Butter Bean's Adventures in DIY Stain

December 7, 2014

I have wanted to try making my own stain for a very long time.  Unfortunately, it requires a bit of patience and planning ahead - two things I almost never demonstrate when working on one of my own creations.  The Butter Bean Bench was the perfect subject for my DIY stain adventure.  A little rough around the edges to begin with, there was nowhere to go but up with Butter Bean.  So extensive internet research was conducted (I totally read more than the top three links on Google when searching!), and I was able to plan ahead.  I wasn't exactly patient about it, but I did it. 

 

This DIY stain is nothing more than white vinegar and fine-grade steel wool that sat on my counter in a jar for three days (this is where the patience comes in).  Per internet guidance I used one steel wool pad, cut it up into chunks, placed it in the jar, then filled the jar with white vinegar.  I let mine sit for three days, however some sites suggested that it can be used in as little as 15-minutes.  The longer it sits, the darker the stain.  I knew I wanted a fairly warm tone which is why I opted for the three day waiting period.  This is what the stain looked like after three days:

Basically, the vinegar oxidizes the the metal in the steel wool causing it to disintegrate.  I think.  Again, this is all through internet research and the last thing I am in life is a chemist.  

 

So here is Butter Bean as I brought her home:

Cute bench, love the shape, but the finish needs a little love.  There was some pretty cool grain peeking out from the peeling paint on the bench seat, so I stripped her. 

Beautiful!  Not all of her original finish came off but I was ok with it.  Often when pieces are a little rough around the edges I try not to fight it.  It's much easier to embrace it and work with what the piece wants to become.  Once Butter Bean was stripped and sanded, and after the stain had been sitting in the jar for the appropriate amount of time, I prepped for my first go-round of staining.  This required straining the steel wool remnants out of the vinegar, and brewing a strong cup (or three) of tea.  When working with the DIY stain, it's recommended that you brush the piece with brewed tea before you start.  The tea helps impart the tannins in the wood allowing them to better accept the stain.  

 

Basically, Butter Bean enjoyed a nice cup of Sleepytime tea before her makeover.

 

I brushed the tea on, this did nothing to the appearance of the wood other than make it look wet.  Once the tea was on, I jumped right in with my stain.  This was kind of tricky because I had a hard time seeing where the stain was on the wood since it didn't immediately look darker like with traditional stain.  But the internet said (and the internet doesn't lie) to wait 15-ish minutes, and the wood would slowly darken.  So I waited, and this is what it looked like after my first coat:

OK...  Not bad, it enhanced the grain, but it wasn't what I was looking for.  I tried to keep an open mind throughout this process knowing full well all the variables.  Along with the length of time the stain had been left to "steep" creating varying tones, different types of wood take the stain differently (like with traditional stain).  Knowing I was working with pine, I knew I could get a slightly deeper brown.  So I applied two more coats, letting the stain dry in between each coat.  This is what Butter Bean looked like after coat three.

Pretty cloudy, but a deeper color.  This stain depends heavily on a sealer to make it look less flat, so I anxiously gave a light sand, leaving this result:

Then I applied a coat of water-based polyurethane.  

In need of a second coat, and a little streaky, I knew I could work with this.  The grain looks better than I could have hoped, and the overall appearance is warm and rustic.  With grain this busy, I didn't want to carry the stain throughout the piece.  Instead I wanted to complement it by contrast.  So I painted Butter Bean's body a deep teal:

Lightly distressed to highlight her curves the deep teal plays up the stain.  Take a look at the top:

This piece is so versatile. Perfect for a small mudroom, or even right next to the front door for a make-shift mudroom during the Winter months.  But it also works great as a side table:

Not too big, but still serves the function of holding your cup of coffee as needed.  Here's a close-up of some of Butter Bean's rustic charm:

Again, with busy grain on the top I didn't want to go heavy with my sandpaper.  I pretty much stuck to the edges and followed the curves.  DIY stain is touted as a way to make new wood look aged.  In this case, I think it helped aged wood look great!  I'll definitely use it again on some of my own pieces. 

 

UPDATE:  Butter Bean has sold! 

 

 

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