Aging wood with coffee, dirt and wax

Housetableagingwoodmontage2I’m awfully proud of myself and thought I’d take this opportunity to brag a little.

The boasting has to do with some 3-inch long wooden corners I wanted to create for my refurbished workshop table. After I added the little pieces of laminate samples around the frame under the tabletop, it occurred to me that where those pieces meet on each corner would look tacky without something to hide the joint.

It was Bill’s idea to get wooden corner molding. But I realized the new wood of the molding I found at the hardware store (for two bucks!) would look really dumb near the aged patina of the table. And I didn’t want to wait 4 or 5 years for the corners to age naturally. So I set out to age them by hand.

Actually, I already knew how to do this, as I wrote about the process in a book (no longer in print) I wrote with Kitty Bartholomew. For her house, she bought some new drapery rods and finials that she wanted to age, and I watched a master at work. First, she beat up the new wood with a chain belt and a garden cultivator. Then she poured coffee over the fresh, absorbent wood, and after that ground gravel and dirt into it. After wiping off the dirt, she applied several coats of tinted Briwax. You can see her creation in the photo on the bottom left.

So I was a little intimidated as I set out to age my own wood. Even though I saw her do it, I realize it still felt like hocus-pocus magic. But I went forward anyway. And isn’t that the definition of courage? To feel the fear and do it anyway?

Rather than using a chain belt, I took the long pieces of molding (before I cut them) and beat them against a rock wall. Then I used a cultivator. It was all very satisfying. I cut my pieces on a table saw and then soaked them in coffee. I wanted to make sure the ends got the full treatment. I sanded the cut corners a bit, then ground dirt into the pieces. That was also fun, and a 2-year-old who was visiting for Thanksgiving stopped by my patio to help with the dirt rubbing. She announced "I’m helping you" and then "I wuv you."

My final touch was applying the coats of Briwax. What an amazing product that is. It’s a little pricey at about $15 a can, but it makes everything glow.

In the end, I was amazed at how good my aged wood looked (which you can see applied to the table at the top left, and drying on a bench on the top right, with one piece left new).

I do not think I reached the artistry of the master, but my work looks pretty darn good to me!