how to distress wood

7 Techniques on How to Distress Wood

Distressed wood has a distinct charm. Furniture pieces made from distressed wood are far more valuable compared to other pieces too. But why pay for expensive distressed furniture when you can make your own? Here are some techniques on how to distress wood; you’ll surely be surprised at how easy and how inexpensive wood distressing could be.

What you need for this tutorial

You need the following to distress wood:

  • Cheap wood (any size of wood you want to use) – it’s difficult to distress expensive wood as this type of wood is hard and dense. However, cheap wood is easier to distress as the grains are softer and less dense. Cheap wood may already have pits, marks, and discoloration so you won’t have to do much to distress it! 
  • Chains, hammers, jackhammers, barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells – applying weight, any kind of weight, can help distress wood. You can use any of these heavy items. 
  • Nails or screws – use these small items to create random marks on the wood. Use all sizes and kinds of nails or screws. 
  • Wire brushes – a wire brush can be used to graze lines and marks on the wood. 
  • Wood stain – you can use chemical stains or natural stains like coffee, tea, and other products. 
  • Paint – use different paint colors to recreate different paint layers. 
  • Sandpaper – sanding wood using sandpaper of different grits can also distress wood. 
  • Paint scraper – use this to distress wood with many layers of paint and varnish. 
  • Whitewashing solution – you can buy this type of solution in any paint store or crafts store.
  • Steel wool and vinegar – you will combine steel wool and vinegar to make iron acetate. This is a natural compound that will give wood a good dark color. Combine the two in a glass or plastic container. 


1. Use weight and pressure to distress wood.

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Create pits, dents, and cracks on wood using heavy items like hammers, chisels, barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells. There’s nothing to do but place the piece of wood on the ground and let the heavy items fall on it. 

You can use chains to distress wood as well. Place the wood on the ground or hold it with a vice on a working table. Hit the wood repeatedly with the heavy chain. You can also place marbles, sand, rocks, or stones inside a thick bag and repeatedly smash it on the wood.  

2. Scrape wire brushes to create a distressed look.

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A wire brush can create all kinds of marks on wood, especially soft cheap wood. Just move the brush around to create straight lines, intersecting lines, or spirals. Use wire brushes with irregular bristles to create a unique pattern or design. 

Wire brushes may also create dents, deep marks, and cuts. Smash the brush over the surface of the wood or move as if you want to destroy the top layer of wood. Add varnish or stain later and you’ll have a lovely, distressed appearance.

3. Hammer nails and screw screws for a distressed appearance. 

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Get nails and screws of different sizes and kinds and attach these to wood. Once the nail and screws are deep enough remove them forcefully. You can also bend nails and screws and remove them to create a very distressed mark. The threads on a screw make unique marks on the wood.

4. Add layers of paint and remove them with sandpaper.

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This technique may take a long while to do but will create a lovely and homey distressed look. First, add a layer of paint, any color would do, and let this dry completely for a day. Apply the second coat and like the first one, let it dry completely for another day. You may apply a third coat if you wish but let this layer dry longer. After you’ve applied all the layers, use a piece of sandpaper and sand the layers.

Sand along with different areas especially the edges of the wood. Use different sandpaper grits and watch these create different effects. To make deeper marks using sandpaper, attach one on a sanding block and use this to sand all over wood. 

5. Stain wood using chemical or natural stains.

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There are different kinds of wood stains available but you can also make your own using everyday household items like coffee or tea. 

To use tea, steep a few bags in hot water. Place a piece of steel wool in vinegar and wait for a few minutes. Apply the tea on the surface of the wood with a brush. Let this dry completely and use the steel wool solution. Tea has tannins and will create a dark brown color while the steel wool plus vinegar solution can turn wood darker. 

Remember; when combining steel wool and vinegar, don’t cover the container as this mixture can create hydrogen gas. Place the container in a ventilated spot.

You may apply many layers of stain on wood especially if you want to sand this afterward. 

6. Scrape off paint layers.

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Use a paint scraper to create long and wavy marks on painted wood. A scraper can also make irregular marks on painted or varnished wood. Cabinet makers use wood scrapers to create a fatigued appearance. 

7. Use the whitewashing technique

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Another way to distress wood is by using a whitewash solution. This type of solution will make wood look old and distressed but you must apply several layers to get the look you want. Just like applying paint, add one layer and wait until this dries completely. 

Use sandpaper to remove the different layers. You may also use a flat tool to remove the layers of the whitewash solution. 


Now that you have an idea of how to distress wood, you may now apply these techniques to make DIY projects. These distressing wood techniques are just some of the most common ones. You may create your techniques to age wood. 

How do you find this step-by-step instructional guide? Comment down below. Share this article with people who would like to create a distressed wood technique. 



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