How To: Distress New Beams for an Century-Old Look

Looking to give new beams an aged look? Here's how to distress wood to add character to any space.

By Bob Vila | Updated Jul 3, 2020 1:25 PM

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Distressed Beams


Creating hundred-year-old beams is an art form that Juan Santos of Emilios’ Woodworking has perfected. In the Malibu series from Home Again’s third season, Juan shared some of his technique with Bob, taking a new, freshly cut Douglas fir beam and making it look a hundred years old or more. There are several steps involved in this art form and aging process.

First, assemble a few tools of the trade for aging. They can consist of a hatchet, a scraper or wire brush similar to what is used in car refinishing, chisels of various sizes, and nails and ice picks or awls. The hatchet is used first to eliminate the sharp edges of the beam and to roughen the edges to simulate aging. The scraper is used next to remove any loose wood hairs. A heavy to medium force can be used; just try not to get carried away.

The chisels are then used create the nicked and dented look of old wood. The awls, nails, and ice picks create the “worm wood” look and simulate a termite trail. The artistry involved in this project can be pronounced or subtle, all depending on the particular aged look you are striving for.

After the above steps are completed and before staining the beam, Juan used a #80 sandpaper to remove any loose edges and blend the woodworking. In Malibu, after the beam had been sanded smooth, Juan applied a honey stain to the wood. A final step to give the beam a satin look or depth is to seal it by using wet black sandpaper. In the end the finished beams now appear to have century’s worth of wear!