Sunday, February 24, 2013

DIY - Oxidized wood X coffee table

This is a project from about a month ago, but I completely forgot to blog about it until now! Joel made this table for us on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, because we were hosting a party and needed somewhere for our guests to put their snacks.

I found the plans at Ana White, and Joel followed them pretty exactly. I was out while he built the table, but he did his best to take a few iPhone pictures of the process.

The table was so fantastic looking, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Even before Joel actually built it, I debated the treatment that I would give it - stain, or paint? I wanted to have that weathered, beachy, washed out grey look, and I wasn't quite sure how to achieve it. I finally came across some tips about how to oxidize wood. This is a process that basically rapidly ages your wood by exposing it to a rusted steel wool solution.

The formula is simple:
 In a Mason jar, mix a roll of fine steel wool (not the grocery store kind, but the stuff you buy at the hardware store) with some vinegar. I did about half a jar of vinegar and one roll of steel wool. Let it sit for a few days, and it's ready to go.

I will note here that after a few days, my mixture did not look ANY different. I was really disappointed, and was sure that I must have done something wrong. Many people online said that their solution turned brown or red, and mine definitely hadn't. I'm so glad I gave it a try instead of giving up on it though, because it worked so well! 4 weeks later, my solution is still clear.

The day that you are going to apply it to your table, you also need to brew some strong tea. I used 8 teabags to about 2 cups of water, so that it was strong and black.

Begin by painting your wood with the tea mixture. This isn't intended to change the color of the wood, instead it just provides a base for your vinegar solution to react with. I let mine sit on my wood for about ten minutes, then I brushed my table with my vinegar solution. The solution doesn't smell great, so it would be a good idea to do it outside or in a well ventilated area. I also found it was very drippy, so cover any important surfaces before you begin.

After about ten minutes, like magic, the table began to change color.  The color you get won't be 100% consistent, but I think that's part of the charm of this kind of table. I waited a couple of days and then did a second coat on just the top of my table, to give it some contrast. It darkened up even more, and it became exactly what I was looking for.

 Below you can see the contrast I did, by oxidizing the top twice and the bottom only once. I think it just gives the table an extra something!

 Below is a good example of the somewhat inconsistent results you can expect. I could probably sand down the darker spots to make it one fluid color, but I kind of love how it looks!

Have you ever tried this process before? Do you plan on trying it anytime soon? I'd love to see your results!


  1. Is the artwork on the wall (the two faces) something you did? It's pretty cool!

    1. Thanks! It's not unfortunately - I'm a TERRIBLE artist, and couldn't make something like that if I tried.. crafts are my thing!!

      It's a fabric my Marimekko - I just cut it and my husband built wood frames for it!

  2. This is absolutely gorgeous! Did you need to seal it? I don't have a particular style (eclectic, I suppose), but I could definitely lived with this, that is, if I needed a coffee table :-) With a modified base, this would be fabulous as a dining table. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks! I did seal it, just in case. There may possibly already be plans for this as a dining table - if you go to the original source site I linked, they have a few different plans with the "Rustic X" style!

  3. How thick of Steel wool did you get? There is #0000 - #3 stiffness.

  4. I loved your post, it inspired me to treat a cheap left over table. I've tried sealing an underside spot with a satin polyurethane but it's changing my color drastically....what did you use to seal the table to maintain the grey color?!



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