I’ve gotten lots of requests from y’all for instructions on how I finished my shiplap headboard so this is the quick step-by-step guide for my weathered whitewash wood finish.
a little science
I use a technique called ebonizing, which is a process of quickly coloring wood with iron acetate in the presence of tannins. The shiplap I was able to get my hands on was pine, which only contains tannin in the knots.
Have you ever painted over a knot with latex primer and had them bleed through? That’s because tannins are water-soluble and it allows the color to come to the surface, no matter how many times you paint it. In this case, tannins are our friend but we want them throughout the wood surface.
Sidenote: If you want to stop tannin bleed, apply shellac.
The easiest way to get tannins in your wood is to apply strong black tea or, my favorite, cheap red wine. I experimented with both & got the most consistent results from red wine. I couldn’t keep the tea brew strength the same between batches while I could see the red wine on the wood when I rolled it, showing any missed spots.
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See how I roll.
DIY Weathered Whitewash Wood Stain
Iron Acetate + Red Wine = Perfect Weathered Wood Stain
Make Iron Acetate
- In a mason jar or glass container; pour 1 quart white vinegar over 2 used Brillo pads or fine steel wool. If using fine steel wool, wash the pad first to get the oil coating off that prevents rusting in the package.
- Lightly screw the top on and set outside for 48 hours. Longer is not better but it doesn’t hurt anything.
- The steel wool should fully dissolve leaving a rusty liquid. If the liquid doesn’t change colors, don’t worry. It will still work.
- I have no idea why it sometimes turns murky while other times it stays clear. It’s a mystery.
- Strain the liquid through coffee filters, twice.
- Use immediately or store for later use.
Quick tip: to give your iron acetate a head start, heat the vinegar up. The heat will get the reaction going sooner.
Pop the grain
Take a spray bottle filled with water and mist the wood until damp. This will raise the grain, allowing more stain to seep into the wood. DO NOT SAND the raised grain. Resist. I know, it’s hard.
Still, no sanding.
Apply Iron Acetate
Apply 2 coats iron acetate with a roller, drying between coats. You should see a reaction pretty quickly.
The stain will get darker with time so if you would like it a little darker, just wait a few days. It’ll get there on its own.
Put the sanding block down. Don’t make me say it again.
Apply 1 coat clear shellac.
It will deepen the stain and give it some depth.
You can finally sand!!!!
Sand lightly with fine grit sandpaper or sanding block. You are just knocking the tips off. Aggressive sanding will go through your finish and you will have to restain.
Apply 1 more coat of shellac and let dry.
You can stop here, lightly sand, then apply paste wax if you like.
Whitewashing can be done using either chalk paint or lime wax.
Apply a light coat & let dry.
The paint I used is a pretty light blue latex mixed with powdered chalk for my very own brand of chalk paint.
Sand paint off using an orbital sander and 120-220 grit paper. Take as much or as little as you want but keep your sander at a low speed. You can get in trouble by sanding through to bare wood if you aren’t paying attention.
Let wax dry then buff. I buffed my headboard to a semi-gloss finish using a side grinder and a buffing wheel. It was a lot of fun to buff with and gave me an excuse to buy a side grinder.
To see more of our new fancy guest room with this shiplap headboard go here Rustic Guest Bedroom
If you have questions about my naturally weathered wood stain + whitewash, comment below or shoot me an email.