How to Refinish Driftwood

To me, the beauty of driftwood comes from having its surfaced worn away, bleached and sculpted by the elements.  Real driftwood would never have an intact shiny finish.  I definitely prefer a non-shiny finish in the pieces I create from actual driftwood found along the shore or even furniture pieces I have stripped down, sanded and re-created with a driftwood finish.  Nonetheless, there are times when you may want or perhaps need a protective finish like when you have a tabletop that will get lots of use and will be subjected to water marks if not protected.

I’ve contacted many woodworkers and companies that specifically make finishes in an ongoing quest to find a good product that would ultimately protect the finish while not darkening the color.

A lot of people will use polyurethane on their driftwood furniture or even driftwood sculptures.  This is one of the worst looks in my opinion.  The polyurethane tends to be heavy and makes it look artificial and plastic-like.  So what does one do?

I have found that lighter woods such as pine or birch handle some protective coatings better than others.  And by better, I mean the color you get once you apply the protective finish does not get as dark as other woods, but still gets darker.  I tried a product called High Performance Top Coat by General Finishes in a satin finish and I applied it over the Driftwood Weathered Wood Finish used on a piece of pine, birch and walnut.  I was happy with the outcome on the pine as it was only 1-2 shades darker, but the walnut was 10x darker and even the birch became too dark for my liking. So, I would recommend this finish if your driftwood piece is pine.

I also tried another product called Safecoat® AcriGlaze Matte by American Formulating and Manufacturing (AFM), a company dedicated to safe green products.  I ordered a sample bottle and tried the product on different sample boards of pine, birch and oak over the Driftwood Weathered Wood Finish.  I was very happy with the results considering everything else I have tried produced a very dark finish.  With the AcriGlaze Matte, I could see where I had applied the product but it really didn’t darken it by much and left no shine.  On some samples, I could not even tell I had applied any finish at all.  I am impressed with this product and would recommend it for use on bare driftwood or over a driftwood finish.  The above link will take you directly to Amazon where it can be purchased in quarts or gallons but make sure to get the matte finish.

Here is a description taken from their PDF:

DESCRIPTION: Safecoat® AcriGlaze is a special mixing medium and finish suitable for use in the display, art and show fields. It is mildew resistant, odorless and dries clear. Ideal for restoring old finishes to their original brilliance, sealing and preserving painted work, faux finishing and as an adhesive for paper mache. Dries clear. Available in gloss and matte sheens. USE ON: Clear finish for masonry, brick, plaster, wood, paneling, etc., where a soft low luster finish and sealer is desired. May be used both interior or exterior as a reducer for any type of waterbased paint. Excellent medium for artist colors and universal tints.

After trying many products, we came to realize that the best way to preserve the color of the Driftwood Final Finish Liquid Waxfinish was to use a product that does not contain solvents or oils.  They can be hard to find which is why we also decided to release our Driftwood Final Finish Liquid Wax.  It contains no solvents or VOCs but does contain carnauba wax for a very hard and durable finish, plus it’s in liquid form so it’s easy to apply and the finish is a soft satin finish.  It usually takes about two coats and that depends upon how thirsty your wood is.  Driftwood Final Finish Liquid Wax 

If you still want to finish driftwood so that it is protected and preserved for years to come, and don’t mind the “shiny” look –  read on.

refinishing driftwood

Step 1: Smoothing the Surface of the Driftwood

You will need to begin by smoothing the surface of the wood using something like a 220 grit sandpaper to take off any rough spots. Nature will already have done most of the hard work for you, but there are usually a few spots that need a little bit of extra work. If the particular piece of driftwood you are working with has any sharp or broken ends, then these too need to be sanded away, to create a rounded and smooth surface.

Step 2:  Pre-Treating the Driftwood

Next, you will need to treat the wood before it can be stained – if indeed you are going to stain the piece. For this you can use a wood conditioner, but do not apply it directly to the wood. Instead, soak a cloth in wood conditioner and then rub it into the surface of the driftwood. Once the wood has been generously coated, leave it to dry for 15 or 20 minutes. Some people are tempted to skip this stage and move straight on to staining their piece. Do not be tempted to do this. Applying a wood conditioner is essential to ensure that, when the stain is added, it will create an even finish.

Step 3: Applying the Stain

Time to apply a stain to your wood. You will want to put on rubber gloves for this step, so that you don’t end up with stained hands and, as with the wood conditioner, put the stain onto a cloth first, and then rub in into the wood. Apply any stain with a circular motion and rub it well into the wood. Once applied, leave the stain to soak in for between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on how deeply stained you want the wood to be.

Once you have the color you are looking for, rub any excess stain off using a dry rag, and set the wood to one side for several hours, until the wood is dry when you touch it and no stain comes off when you run your fingers along the surface.

Step 4: Applying Polyurethane

The final stage is to apply two thin coats of polyurethane to the whole surface of the driftwood piece, allowing 6 to 8 hours for the first coat to become dry before applying the second coat.  Keep in mind that applying polyurethane or even beeswax polish will darken your finish considerably.  I would test an area first if possible to make sure you like how dark it will become.

Your driftwood will now last for years and provide you with a wonderful and uniquely sculptured ornament to enjoy.

How to Create a Driftwood Lamp

How to Create a Driftwood Lamp

Making a driftwood lamp is a great way to put your favorite driftwood pieces on display. Whether using one large solid driftwood piece or several small pieces, your new driftwood creation is going to bring plenty of texture and certainly a wonderful naturalness to your decor by bringing the outdoors feeling in. These three simple lamp-building projects can be completed in one afternoon.

Turning a Flea Market Find into a Beautiful New Driftwood Table Lamp create a driftwood lamp

Pick up a basic table lamp from a yard sale or thrift shop, if you don’t already have one that you’d like to redo.

  1. Disassemble the lamp to remove any decorative column so you are left with the metal center rod.
  2. Reassemble the lamp with just the center rod. This is what you will attach your driftwood pieces to.
  3. Gather several slender driftwood pieces that curve slightly outward at one end. The bottom ends will sit on the the original base; the tops will reach just beyond the socket.
  4. Surrounding the lamp rod with the driftwood and attach with a multi-purpose epoxy glue, position the top ends outward and away from the socket.
  5. Top with your favorite lampshade.

When turned on, this light will present a soft driftwood silhouette.

Create a Driftwood Lamp For Your Desk

Create a driftwood lampGet started with an inexpensive lamp kit, a quarter-inch thick wooden base, four wooden buttons and four or more pieces of driftwood of similar length to the base.

  1. Start with a base that’s about nine inches long and three inches wide.
  2. Drill a three-quarter inch hole into the center.
  3. Drill the same width hole through the center of each piece of driftwood. The driftwood shapes can range from flat to round and, for this project, the width or diameter of each piece should not exceed two inches.
  4. Fix the lamp rod to the base by securing it with a washer and nut.
  5. Artfully stack the driftwood horizontally over the rod and onto the base. Once you have happy with the placement of the driftwood pieces, use glue to adhere each piece together so they stay in place.
  6. Work the lamp cord through the bottom of the base, through each piece of driftwood right up to the top of the rod.
  7. Follow the lamp kit’s instructions to wire and secure the socket to the rod’s top end then attach the harp to the socket.
  8. Glue the wooden buttons to the bottom four corners of the base to give enough height to accommodate the lamp cord under the base

Ttop off your new lamp with a complimentary shade.

Driftwood Stands Out As A Floor Lampcreate a driftwood lamp

Bring the outside in and create a driftwood lamp for that special reading nook.

  1. Drill a three-quarter inch center hole into a 1″ thick base that can be 12″ wide by 12-24″ long.
  2. Drill a quarter-inch hole through the side of the base until it merges with the center hole. This will be for the lamp cord.
  3. Run the lamp cord through the hole in the side of the base to the center hole and then work it through a five-foot lamp rod.
  4. Choose as many long pieces of driftwood that you want to use to achieve your look – 25-30 pieces all roughly the same height. Cut the ends of each piece so you have a flat surface.
  5. Decide as best you can where you want to place each piece and drill a wide enough hole into the base about 1/2″ deep to accommodate each piece.
  6. Using a fast acting epoxy glue, glue each piece into their respective drilled holes until you achieve the look you want. Make sure the glue doesn’t seep out onto the top of the base although if it does, you could easily disguise it with pieces of moss.
  7. The brass rod should extend at least four inches above the top of the driftwood.
  8. Finish as per the instructions for the desk lamp.
  9. Top it off with a complimentary shade and you’ve created a beautiful new driftwood floor lamp.

Driftwood lampNeed pictures to go with the step by step directions?  Check out Step by Step Directions for Making a Driftwood Lamp. There are countless other ways to create a driftwood lamp, chandeliers, floor lamps, wall sconces and simple candleholders using driftwood. It only takes a little imagination to put some eclectic lighting into your living space. You’ll save hundreds of dollars on what it would cost for a similar driftwood lamp and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you can create a driftwood lamp yourself.

For more driftwood projects, check out 5 Easy Creative Driftwood Projects you Can do at Home.

Driftwood Mid-Century Modern Nightstand Project

Project – Using Driftwood Weathering Wood Finish on Mid-Century Modern Nightstand

Driftwood Mid-century modern dresser

I found this beautiful nightstand at Goodwill for $25.00. I knew right away that it was a good, quality piece of furniture and sure enough, a little online research and “Dixie” furniture company was well known for mid-century furniture pieces. So, my problem is I want a mid-centuryDriftwood projects modern piece with the look of driftwood.  I’ve recently become infatuated with mid-century accessories and furniture – especially atomic art represented by the starburst.

This is my experiment to see if I can successfully combine the two with an updated, driftwood mid-century modern piece.

One of the things I found so special about this little nightstand was the handles – they had little “starburst” like symbols engraved in the metal. I had never seen that before but I thought that was pretty cool.

So my thought in this project is to use a starburst pattern and apply it using a mixture of wood glue and water like you would a stencil. Here is how the project went:

Driftwood Mid-Century dresser

Original piece being investigated by my little helper.

handles

These are the handles with the little “starbursts”

stripping the stain

Stripping the stain

Sanding the finish

Sanding the finish and then removing all the dust with tack cloth.

Sanded

All stripped and sanded and ready for the next step – adding the graphic.

 

Adding the stencil

Adding the graphics.  I used carbon paper and traced the image onto the nightstand.  Then carved around the image with an exacto blade.  The idea behind this was that the Driftwood Weathering Wood Finish would get in the cuts and create a darker outline of the image.

applying the graphic

Once I had the image on the nightstand with the carbon paper – I then used a mixture of Elmer’s glue and water (half n’ half) and went over the graphic using an artist’s brush.  The glue mixture should prevent the stain from adhering and it will give me the graphic on the nightstand.  There are wood glues out there that are specifically made to stain and others that should not take stain.  Another idea might be to use an artist masking fluid.  I suspect that would work just fine and it would give you a lighter graphic.  You should be able to remove the masking fluid and reveal the unfinished wood coming through your pattern.  I wish I had tried masking fluid first but patience is not one of my virtues and I wanted to get started with what I had.  I’ll try it with the next project.

Applying the Driftwood Weathered Wood Finish

I’ve applied the Driftwood Weathering Wood Finish.  One thing I noticed once I stripped the piece was that there were different types of wood used to make this piece.  The legs were a blond oak and the sides I believe were a maple but I’m not 100% positive about that.  The top piece is veneered – so I knew once I applied the Driftwood Finish, the different types of wood would each take the color differently.

Driftwood Weathered Wood Finish on Mid-Century Modern dresser

As you can see, the final piece has a lot of different tones – the legs are much lighter.  But I love how the graphic came out.  Now I have the problem of putting a protective finish on it.  My first thought was to put a coat or two of the Driftwood Beeswax Wood Butter but I quickly nixed that idea.  I realized that putting the wax over the cuts in the pattern would leave bits of wax in the cuts – like you get when someone does a poor job of waxing your car.  Thankfully, I realized this before I went ahead with putting on the beeswax.  But it does need some type of protective finish.

I’ve decided to put a matte polyurethane coating on the top at least.  I’ve applied the polyurethane to the top and sides and it really darkens the finish quite a bit – more than I think I want.  So I’m hesitating about putting the polyurethane on the front over the graphic – I’m afraid I’ll lose the graphic.  I may decide to use the Driftwood Liming Wax on the whole piece.  I suspect that I will lose the graphic if I do but I may be brave and do it anyway.  I will post pics if I do.

I think I have at least achieved my driftwood mid-century modern look that I was going after.

Follow-up – I decided to sand the polyurethane off and apply the beeswax wood butter instead to the sides and top.  The beeswax wood butter actually made the sides and top just as dark as the polyurethane so my only alternative is to leave it as is with a darker top and sides than I want or move on to trying the liming wax.  I decided to go with the liming wax and I’m happy with that.  It lightened up the top and sides a bit.  In the picture below, I have not applied to the Driftwood Liming Wax to the top yet – just to the side.

Liming wax applied to side