Rustic Picture Ledges With Homemade Steel Wool and Vinegar Stain

Grab Steel wool & vinegar and copy this easy DIY!

Here is EVERYTHING I'll be using to build a picture ledge by hand. It may seem like a lot but there are always substitutes if you don't have everything pictured here. Here are the essentials:

Tape Measure
Pressure Clamps
Hand saw
Wood Glue
Drill + Drill Bits
Sand Paper
Wood FiIler
Steel Wool
Distilled White Vinegar
Mason Jar

Measure out your desired picture ledge length and make a mark (mine will be 5ft or 60 inches). Carry that mark the width of the board with your utility knife. This is going to create a guide to rest the handsaw's teeth into to enable you to make a straight cut. Think of it like bowling bumpers that keep your ball from FAILING- same thing here! Clean up the ends of your cut with a sanding block.

I'll be using a Kreg Jig to join the back and bottom boards of our picture ledge. I mark out 2" from each end and 8" thereafter. Next I pre-drill on those marks using my Kreg Jig that has been setup to accommodate 3/4" material.

If you don't have a Kreg Jig you can use screws and wood glue through the back end of your back board.

Place a line of glue along the bottom board and flip it over!

After aligning the bottom board to the end of the back board, clamp the two together on each end in preparation for screwing.

Use 1-1/4" pocket screws to secure the two pieces together...forever!

Fill in all of the holes using wood filler and a putty knife.

It may take multiple coats of wood filler and sanding to get the hole nice and smooth.

Next we'll join the from 1x2 trim. Run a bead of wood glue along the front of our bottom piece...

Line the from 1x2 trim to the end of the 1x4 back board and use multiple pressure clamps to join them. If you'd like you can use a brad-nailer to reinforce the joint!

Locate your wall studs and transfer where they fall onto your ledge. Using a 1/2" drill bit, drill a pilot hole just past 1/2" deep.

Next take a drill bit slightly smaller than the shaft of the screws you'll be using to attach the ledge to the wall and pre-drill through the ledge.

We'll be using these white caps to conceal the hardware.

Grab your mason jar and tear up your steel wool. I'm putting 2 pieces of the steel wool in my one quart mason jar.

Take your distilled white vinegar and pour (4) cups into the mason jar (fill it to the top). Do not put the lid on as the chemical reaction will give off hydrogen gas and needs to breath.

Let the mixture sit 24-48 hrs.

Chemistry time!! When you combine steel wool and vinegar the solution is called iron acetate. Iron acetate reacts with the tannin in the wood, which is a naturally occurring astringent. Because pine is a softwood, it does NOT have a lot of tannin. But guess what does? Black tea!

So brew a few bags of black tea and let them steep for about an hour. Liberally apply the tea to the wood. Once absorbed into the wood, the tea (tannin) will react with the steel wool and vinegar stain give the wood a weathered look.

Pour your steel wool and vinegar mixture into a smaller container so that you can get a paintbrush into it. Paint the steel wool & vinegar stain onto the ledge. It will go on clear, but don't freak out!! After a few minutes you'll get an amazing weathered finish!

Stain the entirety of your ledge, throw some clear-coat on and attach to your wall using a level and 3-inch screws (or heavy duty wall anchors). And that's it!

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Thank you for reading!

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Have a question about this project?

7 questions
  • Nancy Flemming
    on Feb 21, 2017

    For pine do you put the tea on first or the vinegar mix? How long do you leave the piece between each different coat?

  • Joy Helms
    on Feb 21, 2017

    Would love to know about the finish on your table top! That is beautiful!

    • Rick
      on Feb 23, 2017

      Hi Joy! I stained the table top with a dark walnut stain, let that dry, painted on white chalk paint and then sanded that down. Next I put a light coat of stain over top of the distressed paint, then another light coat of paint, sanded that down and applied (3) coats of satin polycrylic. It's kind of touch and go, but that's the general process!

    • Joy Helms
      on Feb 23, 2017

      Great! There's an old farmhouse table at my parents house that's been hidden away. I am thinking of restoring it, and doing something like this to the top (at least). I just need more hours in my day/week to get it done! Thank you for your response.

  • Karen
    on Feb 21, 2017

    Could you use this treatment for a treated unfinished wood deck?

  • Lki16150476
    on Mar 12, 2017

    Do you add the tea to the vinegar and steel wool mixture, then apply the stain?

    • Rick
      on Mar 12, 2017

      Hi Lkirby! No, you coat the wood with the tea and let it dry. Once dry apply the steel wool & vinegar stain.

    • Lki16150476
      on Mar 14, 2017

      Thank you.

  • Wei32753737
    on Apr 21, 2018

    Could I use this method on nearly sanded floorboards? Any problems foreseen? Thanks

  • JC
    on Nov 20, 2019

    I really like the look of the table top your showing your work on, how did you make that, if you did?

  • Gwen Patterson
    on Nov 20, 2019

    Must the vinegar/steel wool mixture be discarded after you've finished with it, or does the 24-48 hour waiting period provide enough chemical reaction that a lid can be placed on it then?

    • Bubber
      on Nov 21, 2019

      As per my experience - which has been good - you can store the solution after taking the steel wool out of the bottle. Also, puncture a few small holes in the cap of the bottle. 24 / 48 hours for a grey shade and 7 days for a brown shade

    • Bubber
      on Nov 21, 2019

      Neat job. I'm going to make a few shelves for my workshop !!

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