As part of my loft redecorating spree, I am in constant search for old, rustic looking storage. I have seen lots of storage units built with old wooden crates and loved the look. In my search down the antique stores on Riverfront, I found several, but they were pricey and none were the same size. But then I found these brand new and shiny wooden crates at Home Depot for around $10! The only problem was they were brand new and shiny, not old and weathered.
I knew I could stain it, but I wanted the wood to look old, and staining just doesn't give you quite the same effect. After some google searching, I decided on the steel wool and vinegar plan of attack and am surprised at how well it works!

What you need:

  • Vinegar-regular or apple cider
  • Steel wool-I used #00 or finer
  • Container
  • Paint brush
  • Well ventilated area-to escape the vinegar smell
Pour the vinegar into your container and drop in a torn up a piece of steel wool . Regular vinegar will leave a grayish cast on the wood, and apple cider vinegar will leave it more rusty colored. I started with apple cider and then moved to regular because that's all I had. Leave the vinegar/steel wool mixture for at least 24 hours. The longer you leave it the darker it will get.
Grab your paint brush and apply a liberal wash of the liquid over your bare wood. At first it won't look like much, but pretty quickly you will start to see it oxidize the wood. You can also brew some black tea and stain your wood before you brush on the oxidizing solution for a darker finish.


About 30 min after painting with oxidizing solution


Finished crate after sitting outside for a few days


 Once your piece has dried completely you can leave it as is, or seal it if it might be exposed to liquids (like a coffee or end table). Depending on the look you want you can use a polyurethane seal like Verathane (I like the matte finish) or a wax seal. Since I will be using this crate for office storage I left it as is. My plan is to buy some more of these crates and build a shelving/storage unit with them kind of like this: