/ / How to Make New Wood Look Old

How to Make New Wood Look Old

I love finding an old piece of wood that has lots of character. You know the kind of wood; lots of dings, dents, chips, scratches; the more the better most of the time. Would you agree with me? OK so I am assuming we all LOVE an old piece of wood. But what if you have a project in mind and you can not find an old piece of wood in the material or size you want, what do you do? If only you could make new wood look old… but wait you can!

I was having this very problem with the pendant lights I have been working on for our kitchen. After trying to find the perfect piece of wood for a while, I decided to try to make a new piece of wood look older and used. And here is a sneak peek of how the wood turned out.

add character to any wood

What do you think? Does it look old and used? I think it does and you would probably never know I purchased that board from the hardware store brand new just days before. That’s great but how did I make the new board look old? Let me show you how easy it is. Are you ready? Here we go…

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– new wood
– hammer
– nails
– screwdriver
– wood file (a long screw would work)
– ziplock bag
– sander
– stain
– rags

*really almost anything in you house that will dent the wood can be used*

First lets talk about the piece of wood you buy. Normally when you buy wood you don’t want to many imperfections on the wood. But this time this is not the case. You will want something with lots of character: knots, color variation, dents. The ONLY thing you need to check is that the board is not twisted, straight boards make any project easier… After finding the prefect board or boards, buy it and take it home to work your magic. Before starting the next step you will want to cut the boards to the length needed for the project. Now let’s make the new wood look old.

How to make new wood look old

Take the boards and lay them on a flat surface, cement works great! Then start making dents, dings, and scratches on the wood. Let me show you my process.

First I wanted my wood to look like it was previously nailed down to something. So I took a nail and hammered the nail slightly into the wood, doing this in all the places you would find in a pallet board.


Next I took the hammer and hammer the board to give it dents. There is really no method to this because you want it to be different throughout the board. I also used the back of the hammer.


Then I took my wood file and filed the wood in a couple of places. If you do not have a wood file on hand, a long screw will do the same thing…


Next I took the zip-lock bag and placed some nails into the bag. Then throw the bag at the wood but you can also hammer the bag onto the wood. Another thing you could do is use a chain and hit the wood with it, I did not have a chain on hand sorry.


Finally I took my screwdriver and ran it across the wood in multiple places.


Remember there is no method to this process and make sure you are doing this to all sides of the wood that will be showing.

After banging up the wood, lightly sand the wood with #220 grit sandpaper to give it a smoother finish. Then apply the stain of your choice (I used Provincial by Minwax my new favorite).  To apply the stain, wipe the wood with a damp rag then apply the strain right after.


add character to wood

How do you like the process we used to make the new wood look old? Or give new wood some more character? Our board is going to be used for a DIY pendant light, tutorial here!

DIY pendant light


  1. While the wood comes close to actually aged wood, I see something missing. Aged wood will be darker–especially through the lighter portions of the wood. Might I suggest applying something that will truly age the wood. I have done this before. Using the same methods as you, but also left the wood laying on my back patio for a year. I cannot help wondering if there is a faster method, perhaps one of the acids? Good luck to you!

    1. Thanks John for the suggestion, I wish I had time for that with this project! Another thing I have heard that will age wood is using a blow torch. But because I do not have one, I did not get the chance to try it out.

      1. Yes, a blowtorch does work. Regrettably it takes a good deal of practice before you will achieve a consistent burn. I finally was able to conquer the problem of burn lines showing up, but it took most of six months. I finally learned that the board can be set on fire by using a flammable liquid and being careful to not over burn the edges. I usually do it using kerosene after some judicious masking of the edges. The edges need to be burnt but much lighter. After burning, use 0000 steel wool or a very fine circular brush on your grinder. The results can be excellent. Additionally you can age the wood to various degrees determined by the amount you burn it. It still takes time but can be the only presentable way to make all the displayed surfaces of the wood look period perfect.

        1. Thanks John for all the great tips! Now I want to give it a try…

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