All About Pickling Wood

Posted on October 5, 2015


When I first started working at Simpson Strong-Tie, I proposed adding painted wood projects to our online DIY library. Since I was a novice DIYer, I even included a redwood project on my list of suggestions! Our master builder Joe Way minced no words when it came to the way he felt about painted wood; especially on a wood like redwood. He strongly encouraged me to appreciate the look and feel of the wood grain.

While I understood his love of wood, I still wanted to find a way to add some color to at least a few of our wood projects. As a compromise, Joe introduced me to the process of pickling wood, which is a way to stain the wood with color, but allow the finish of the wood to shine through. It is a transparent color wood finish.

Pickling wood is not a new concept. In 16th century Europe, wood furniture was pickled with lime in order to prevent infestation from insects. While pickling wood was done for a practical reason, using the caustic lime on the wood gave the wood a decorative whitewashed effect, too. Now, you can pickle wood in a variety of colors. Pickling wood gives DIY projects a vintage feel in a similar way that distressing wood does.

Here is an example of a wood cabinet with an avocado green pickling effect.

Simpson Strong-Tie DIY cabinet with sliding doors

Simpson Strong-Tie DIY cabinet with sliding doors built by J. Way.

To create a DIY pickling finish, you can water down paint or purchase a premade pickling finish. The whole point is to create a distressed effect to the wood that makes the wood look aged. You can apply the pickling finish with a brush or a rag.

Here is a shot of the pickling finish we used for a recent DIY project:

Wood being pickled with a blue pickling finish.

Pickling wood in progress.

With a finish like this, it is important to protect your DIY wood projects with a clear coat finish.

A recent DIY project is one of my favorite projects. It is a DIY tea table with a blue pickle finish that allows the natural wood top to really stand out in contrast.

DIY tea table with blue pickling.

Completed DIY tea table with blue pickled finish by J. Way.

Because I am partial to flowers, we did a finished shot with my orchids to really highlight the soft colors on the table.

Simpson Strong-Tie DIY tea table with blue pickled finish.

Simpson Strong-Tie DIY tea table with blue pickled finish.

Have you pickled a wood project recently? Do you have a great DIY pickling recipe? Let us know in the comments below.