Weathered barnwood wears its history on the surface, and that's what you faux-paint to turn new or nearly new wood into distressed, time-silvered counters, tabletops or picture frames. Ordinary lumber, helped along with battering, scraping and banging from hammers, chains, ice picks and screwdrivers, ages in an afternoon with a few layers of dry-brushed paint. Tackle this project in a well-ventilated garage or out on the patio in nice weather -- it's foolproof, free-form and fun to create a flawed but convincing fake finish.
Stain and Distress New Wood
Sand the wood surface to prepare it for stain and paint. Sand the sharp edges and corners of boards that will become counters or tabletops to round them slightly.
Apply a coat of weathered barnboard stain to untreated wood and let it dry. The stain penetrates the wood, giving it a grayish cast and highlighting the grain.
Simulate the battering and scars of wear by hammering dents into the flat surface and edges of the boards.
Gouge and scrape the wood with an ice pick; bang the side of a screw into the wood to create odd symmetrical damage.
Poke holes with nail heads and flog the lumber with chain. This is an acceptable way to work off some stress and aggression and will result in a beautiful finished project.
Apply Primer and Paint With a Light Hand
Go over the distressed wood using a foam brush to apply a thin coat of white primer. The primer should be translucent -- just adding a matte finish to the surface and allowing some of the stained, bare wood to show through.
Dry-brush flat gray paint over the dry primer. Dip a clean, dry paintbrush into gray latex interior paint; wipe almost all the paint off the brush and swipe the brush down the board, leaving an uneven streak of gray paint. Repeat to distribute nearly see-through streaks of gray over the board.
Add more gray once the first pass is dry, if you think your "barnwood" isn't looking weathered enough.
Mix a tiny bit of black or dark brown paint into some of the gray, without completely blending it. Dip a dry brush into the partly mixed paint and brush it lightly over the painted wood so you get another layer of gray with some faint streaks of black or brown in it.
Catch some of the raised grain or rough spots with this layer of paint to highlight them. Real barnwood shows areas of greater weathering and darker indentations where it is damaged. Play with this until you are happy with the results.
Fake a Fabulous Finish
Sand any blobs of paint or rough spots gently to smooth the surface of the wood. Don't apply much pressure to avoid removing your careful layered aging. Wipe any sanding dust off the wood.
Dry-brush a final very light coat of weathered barnboard stain over the wood to create a uniform, gray-green film of age. Let the wood dry for several hours or overnight before proceeding with installation.
Add a nonyellowing clear coat of varnish or polyurethane to protect your work if the wood will be exposed to daily use or to moisture.
Quick and Dirty Barnwood Fake
When you're out of time to create barnwood "art," you're not out of options. Sand and distress the wood to "age" it -- bare or unpainted wood is simpler to work with and requires less sanding preparation. Brush on a mix of 4 parts clear glaze with 1 part mocha glaze and 1 part antiquing gray glaze -- glazes can be purchased at paint and hardware stores. Brush glaze over the entire piece of wood and rub it in with a clean, dry cloth, removing some glaze and revealing the wood grain. Let the glaze dry and proceed with your project.