Vinegar stain with steel wool

Wood stain is very expensive generally, although it does tend to go a fair way, particularly if thinned down with water, methylated spriits or turps depending on the requirements.


After seeing some interesting information on the web though, I decided to try and make my own.  For the exercise I purchased a two litre bottle of white vinegar.  I emptied out a three litre plastic milk container and washed it thoroughly to use for mixing the stain.  I then placed four wads of 0000 or very fine steel wool into the three litre container and poured the two litres of vinegar on top.  I left this for 10 days so the steel wool could rust away and created the stain.  Every day I would give the mixture a good shake as you could see the variance in colour going to the bottom of the container.


When the 10 days were up I filtered the stain through paper towel and decanted it back into the original two litre white vinegar bottle.  Once done it was time to test the stain.

Now at sometime between making the stain and the writing of this article I have l burned the scraps of wood that I tested the stain on for colour. You will need to do your own anyway as the colour will vary depending on the type of wood being used.  I was using pine and colouring the newly built wall in my shed. (See the next blog post about this.)

I found the stain to be quite dark and of a blackish colour.  The level of darkness was good because it meant it could be watered down to make lighter colours and the original batch would go further.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't like the colours at all for the job at hand. Too black or as I added water, a lighter shade of grey. It didn't suit the pine at all and I wanted a brownish type colour for the wall.  For interest sake, I ended up using a 4:1 mix of Teak stain with methylated spirits on my wall.

Initially when doing my research, everything I came across said to use Distilled White Vinegar which I couldn't find here in Australia, so I used standard white vinegar.  I have since found out I could use Brown, Apple Cider or Balsamic Vinegar.  This may give me the brown type stains I am looking for on the projects I make.

I hope this article inspires you to give the stain making a go in your workshop. 


Smashing Mosaics and Woodcraft