Aging and Distressing Douglas Fir

Advice on how to help Douglas Fir look old fast. July 12, 2005

For an Interior cladding we would like to have Douglas Fir Pine. We would like it to look aged and silver with a patina. Does anyone have an idea how to do this so it would be also suitable for a living space?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
I have 3 methods to suggest, and all 3 are possible if itís paneling you are referring to. The 3rd is best if you are putting shakes in your house.

Method 1:
I use Ronan metallic products quite often, and they make several silver tones. I'd look for one which matches the tone you are trying for. Their products are very high quality, and they provide you with the adhesion and high metallic luster you need. Even though their paints are opaque, I'd thin it down for your samples by at least 50% - try different mixes.

Water down the wood to raise the grain, then wipe on and strongly wipe off the diluted ronan silver. It dries fast so you may want to use a retader like floetrol. You most likely wonít need it, as you are not trying to achieve a uniformity like stain, you are just trying to rub it into the grain with some highlights here and there.

When it is fully dried, sand down the wood and wipe your stain and or glaze in the tone you want. For aging I generally use van dyke brown or raw umber colors. I think there will be too much brown in the van dyke, the raw umber simulates the woods aging.

Here are a couple of things to remember along the way. The silver should look a bit strong when you apply it. You are going to soften it out by sanding and applying a stain and or glaze on top of it. When doing your first sanding use a rougher grade of paper, no higher than 100 grit. Itís important to open up the pores of the wood again after the silver, to accept the next coat of stain/glaze, and provide a bonding surface. When applying the silver and also wiping/sanding it off, don't be uniform because the silver will look fake.

You can use oil stains and glazes over the silver if you've sanded through it, but you may have to play around with the stain/glaze a bit for evenness. One of the tricks I use in this situation is adding a bit of mineral spirits or lacquer thinner to get the flashing process going, then dry brushing to smooth out the glaze/stain. Dry brushing is very important for a smooth blushed out look.

So it's basically a silver undertone and your choice of a stain or a glaze over the top. You'll have to play around with each to see which looks better. If you are looking for heavy aging, a bit of distressing always looks good. You can bang it with nails through a piece of wood, or hit it with chains, and etc. Distress it before applying stain/glaze, and spend some effort rubbing it into the holes and dings.

Method 2:
This is almost the same as above, but a bit more on the fantasy and faux side. In this case you will want to apply a stain first, seal it with vinyl sealer, sand, then wip/brush on the silver in a very thin coat and not sand it (you will see how the opaqueness of the product brings out a beautiful patina). Then youíll seal it with vinyl sealer, sand with fine grit paper, then put a thinned out glazing over the top.

As you can see there are more steps involved, and the proper application of the silver is more difficult because it is not getting into the grain, so you have to fake it. Some practice will be necessary. The stain, silver, and glaze, layered like this, creates a depth and variety of color tones which are worth the effort.

Method 3:
Okay, seems like the above is a lot of work, and you might not be sure you really want the metallic after all. Itís good for wainscotting, but maybe not for fully paneled walls everywhere.

I would then use a thinned down bleach stain, I happen to like the sherwin williams product (wood classics) and they make the silver grey tone you need. Use it to get your base coat, and then seal it. You don't even need to glaze over the top. The bleach stains when rubbed in, so really pop the grain. It won't take much to give the grain that silvery look.

From contributor B:
I would suggest mixing a weak solution of lye, and then wet your boards with it. If there isnít enough grey/silver, make it stronger and try it again.

From the original questioner:
Thank you very much for all the tips. Method 3 seems to be the way that I will go.