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 pine knot with latex primer and still had them bleed through? That’s because tannins are water-soluble, allowing the red color to come to the surface, no matter how many times you paint over it.
Before painting pine or other knotty woods, apply a shellac primer to prevent tannin bleed through.
In making a natural wood stain, tannins are our friend but we want them throughout the wood surface.
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 the red wine with the added bonus of being able to see any missed spots before the iron acetate coat.
DIY Wood Stain
Iron Acetate + Red Wine = Perfect Weathered Wood Stain
How to Make Iron Acetate
Iron acetate is very easy to make and can be stored indefinitely.
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 on top and set outside for 24-48 hours. Longer is not better but it won’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 to remove sediment.
Use immediately or store for later use.
Give your iron acetate a head start by heating the vinegar in the microwave for 1 min. The heat will get the reaction going sooner.
How to Weather New Wood
Once your iron acetate is ready, you can start staining your wood. This can get messy so be sure to wear old clothes and cover anything you don’t want to get wet.
Step 1: 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.
I know, it’s hard.
Step 2: Apply Red Wine or Tea
Apply 2 coats cheap red wine or strong black tea (1 bag per cup, 5 min steep) with a roller, brush, or sprayer. Let dry between coats.
Step 3: 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.
Apply Seal Coat
Apply clear shellac with a brush & let dry. It will deepen the stain color and give it beautiful depth.
You can finally sand!!!!
Lightly sand with a fine grit (400 grit prefered) sandpaper or sanding block. You are just knocking the furry wood tips off. Aggressive sandpaper will take off your finish and refinishing tends to lead to a blotchy finish.
Apply 1 more coat of shellac and let dry.
You can stop here, lightly sand, then apply paste wax if you like or keep reading to learn how I like to give my wood a gorgeous whitewashed finish.
Sand paint or liming wax off with 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.
Apply paste wax to give your final finish more depth.
Let wax dry then buff.
I buffed this headboard to a semi-gloss finish using a side grinder and a buffing wheel. It was a lot of fun 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.