My lovely wife found a couple vintage washboards at a second hand store and, based on something she saw on the Pinterbooktubespace, wanted me to make her a small table or lamp or some combination thereof. So, we made a trip to Home Depot and picked up some small brackets, a porcelain light fixture and plug, and a rough hewn cedar fence board.
I would have rather have salvaged a piece of barn scrap rather than buy a new board but my normal source for that kind of wood wasn’t available.
This post isn’t so much about the how-to to construct the little table because that was about as simple as it gets but is more about aging new wood to more closely match the old wood of the washboards. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos that suggested different chemicals and voodoo magic and decided to try this method instead which is to simply use baking soda and water.
I cut two roughly 12 inch pieces of the board and used a knife and sandpaper to smooth it and round corners and make it look worn and old. Wear and tear on something is rarely symmetrical so go crazy and embrace unevenness. I also just eyeballed the length of the boards because they shouldn’t match exactly in keeping with that repurposed look.
I deviated from the linked tutorial above a little and used way more baking soda than he called for. I basically made a paste of baking soda and water and slathered it all of the boards and let it set for about an hour while I attached brackets and wired the light fixture. I also wrapped the slathered boards in a wet towel to prevent the paste drying out.
And what happened next, will amaze you. Okay, maybe not amaze…
I rinsed the paste off with tap water and threw the boards in a 250 degree oven to dry them. The coloring caused by the reaction of the baking soda with the tannins in the wood was great. I would rather have let them sit a lot longer but I was working in a very compressed time frame, however, even with that issue the boards turned out awesome. There’s grey patina that is hard to see in the photographs that is just what I was looking for.
Here’s a before and after shot:
Here’s the board I artificially aged with the two washboards that are 40 or 50 years old. Like I said it could have used more soak time but still, I’m really happy with how well the baking soda worked.
After the boards were dry I screwed the whole thing together. I also used a piece of welding wire as a wire brace on each side for extra stability and to add some character.
My lovely wife was thrilled with how it turned out and it was a fun little single day project.