Faux Finish : Pickling Wood

This is a technique to lighten dark wood/older wood by applying white stain to the surface and wiping it off, allowing the underlying wood grain to show through, with the white highlights brightening the overall appearance of the wood. 

Tools and Materials:

  • 1 quart of white primer paint 
  • 1 cup of thinner (or water) 
  • Mixing can 
  • Paint brush 
  • Clean cloths (old T-shirts or torn up cotton sheets) 
  • Sandpaper (140 grit) or steel wool 
  • Tack cloth 
  • Pickling stain 

Pickling stains can be bought from the store or home-made. To make pickling stains:

Dilute a primer paint (either latex or alkyd) about 25% bu adding one cup of water or paint thinner (depending on whether you\’re using latex or alkyd) to a quart of paint and mix it well. 

Tip: using a primer instead of regular paint will give a dull flat finish that won’t add any shine to your pickled finished wood surface.

Pickling wood

  1. If the wood surface has been sealed, get the sealer off the surface so that the pickling stain can get right into the wood grain by using sandpaper or steel wool to remove the sealer and open the wood grain as well removing any dirt that might be on the surface.
  2. Wipe the wood surface with a tack cloth to remove any dust or residue from the sanding. 
  3. Lightly dip your brush into the pickling stain and brush it on following the direction of the wood grain. Wait a few minutes and wipe the stain with a dry cloth. 
  4. Work on all surface until you’re done. Remember to use a dry cloth when wiping away the stain so you aren\’t putting stain back onto the wood.
  5. Allow to dry thoroughly (preferably overnight) then apply a clear varnish or polyurethane to protect the surface.