Aging Treatments for Douglas Fir

Down-under finisher asks for help getting an aged-look stain on Douglas Fir. October 2, 2005

I do distressing on my furniture using old Oregon, but have not been able to get the tone I like. I use black Japan, which is a nightmare to apply - if I wipe it off, it's too light, and if I don't, it's too black and messy. I use Feast Watson products, as they are easy for me to get. From what I've read here, I should be building up the layers of color. Can anyone suggest some colors to use, as the dyes suggested I don't know about. I am really stuck and the frustration is getting the better of me.

I am after a dark aged look. The timber already has nail holes, etc. What are the general steps when aging? Should I start with a base color (maybe orange/brown)?
Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
Orange may not be a bad place to start. Then maybe a brown. You may have to experiment with the time you leave the second color on before you wipe. Make sure the first color is dry or you may end up making soup.

From the original questioner:
Does one coat of orange, then brown, then maybe a wipe coat of black Japan (allowing to dry between coats) sound like a good start? Should I seal between coats with a wipe coat of shellac?

The first thing to do is to relax. Any finish is easy to duplicate once you know the proper steps.

Get a good magnifying glass. Look for the background color, look for the colors that are on top of the background color, look at the colors that are at the bottom of the dents and scratches. Get a color wheel, which will help you understand how colors react with one another. Get a bunch of raw wood samples, 1' X 1'. Get an array of oil colors at an art store (water dyes and solvent dyes come later). Practice and practice and keep notes on the back of your sample boards, At this point, nothing is a mistake - it's just your quest for the right color. Relax, take your time, and have fun.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. How should I apply the colors (light first, dark last?) and should I dilute them, put on, wipe off? Are these art colors the stuff I would use for the real job or just for experimenting? And then, would I shellac as normal after the final color, and should I still use the black Japan?

The way to achieve this is the same as matching any color and the same process as most furniture finishes. Start with the background color, which totally depends on the wood you're using and the desired color. It is always best to start with light and work to dark. For example, if I was doing that color (from your description), I would start with an orange/amber/touch of brown dye (or NGR). Seal that. Sand with 320 glaze with dark glaze (it depends on how dark you want the distressing/highlighting). We mix our own but it's usually somewhere between a van Dyke brown and dark walnut. Seal that and do any shading necessary to shift color. Clear coat and rub if needed.

I would start with walnut crystals, probably about 2 - 3 tablespoons to a quart of hot water. You can spray or wipe this on and then wipe it all off. You are looking to be a little lighter than the final color you want. After the sample is completely dry (about an hour in my area), spray on a coat of sealer, scuff with red scotch brite when dry.

Apply a Gilsonite glaze. You will need to experiment with the build of the sealer coat to get the look you want. Thinner sealer and the Gilsonite stains darker, heavier sealer and the Gilsonite stains lighter and more even. I mix mine with mineral spirits.

After the Gilsonite glaze dries (15 min), shade with an ngr stain to get the final color. I use Mohawk Ultra penetrating dye stain, but there are many brands that work just as well. I imagine perfect brown or cherry and this would depend on what is needed to get the color right. I mix the ngr in a one quart cup gun as follows: 4-6 oz ngr, approximately 8 oz lacquer or sealer and the rest lacquer thinner.

Shade lightly just until the color is reached and follow right away with a full coat of lacquer. There are several different ways to achieve the same finish. This is just how I think I might go about doing my first sample. (I get my walnut crystals from W.D. Lockwood Co. in New York - I am sure they are available several other places, too.)

I must assume that the "old Oregon" you refer to is actually Douglas fir, which used to be called "Oregon pine" and still is in some areas of Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.

To reproduce the old fashioned look, I go the simple route and use the methods that the old craftsman used. Specifically, old time staining of lumber (timber) used to be done by filling an old paint can with linseed oil and cooking it (over stove, BBQ, torch, any way you can). The more you cook it, the darker it gets, turning from an uncooked light golden colour to orangish, then brownish, then dark brown, and so forth.

So, all you do is take your sample piece of lumber/timber and head to the backyard BBQ, cook up a batch of linseed oil and by dabbing a bit here and there as it darkens, you should get the finish you are after.