Reclaimed weathered barn siding make a craftsperson's eyes light up; unfortunately, old barn wood isn't an easy material to come by. Recreate the look of old barn wood with new, unfinished boards and diluted paint; alternatively, make a wood-aging solution with steel wool and vinegar.
But before you begin, cut the pieces for the picture frame to size and miter the ends to make sure all of the sides, including the cut edges, are treated and finished. If desired, sand the wood lightly in the opposite direction of the grain to rough it up a bit. Medium-grit sandpaper is ideal.
Pine boards, redwood boards or unfinished solid wood molding with a flat face work well for this project. That said, some hardware stores or lumber yards may have a few loose pieces of wood siding on hand that were part of a larger box – these will give you a truly realistic look.
Quick and Chic With Stain and Paint
Create a weathered and worn painted look with wood stain and diluted paint. Cooler shades are key: Opt for an icy light to medium brown or gray stain and a blue-based white paint.
Things You'll Need
Work in a well-ventilated area when staining and painting. If you're sensitive to fumes, wear a face mask.
Mix a can of wood stain thoroughly. Dip a lint-free rag in the stain and work it into all sides of the wood, including the sides and mitered edges. Wipe with the grain so the wood appears to "age" evenly.
Wait about 15 minutes and wipe off any excess stain with a clean cloth. If you want a richer color, reapply the stain in the same manner or let the first coat sit for 20 to 30 minutes before wiping.
Let the boards dry for at least 24 hours.
Thin the white paint with water. Use a 50-50 ratio for a very sheer application, or two parts paint to one part water to make the paint more opaque. The first will create a slightly whitewashed effect, the latter a painted-but-worn look.
Dry brush the paint onto the wood. Dip just the tips of a dry paintbrush in the paint. Wipe off the excess using a dabbing motion on a paper towel.
Graze the surface of the wood with the paint-tinged bristles, flicking your wrist and lifting up constantly to prevent over-saturating the board. You're looking to create a streaky haze, not cover the wood completely.
Wipe off any areas that have too much paint with a clean, dry brush or a paper towel. Use a lint free rag to blend and soften any sharp edges or paint blobs.
If the color is too sheer or isn't dulling the stain to your liking, try applying the diluted paint with the rag and then using a dry brush to rough it up a bit.
25-Year Old Barn Wood
Age wood naturally by soaking a ball of steel wool in vinegar. The solution reacts with the tannin in the wood, darkening it in a similar manner to the natural weathering process. Just make sure you use real steel wool, not a metallic mix.
Things You'll Need
Jar with lid (optional)
White distilled vinegar
Black tea (optional)
Saucepan or tea kettle (optional)
Place a piece of steel wool in a glass bowl or jar. Fill it with white distilled vinegar and cover the opening tightly with plastic wrap or a lid. Let this sit for 48 hours.
Remove the steel wool carefully and strain the solution through a coffee filter or super-fine cheesecloth. Add the solution to a spray bottle and spray it on the wood liberally, or brush it on for more control.
Let the wood dry. Reapply the vinegar solution as necessary until you achieve the desired color.
Do you want a darker look? Brew strong black tea, let it cool, brush it on the wood and let it dry before you apply the vinegar solution. If you used pine, this may be a good choice if you want a gray shade – pine tends to retain some warm tones even with the vinegar.
Seal if Off
Whether you opted for diluted paint or went the chemical route with vinegar, seal your work with a few coats of clear, matte polyurethane. Because you want a more rustic appearance, don't sand between coats and wipe the finish on instead of using a brush. Picture frames aren't handled regularly, so you can get away with two coats versus the standard three to four.
Amanda Bell spent six years working as an interior designer and project coordinator before becoming a professional writer in 2010. She has published thousands of articles for various websites and clients, specializing in home renovation, DIY projects, gardening and travel. Bell studied English composition and literature at the University of Boston and the University of Maryland.