chairs?

And another picture:

Seriously, I even impressed myself on this one. This table may be my favorite piece in my apartment.

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.

Hard to sand those legs.

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.

Use any rough and sharp tool to rough up the wood.

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.

I used this bad boy to create interesting scratches and dents.

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.

Used the chisel to create deep divets and "cracks."

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.

Have a bunch of nails go through a board. It would be nice if you used a very different size nails, and maybe even some screws.

Hit the worm holes in a few concentrate areas. Worms eat up in one space – they won’t be all over the table.

See the cute little worm holes?

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:

All those light spots are where I didn't sand off enough of the finish.

The legs took the stain more unevenly than the top. Yeesh.

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:

Still too spotty because I didn't sand enough.

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.

My Secret Weapons!

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.

Stain on the left, no stain on the right.

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.

Lovely table top.

You can see the dents from hitting with table with the chain, and also with a hammer.

Well, I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.



I’m linking up at the following parties:

The Tablescaper

Between Naps on the Porch

House of Grace

Coastal Charm

A Diamond in the Stuff

Type A Decorating

Giggles, Glitz and Glam

My Uncommon Slice of Surburbia

Sassy Sites!

DIY by Design

Savvy Southern Style

Primitive and Proper

A Beach Cottage

Southern Lovely

No Minimalist Here

The Shabby Creek Cottage

Somewhat Simple

Beyond the Picket Fence

23 responses »

  1. Seriously! That is such a transformation! I love the wood against the blue chairs, too! Perfect! Thanks for the sweet comment on my blog because it brought me here!


  2. it looks awesome! it looks older, and looks like it has so much more charm and character now!

  3. Oh my goodness, this is gorgeous! I love the new look, it gives it such life! Great job!

  4. This is your father. The table looks great. Mom just distressed our master bathroom vanity (which is 57 inchces long, and has two vessel sinks) the same way, using a metal chain.

  5. Saw you on BNOTP link party and had to come. What a BEAUTIFUL job you did on that table. It blew me away! And your tutorial was so well presented. VERY nice. So glad I came. I want to follow you but can’t see where to do it. Your blog is wonderful.


  6. Hi Rachel…Thanks for coming to my blog and commenting. I now see the pop up follow button. And I pressed it to follow. I just saw your newest post and all I can say is you have alot of energy girl! And ambition. You are just making such a profound difference in your home and it sounds like in the world. Getting your JD and a masters degree is impressive enough. Also I like your latke recipe. They are always sooooo good and yours look delicious!


  7. Lots of work, but worth is. Looks great.

    Wonderful to have you be a part of Seasonal Sundays.

    – The Tablescaper

  8. WOW, it really turned out great!! I can just picture your hitting your table with all those things- chain, board with nails! I would have fun with that part, too! Thanks for the tip about the minwax…filing it away for one day!!

  9. Your table turned out great! I think it must be the twin of mine- thanks for commenting on my troublesome table. I’ve actually had to start over on mine after a mishap this week- arg!

  10. Hi Rachel,

    Where did you get those beautiful chairs? What should I type in google to search for them?


    • Rachel Weise

      I did them myself. I got some sturdy, but ugly chairs at at a used furniture store for $50 for six. Then i sprayed them with krylon dual blue spray paint and reupholstered the seat cushions. A very easy project.

  11. Rachel, it is very nice. if you coat the whole table with a satin or semi-gloss it will all match in sheen or if the legs are the only part too glossy simply buy a can of lacquer clear coat and spray over the stain since stain and lacquer go toghether nicely. I am a faux finishers.


  12. Could you tell me if the Martha Stewart tintable glaze effect makes paint you add to it to dry slow? Since it’s a glaze it should, but I can’t find any information on it.

    • I think the glaze slows the paint drying a little, but I honestly don’t really remember. Any art store sells slow-drying medium that you can add to acrylic paints for around $6.

  13. This IS a reclaimed wood table since you essentially took existing wood in the form of a table and reused it. This is the ultimate form of recycling. Kudos for not going the chemical stripper route. The toxicity of that stuff is ridiculous! The table is beautiful.

  14. I love it and I am starting on my table in the morning! I have a plain kitchen table just like this one


I love getting your comments. They make me happier than really good carrot cake!

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