Distressing Techniques to Mimic Driftwood

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A woodworker seeks advice for creating the shipwreck look. March 17, 2005

I have been given the challenge of building an oak dining table that looks as though it has been in a shipwreck and water has taken its toll. I build exclusively from barn wood, so I have some weathering already. How can you fake the driftwood look?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
Bleach, bleach, bleach. Use the two part, oxalic acid, and clorox. Use them all. Have fun, play around. The more messed up it looks, the better. I did a heavily distressed countertop for someone and used all the bleaches as well as potassium dichromate, wax, shellac, boiled linseed oil, water, Orange Crush, and Pepsi. It looked very authentic.

From the original questioner:
I can see bleach, potassium dichromate, wax, shellac and boiled linseed oil. But Orange Crush and Pepsi?

From contributor S:
One other thing that you see on driftwood is uneven wear between harder wood (growth rings) and softer wood. This gives a ridged appearance to the wood, most easily simulated by light sandblasting.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the great info. But as I do not have the facilities to use such harsh chemicals, can I get away with pressure washing and sand blasting, then just some bleach to lighten it up? And the Orange Crush and Pepsi tricků

From contributor M:
If you're trying to pull off an authentic distression, you must think outside the box and use methods and products you would not normally associate with woodworking. Driftwood is very grey, so how about putting some grey glaze right on the bare wood? Try to find a way to simulate all the little surface checks that driftwood has, maybe with a v-groove chisel, or skimming some parts against your bandsaw blade.