Recipe 5. Coffee or tea with the basic stains
Brew some tea or coffee at 3-4 times the strength, let cool, apply this mixture to raw wood surfaces. The coffee or tea do not add darker color to the wood stain, they add tannins to the wood which will make the stains much darker. Apply the stain after the wood dries from the tea / coffee first coat.
Recipe 6. Dilute the basic stains with water
When we dilute the stains #1 through #4 with water, it produces a lighter color, much like naturally aged wood.
Now let’s check out all the DIY wood stains and variations in the above photo.
1. Stain #1 – #4 applied on pecan or walnut wood. This type of wood has high concentrations of tannins, so all the stains come out quite dark. No need for tea or coffee!
2. white vinegar and steel wool stain on pine: a rich brown color
3. balsamic vinegar and steel wool stain on pine: a warm gray with a gold tone
4. white vinegar and rusty nails stain on pine: a brown color lighter than the one with steel wool, i think it’s because steel wool dissolves faster, so the iron is more concentrated
5. apple cider vinegar and steel wool stain on pine: also a warm gray similar to the balsamic vinegar, more silvery gray
6. & 7. coffee and the vinegar metal stains: all the different vinegar and metal solutions produced a dark, almost black color because of the coffee
8. & 9. 50% white vinegar and steel wool stain with 50% water: both types of wood has the diluted stains on the right, and natural wood in the middle. The rich brown stain became a gray color stain after being diluted with equal amount of water.
So far we have stains in all shades of browns and grays. What about colors?
Recipe 7 – you can make wood stain any color using diluted acrylic paints! (or any water based ink or paint)
If you love colors, and you also love the grain of the wood, this method gives you the best of both worlds!
When I made the rope shelf , I had the same question like every time: “To paint, or not to paint?”
So I diluted the acrylic paint with a ratio of 1 part paint and 1 part water, and washed the wood, so it takes on the turquoise color, but still has the wood grain showing through!
Different brands of paints will have different consistencies. Choose exterior paints for outdoor projects. Remember: always choose non-toxic paints!
Pros and cons of DIY wood stain vs store bought wood stain.
The pros are: made from all natural household materials, these quick and easy wood stains are super effective, long lasting, and low cost (less than 10% of those in the store)! And they are less harsh on our planet as well – no solvents and no VOCs!
The cons: can be unpredictable. The wood stain will have different color variations on different wood species, and it can be challenging to match colors when making new batches. So planning and testing is really important!
If your goal is to stain lots of wood and have them all look as uniform as possible, then you need to either make a big batch of home-made stain and use them at once, or choose a store bought stain.
Helpful tips and our reader’s FAQs
- Use scrap pieces to do tests before you tackle a big project. Every type of wood react to the wood stain differently.
- You might go through the same “Nothing happened!” moment. Our reader Mimi left a great comment. Here’s what she said: “I tried rusty nails and steel wool. I waited several days because it didn’t look like anything wsa happening.
today was the big day. I brushed some on a piece of wood, and it was CLEAR! i was so disappointed.
I walked away and got the other jar, and when i got back, the spot was almost black. OOPS, it worked!”
- The longer the metal stays in the vinegar, the darker the stain colors become. Remove the metal before using the stain so the color is consistent in the batch.
- Many woodworkers keep their stain solutions for several weeks in room temperature. I do recommend using it up with 1 month because the color is most intense when it’s freshly made.
- You can apply finishing wax or oil to the wood after staining.
- The stains can be sanded off just like commercial stains.
- There is a little bit of fine powdery rust-like residue that should be wiped off after the wood dries. Big thank you to Karen from Somewhat Quirky Design who reminded me to add this!
- These stains, except for Recipe 7, work best on unfinished wood. Wood that has been oiled, painted, or sealed will not react to the stains unless they are sanded to expose the raw wood.
If you try this on a project, feel free to share photos or tips here or on my facebook page! =)
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Happy exploring and have a wonderful week!