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Dusty Devil Dale

Building props? Recipe for barn wood

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Posted (edited)

If you're building stage props or buildings (or gun carts or other projects) and you want the look of old, weathered wood, here's a cheap, easy way to age pine or other softwoods--it even works with green, fresh-sawn lumber.  

 

Take a ball of steel wool and rinse it out with acetone to get rid of oil.  Then stuff it into a gallon bottle full of ordinary white vinegar.  Close the lid and set it outside in the sunlight for a day or two.   Shake it up occasionally.  Then spray the aged solution on the lumber heavily with a weed sprayer or apply it heavily with a paint brush.  Heavy coating is important. (Wear plastic gloves, or enjoy grey hands afterwards). 

 

Within a couple hours, the iron solution will begin to react with the tannins in the wood and impart an aged gray color to the wood.  Overnight, it will be about 60-70% darkened.  It continues to darken some, after drying.  If it is still lighter than you want, just spray it again.  If the ambient weather is cold, you may need to age the solution longer. 

 

For $1.25 a gallon, it works great, and the graying is permanent.   The vinegar also provides some preservative value, but a top coat of water seal over the dry wood will preserve it better, if needed.  In most cases, just letting the wood age, without preservative, is adequate for prop purposes. 

 

Our club has been using this technique for several years.  It works and looks authentic! 

 Just passing it on.  

Edited by Dusty Devil Dale
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Called Vinagaroon....solution used to turn veg-tanned leather black. Not a die, it affects the tannin in the leather..same as wood. Doesn't come out of or wear off of leather. Won't stain your hands like a dye will.  Does stink to high heaven though for awhile. I have a holster and belt I did back in December or so that still has a very slight vinegar smell to it. It is a nice quality black...not jet black...kind of a civil war leather black. (happens to be what they used also)

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14 minutes ago, Lunger Dan said:

Called Vinagaroon....solution used to turn veg-tanned leather black. Not a die, it affects the tannin in the leather..same as wood. Doesn't come out of or wear off of leather. Won't stain your hands like a dye will.  Does stink to high heaven though for awhile. I have a holster and belt I did back in December or so that still has a very slight vinegar smell to it. It is a nice quality black...not jet black...kind of a civil war leather black. (happens to be what they used also)

 

does this solution affect the revolvers in any way?

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I vote this for a sticky!

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1 hour ago, Lunger Dan said:

Called Vinagaroon....solution used to turn veg-tanned leather black. Not a die, it affects the tannin in the leather..same as wood. Doesn't come out of or wear off of leather. Won't stain your hands like a dye will.  Does stink to high heaven though for awhile. I have a holster and belt I did back in December or so that still has a very slight vinegar smell to it. It is a nice quality black...not jet black...kind of a civil war leather black. (happens to be what they used also)

Really interesting.  Thanks for filling in.  I wonder if the vinegar odor could be rinsed out, after the color reaction is done.  Possibly neutralized with a soda solution.  Worth trying.  

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25 minutes ago, Dusty Devil Dale said:

Really interesting.  Thanks for filling in.  I wonder if the vinegar odor could be rinsed out, after the color reaction is done.  Possibly neutralized with a soda solution.  Worth trying.  

 

I wonder if the vinegar’s acidity provides any preservative effect?  Any experience with how long the color or the wood itself will last after treatment?

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6 hours ago, J-BAR #18287 said:

 Any experience with how long the color or the wood itself will last after treatment?

It appears to be pretty permanent.  We have some stage structures painted with the stuff about four years ago.  No fading evident. 

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13 hours ago, Cheyenne Ranger, 48747L said:

 

does this solution affect the revolvers in any way?

I don't leave them stored in leather anyway..as far as the time they are in, no...no effect. I've had them in for as long as 2 days and no problem.

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11 hours ago, Dusty Devil Dale said:

Really interesting.  Thanks for filling in.  I wonder if the vinegar odor could be rinsed out, after the color reaction is done.  Possibly neutralized with a soda solution.  Worth trying.  

Some say soaking  in a baking soda solution afterwards helps...I dont , Im not a big fan of oversoaking the leather. Rinsing helps some, but definately an odor left.....smell like a pickle up on the line!

 

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On 6/13/2019 at 5:19 PM, Tucker McNeely said:

I vote this for a sticky!

 

I'll second that!

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It would be a whole lot simpler to just wander around and volunteer to tear down old barns.  :P

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Or store your props in southern Arizona for a year.  Out in the sun is best. Add a dust storm and cloudburst

or two and you got authentic, period correct, distressed wood.  In 2-3 years it will be so hard

you can bend nails trying to pound one in.

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19 hours ago, Colorado Coffinmaker said:

It would be a whole lot simpler to just wander around and volunteer to tear down old barns.  

Have you tried that lately? 

Old barn owners have wised up that barnwood is in extreme high demand for home re-decorating.  If you look, it sells by the individual piece for ridiculous prices on sites like ETSY--the value increasing according to the weathering and distressing amount.   

In particular large old barn beams are in demand for resawing as flooring.  So the old days of volunteering to do tear-down are gone, unless you have a wallet full of cash and know how to negotiate.  I'm sure there are exceptions out there, but few and far between.  

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very interesting option to the increasing cost of real barn wood that often has paint we do not want from modern signage that can distract 

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Good info.

 

Another way, which I used when making props for stage plays, is to put the wooden item out on concrete-away from other things that can catch fire, and burn it using one of those propane weed torches. Once you give it a good burn, hit it with a wire brush and get the charred wood off. Brings out the grain and looks very old. You can burn it more if the effect is not enough, and then stain it.

 

Another technique is to apply a dark stain and then dry brush it with a lighter paint to bring out the details.

 

Below is a picture of a ladder I made years ago for a stage production of Man of La Mancha. I added the rope after weathering it.

oldLadder2.jpg

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