Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Weathering Wood with Steel Wool & Vinegar

When we went to Florida early this summer, we first stopped to spend a few days with our good friends that moved there.  They had the most beautiful wood console sitting in their living room, which Justus and I both admired and I told Justus I would love something similar for a coffee table.  My friend told me that somebody had made theirs out of pine and it was an Ana White plan.  When I commented on the gorgeous stain, she said it was steel wool and vinegar.  Wow!  You know I could hardly wait to come home and research that.  It didn't take me long to find the plans and wouldn't you know it, there was a plan for a coffee table and an end table! 

Recently I went to visit my sister-in-law for the weekend, and when I came home Sunday night, I found the coffee table sitting in the guest room.  Justus had made it for me while I was away and surprised me.  (I know, it made my heart melt too.)  Since the coffee table was made and ready to go, all I had to do was research the steel wool and vinegar method.  I don't typically share project tutorials here, but this was the most fun I've ever had working on furniture and thought you might enjoy trying it too.  

You'll find a lot online about using this method, but mostly I wanted to share photos during each phase, because it takes a lot of "ugly" steps before it reaches the "pretty"!  When I first stained the coffee table, I thought for sure I had ruined it, but I loved the end result.  Needless to say, I didn't take any photos at that time, so these are photos from the matching end table that Justus built. 


 Step 1: At least a few days prior to working on your wood project, you'll want to create your steel wool and vinegar solution.  This consists of purchasing distilled white vinegar and grade #0000 steel wool (I used Rhodes American Steel Wool #0000 found at Wal-Mart in the hardware section).  Tear one chunk of the steel wool into pieces and then place in a glass jar.  Fill the jar with white vinegar, screw on a jar lid and let the solution sit.  When I worked on the coffee table, the solution sat for three days.  When I worked on the end table, the solution sat for three weeks.  Both match perfectly.  You just want to allow enough time for the solution to oxidize.   

 In addition to the steel wool and vinegar solution, you will also need sandpaper for the initial sanding (I used 120 grit), black tea bags, a cheap paintbrush, 220 grit sandpaper (I used a block) for the finish, and wax. 

Step 2: Brew some strong black tea and let steep for at least an hour.  I filled our tea kettle and used 5 tea bags. 

 Step 3: Sand your furniture.  I used 120 grit sandpaper for this and my trusty old mouse sander I've had for years. 

 I really like to take my time sanding, paying attention to all areas.  These pieces were for our living room, and I wanted them very smooth and polished looking.  Once you're finished, wipe down the piece good.   I actually used my blow dryer first to blow all the wood shavings off and then followed with a lint free rag. 

 Step 4: Using the cheap paintbrush, paint tea all over the piece.  This sounds like such a funny step, but it's really essential.  Pine wood lacks tannin content, but tannin occurs in tea, and the steel wool and vinegar will react with the tea stain and darken the wood. I made sure I did one very thorough coat, getting in every nook and cranny.  On the table tops and legs, I actually did two coats.  Use your judgement - on the wood that looks very light in color, you may want to use a little extra tea.  Let the wood sit until completely dry. 

 Step 5:  Strain the steel wool and vinegar solution into a bowl.  There may be little steel wool particles left (as pictured above) that you will need to throw away.  I found there to be a lot less in this solution, which sat for 3 weeks.  (A note of caution: use a bowl you don't care about.) 

 Step 6:  Begin painting your steel wool and vinegar solution onto the wood.  Both times I used the same cheap paintbrush I had just used for the tea.  The first time I did this step, my heart started pounding and I was sure I had made a dreadful error in trying this experiment on my beautiful new coffee table.  I frantically started sanding as the wood got darker and darker, to no avail.  I decided to let it sit and started working on the bottom of the piece.  After a while, I saw it might have promise. 

 Some of the wood you will paint will be light gray in color.  Then other areas will appear black (see picture above).  Do not worry about it - I promise it will look right in the end. 

 As the solution sits, it will get darker.  This is a great example of the "ugly" stage.  On areas you've already painted and it has begun to dry, the color will have turned a dark gray (see outer edge).  When you first paint, the color will be a light gray-tan. 

 But as the solution begins to dry over the entire piece, you'll begin to have hope. 

 (If you happen to build a table using this same plan, Justus didn't attach the table top until I was finished with the stain as it made it much easier to work with.) 

 Step 7:  Even though your piece is looking so much better, you'll have a few places where you can clearly see drips (see photo above on right hand edge) and even areas where the wood is darker.   This is where the fine grit sandpaper comes in and this step makes all the difference.  I used a 220 grit sandpaper block. 

Just lightly sanding over the area removes the drip stain and helps the color blend (see above).  I used the sandpaper over the entire piece, focusing on areas that needed extra blending.  Be sure to wipe down the wood after you've finished sanding. 

Above is what the table looked like after doing the finish sanding.  Don't you love the weathered wood look?  I've never been fond of using stain on pine, but this method is so different and really eliminates the yellow color of pine showing through.  Looks like fun, doesn't it?  It really is!

 Step 8:  The final step is a wax finish.  By the way, at this point I've only worked on this for a few hours or so, even waiting for everything to dry, so it's a fast project.  Annie Sloan wax is the only wax I've ever used and I love it, so that's what I decided to use.  I can't say whether or not wax you can purchase at the hardware store is any different, but I've found this wax is easy to apply and I love the finish after it cures. 

 Using a disposable knife, I placed the wax on a paper plate and used a lint free cloth to apply the wax.  (I've found that old fashioned Gerber cloth diapers work great!) 

I've used a wax brush before, but the cloth seems to work perfect, especially on intricate areas.  You can see the wood is starting to look more brown and polished as the wax is applied.  I applied a couple light coats of wax over the entire piece. 

Step 9:  Finished!  The wax will take a little while to fully cure, but you can use it gently pretty much right away. I'm so happy with the way these tables turned out, and especially love them in our living room.  

I'm not sure if the wood really looks like barn wood, but it definitely has a weathered rustic look, yet is still very polished and clean (hopefully kind of Pottery-Barnish).  I'll show photos of them in the living room soon!

If you're interested in the building plans, you can find the coffee table plans here and the end table plans here.  And this is the awesome tutorial I found that helped the most with the oxidizing. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Taco Salad Recipe

 This recipe is really more like a meal suggestion.  It can be tweaked all kinds of ways and will still taste delicious.  I make this all the time, because it's so easy and quick.  It's perfect for Saturday lunch or a weeknight supper when life is hectic. 

 Most of the ingredients you likely already have on hand and you can add/take-away/substitute in a variety of ways that suit you and your family.  Here are the ingredients I used this weekend when I took photos:

1 lb ground beef
1 can pinto beans
minced garlic
frozen corn
cherry tomatoes
sour cream
tortilla chips

 We are very fortunate that we have access to a freezer full of grass fed, pasture raised beef, thanks to the cows my parents raise, but chicken would also be delicious.  I prefer to add the corn and beans to the beef so that the salad has a nice warm topping. And while I love a pot of beans made from scratch, nothing beats using a can every now and then when you're in a hurry! 

Beef/Beans/Corn Mixture
1 lb ground beef
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 can pinto beans
1 cup frozen or fresh corn

Begin by heating a skillet over medium-high heat and cooking the ground beef, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper until the beef is no longer pink.  Drain the fat from the beef and return to skillet.  Drain and rinse the can of pinto beans. Add the pinto beans and corn to the beef, stirring for a few minutes until thoroughly heated, and then remove from heat.  I usually add another few grinds of salt at this point too.

black olives
cherry tomatoes

Meanwhile, chop your salad ingredients.  Our tomatoes in the garden are just about finished - I will miss them so much!  Other ideas for ingredients that would be delicious to add: cilantro, green onions, shredded cheese, red onion. 

 Salad Dressing
sour cream

When I first threw this salad together, I made a dressing that had several ingredients.  One day when I was really in a hurry, I combined just these two ingredients and could hardly tell a difference.  Since then, that's all I use.  I don't measure - I just eyeball equal amounts of each.  Every now and then I'll even eliminate the sour cream and just use salsa.  But only for me... the rest of my family would not be happy!  ;-) 

When serving the salad, I also include a bowl full of tortilla chips.  We usually crush a few of them and mix in with the salad in our bowls.

 Add a base of salad, the meat topping, a little salad dressing, a few chips and you're good to go.  This is a delicious, simple, quick meal that's also very filling!  My girls absolutely love it when I make this salad... our youngest daughter, Rosetta, always says, "SO yummy!"   

P.S.  This also makes great leftovers.  I place the salad and meat topping in the same bowl, but on separate sides and put the salad dressing in a different container. 

Hope you enjoy! 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bedroom Decisions

 Since I first began blogging I've received several requests asking to show photos of our master bedroom.  Well, there's a reason I've never shown any... our bedroom is one of two rooms left in our house that we haven't touched since moving in.  (Well, unless you count the ceiling fan we hung when I was 9 months pregnant in July.)  Not that it wasn't livable, but we knew one day we'd have to tear down not just the ceiling and not just the walls, but both. 

During the past few weeks we've been undergoing a tile project in the bathroom (almost finished, thank goodness), so you'd think I'd leave it at that for now.  But one afternoon I decided I just couldn't stare at the painted wallpaper paneling any longer, and I literally ripped off an entire section to see what I would find underneath.  (Then I sent a text to my husband at work, who must be very used to my antics, since his response was only asking to see a photo - ha!)  Underneath the paneling I found two coats of very old wallpaper which then revealed the original oak tongue and groove seemingly (so far) in great condition. 

 Although it looks a little rustic, I think we can pretty it up, but even revealing just one wall of wood in the room has caused it to be very dark.  I keep debating whether or not to paint the wood (a very subtle light grey).  So far I haven't painted any of the tongue and groove in the house that has been in good condition, but I also crave light and I'm not sure whether I'd like having a dark bedroom.  However, I have to say that the only thing worse than removing wallpaper from 80 year old tongue and groove is painting 80 year old tongue and groove.  The idea of doing both in addition to painting the wood ceiling would definitely not be fun!   

(See fan above that has only been used a handful of times since pregnancy days.)

Although it will be a good long while before we're to the decorating stage, I'm already envisioning an antique chest and desk, neutral bedding with texture thrown in.  (Although my husband allows me free reign with decorating, he has always drawn the line at a girly bedroom!)  I did buy the fabric pictured above and made curtains with it this year. I fell in love with the linen fabric the moment I saw it and knew it would be just perfect for down the road. 

So, please tell me, what are your thoughts?  Should I paint?  Leave the wood in its natural state?  I'm open to all ideas!  :-)

Also, I wanted to say that I so appreciated each and every comment left on my previous post.  They were so encouraging and heart-warming and I was thankful for each one. Have a great week!  I'll be back in a few days with a recipe!

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