Turn a new or existing wooden planter into a porch or patio heirloom with some instant aging.
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Wash three pads of #0000 steel wool in a grease-cutting detergent to remove the protective oil and shake them dry. Immediately tear the steel wool pads into smaller pieces and add them to a 1-quart jar. Fill the jar with white vinegar and cover the jar loosely to let gas from the iron acetate mixture escape. Set it aside at least overnight and preferably for two days.
After the steel wool has visibly reacted to the acid in the vinegar, remove the loose bits of remaining steel wool by pouring the solution through a coffee filter. Repeat as needed with fresh filters to capture all of the debris. Then store the mixture in a closed container away from sunlight.
The longer the solution is stored beyond a few weeks, the more it will turn wood brown instead of gray -- a product of rust from the steel wool.
Using a random-orbit sander, remove the existing factory finish from the planter. If you’re finishing an existing planter where the finish has weathered gray, sand down to bare wood.
Use sandpaper and a sanding block in the same grit as your sanding discs to reach into corners and tight spaces.
Wipe and vacuum the planter to remove the sanding dust. Apply the iron acetate solution generously with a wide foam brush (or one that has no metal parts). Wipe off any that pools on the surface and let dry overnight.
If the wood on your planter doesn’t turn as dark as you like, add some artificial tannins to the wood before reapplying the iron acetate solution. To do that, place four teabags of black tea in a quart of hot water and let steep until the water cools. Remove the bags and brush the tea generously onto the wood surface so that it saturates the wood pores. Let the tea dry and brush on more iron acetate solution.
Lightly sand the darkened surface using a combination of power and hand-sanding just enough to produce random contrast in the surface color.
Add the ornaments or greenery of your choice.