Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

Drifting along

Q: How can I produce a driftwood finish, like the one in this picture? I am thinking of using bleach, chemical stains and dye rather than paint or pigment stain.
A: I have to say that the photo you sent looks nothing like what I would call driftwood. In fact it looks like roughly prepared wood with open cracks and grain raised with water that has been sealed with an off white toner, wet glazed with burnt umber, then topped with dead flat clear; a rather classic antique finish. If that is what you want, that’s how to recreate it. If, on the other hand, you want driftwood, try this.
Raise the grain by flooding the wood with water, wiping off the excess, then leaving it overnight to dry. Add cracks if you choose, or distress marks, if that is what you like. Mimic erosion by scrubbing the wood aggressively with a wire brush. This works best on softwoods whose early wood bands abrade more quickly than tougher late wood ones. Add black and off white paint to their solvent to make a quick stain, but mix only perfunctorily. A piebald gray is the goal here. Wipe the paint onto the wood and off. You should have areas of lighter and darker gray that looks similar to real driftwood.