Step 5: Alternative staining mixtures

There are a host of alternative wood stains you can use with varying success including black coffee /  tea, crushed berries and nut shells.  Vinegar and steel wool is a great mix that adds great age to new wood in an ebonising effect.

Put on some protective gloves and take a roll of 0000# extra fine steel wire wool under a hot tap to wash off any rust-inhibiting oils.  Make sure it is actually wire wool in the packet as I am aware there are some imitations that will not work.  Pull the steel wool apart into a thin layer and place in a glass jar.  Pour over ordinary white vinegar until the wool is covered.  Cider vinegar is also an option.  If you have some rusty nails, throw those in too and leave the jar with a loose lid for 24-48 hours until the bubbles have stopped and the vinegar is darker.  Give the jar a shake every while / when you walk past it.

Strain the mix through a coffee filter or cloth to remove the small metal particles.  Brush the mix on with a brush to leave a wet layer, a rag will not get the surface wet enough.  Again, go with the grain when applying.  Let the wood dry for a few hours and it will go a magnificent dark colour.  Softwoods go a blue-grey, great for aging new wood.  Hardwoods go darker depending on the tannin content of the wood.  Mahogany and oak go very dark from this reaction.

This forum post documents different wood reactions to the vinegar mix.

The sharp smell will dissipate after a few days.  The surface will also need a top coat of oil or varnish to protect it.

<p>for my outdoor projects using soft pallet wood, old motor oil is the best. stain color may vary but it is very termite-repelant and quite weather and waterproof. apply it with a brush and do several layers much like applying manufactured wood oils. </p>
<p>Cool ideas. I love to experiment with non-commercial stuff. : )</p><p>The vinegar mixture is called vinegar black, and is an old recipe used on leather, especially. In leather, to get an even darker effect, you can soak the leather in black tea, which is rich in tannin, let it dry and then apply the vinegar black. I'd guess the same effect could be gotten with wood. However, the coat of varnish or wax or whatever will be even more important - I don't think the wood would absorb much tea, so you'd probably get the tannin mostly on the surface.</p>
Went to the forum to check out the samples. I absolutely love this stain!! Thank you so much for sharing
Oh hey, I've been looking at that Minwax Polyshades--because it also says you can paint it right over other stained wood with just a touch of sanding--and wondering how the colors really look. That one, two, and three coats photo you've got up there is really helpful; three coats is actually the exact color I want. From their site I thought Bombay Mahogany would be much too dark. <br> <br>I love your tip about using cut up T-shirts in a binder clip. I've been using them just folded over, and enough work like that shreds my various disposable gloves, so my hands end up stained anyway. That seems like a great way to be able to use the T-shirts, apply some force behind the material to rub it into the wood, and still keep my hands a little cleaner. Thanks!
Minwax have a little piece on what the Polyshades look like over an existing stain. I believe that in practice, the final shade will look like a combination of the two colours. The stain suspended in polyurethane makes the mix much thicker than stain which means it doesn't absorb as deeply as a stain alone. <br> <br>I (and many others) have discovered that if you're applying Polyshades to a large area, it will start to dry before you can cover the whole piece and cause brush marks or drips or other unwelcome details. So do be careful with it. Glad you like the binder clip tip though, saves my gloves a treat too!
Yes, thanks again for the binder clip idea. <br> <br>I don't like the foam &quot;brushes&quot; I've used before because the paddle inside the foam interferes with smooth application. I'm going to make some flexible Oogoo paddles with rounded corners and put them in the middle of the T-shirts, then put the binder clips over the whole thing, see how that works out. (Oogoo is pretty easily found here on Instructables if you're not familiar with it..) <br> <br>Oh, sure, Minwax have a comparison chart on their site...but hey, look at what they say the Bombay Mahogany will look like, and look how yours turned out! So it's nice to have some feedback besides their own color charts. <br> <br>I think I must have an odd temperament when it comes to colors. I really, really hate applying thick stains, mostly for the reason you mention. But I also don't really care for the resulting color, either. I've found that I most enjoy the result when I first thoroughly soak my applicator in mineral spirits , then spread a little stain on the applicator, then rub it into the wood. I *love* the result; it feels like the wood grain is really glowing through the stain, and it seems to go on very evenly. It's sort of like getting aged wood with a specific color instead of the grey that comes with weathering. But I wonder if that would invalidate the built-in finish of the Polyshades, or even if it could be used that way.
Oh yeah, I have a whole pack of Sugru sitting around. I like the idea of the stiffening pad it would provide.<br><br>Applying thin layers of stain will give you the even coverage, but it will take more layers to get the colour on the tin. I don't think you would get the full effect of Polyshades by applying it as you stated so I would put a coat or oil or polyurethane over the top for stain protection. But if it is the colour you want, then go for it! Just remember to do all the boring sanding first.
The guy at the big box store last week suggested that if I wanted to apply stain over existing stain, I should try Minwax Gel. I had actually asked if there was something I could use to paint and provide something like the appearance of cherry stain, without all the sanding down to bare wood. (Why didn't he mention Polyshades? I don't know. I found it when I went to the Minwax page to figure out what I was doing wrong with the Gel.) His comment was &quot;You can use paint, but, well, it will always look painted.&quot; <br> <br>I have been trying it on all kinds of wood, stained and unstained, with sanding on the stained woods and without, etc since then. I can't get this stuff to NOT look like reddish-brown paint unless there are lots of visible brush strokes, and they're terrible. It is so, so, so thick, and nothing shows through at all. I can't thin it down, I can't apply light coats, I can't do anything but slather it on and end up with a thick even coat of, well, paint. And I still have to apply some kind of finish! <br> <br>If Polyshades will thin down and not look nastily brush-stroked, it's probably a much better solution, even if I have to use additional finishing. I would have had to put finish on the Gel anyway. I don't mind doing some surface sanding; it's the sanding down to bare wood that was just too imposing in this project.

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Bio: Completed a masters in mechanical engineering and then realised I didn't want to be an engineer. So I'm a freelance propmaker and costumier ... More »
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