Steel Wool & Vinegar Testing

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About: Hi my name is David, I like to make things out of Wood, also like to take things apart and fixed them.

This week, I done some testing, with Steel Wool & Vinegar Mix, on several different species of wood. White Oak, White Pine, Cedar, Maple, Red Oak, Poplar, Common Lumber, and pallet wood.

Steel Wool and Vinegar mix, is a homemade stain, that anyone can make themselves.

What's Needed:

Steel Wool ( The Finer the better, but you can use what you have on hand, as my case)

White Vinegar

Empty Jar

Brush

Step 1: Mix

Get yourself a clean jar, Get some White distilled Vinegar, add some Steel wool to the jar, I like to tear my pieces to smaller chunks. The finer the steel wool, the faster it will dissolve. Then pour enough of the Vinegar into the jar, to cover the Steel Wool, then let it set for a few days.

Step 2: Apply Stain

I used a tapeline on my wood, to show before and after applying the stain. Just brush, enough of the mixture, onto the wood and let dry for a couple of days. As you can see in the pictures, some of the wood, starting darkening before it even dried.

Step 3: White Oak

This is the picture of before and after the stain. As you can see, the White Oak, turn a nice Gray color.

Step 4: White Pine

This is the picture of before and after the stain. As you can see in the pictures, the Pine didn't get as dark as the Oak.

Step 5: Cedar

This is the picture of before and after the stain. As you can see in the pictures, the Cedar turned a nice dark gray, it gives it a aged look.

Step 6: Maple

This is the picture of before and after the stain. As you can see in the pictures, the Maple turn a nice dark gray too.

Step 7: Red Oak

This is the picture of before and after the stain. As you can see in the pictures, the Red Oak turned a nice dark gray also.

Step 8: Poplar

This is the picture of before and after the stain. As you can see in the pictures, the Poplar got just a little darker.

Step 9: Common Lumber

This is the picture of before and after the stain. The Common Lumber, ( such as 1 x 2's and 2 x 4's) got just a little dark.

Step 10: Pallet Wood

This is the picture of before and after the stain. AS you can see in the pictures, I have 2 different kinds of Pallet wood, One is a piece of oak and the other a piece of Poplar, the oak piece turn a Darker color, and the Poplar, just got a little darker.

But if you have some newer pieces of pallet wood, this process will aged both.

Step 11: Finish

Thanks for checking out my Instructable, I hope it helps someone, Steel Wool and Vinegar is a cheap and good stain to get that aged look on your wood.

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    9 Discussions

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    SherylinRM

    5 days ago

    Just so you know. You should remove the cap once a day to let it air for a second or two as it produces a small amount of hydrogen gas as the steel dissolves.
    Also for some woods, if you use a hair dryer immediately on it then it will turn a beautiful red colour on many woods.
    I have been using this kind of stain for decades now. It is great and safe.
    Great instructable :)

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    Ray-N-Tosca

    7 days ago

    Did the Poplar have a lot of green streaks? If this could be used to even-out the color, then Poplar would be more useful for non-painted projects.

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    jeanniel1

    10 days ago

    What a great idea! So much easier and less expensive than buying a tiny tin of stain!

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    satosi

    17 days ago

    Love this. Will be trying this out on some second hand furniture refinishing projects I have coming up. In fact, I think I'm going to do this to the palette planters I just finished making. They'll look beautiful & unique.

    I wonder if this type of solution helps protect the wood from rot or insects at all, with the acetic acid in the vinegar & iron from the steel wool? It'll be interesting to find out!

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    EloiseCornbuckle

    18 days ago on Step 11

    I used steel wool, vinegar, and a little bit of stronger acetic acid mix to stain an entire 10' x 15' deck of recycled fir 2" x 4"s. It evened out the colors of the old and newer wood, looked great beneath a coat of linseed oil, and lasted for years.

    1 reply
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    JimM98

    18 days ago

    I've been using it as stain for many years. It really popped on our coffee table that is made of old pieces oak portable dance floor which is both red & white oak glued up in various orientations. Do be careful to soak each piece well since going back to add more makes it blotchy. I usually don't sand until I've put 2 coats of poly on.

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    PKM

    26 days ago

    I've been playing with this recently trying to make ink for handwriting. I believe in your case the actual pigment is formed when dissolved iron reacts with tannins in the wood to make ferrotannate; I'm using strong black tea as my source of tannins and mixing it with the iron solution. You can see the reaction happening here: https://twitter.com/PKM_ibles/status/1138379992491053056

    I left a piece of steel wool scrubber (coarser than your wool so less surface area) in vinegar for 48 hours and almost none dissolved - then I added a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide and it dissolved a lot in three hours. If you want to speed up the process, you might try that.

    I have a suspicion the peroxide can also help change the colour, because if you let it oxidise longer you get less blue-black ferrotannate and more brown iron hydroxides - food for thought?

    1 reply