Monday, June 20, 2016

General Finishes - Weathered Gray

I made a handful of frames from some wood from my great-grandparents' barn in Oklahoma. Barn wood is unique looking. Over the many years it sits in the beating sun, exposed to windswept dust, and rain. Exposed to the elements like this, the bright tan color of wood weathers to a gray. Different parts of the wood fibers wear away, winter and summer growth rings have different density so they wear unevenly. This combines to create the unique appearance of barn wood.

Tiny problem though: when you cut barn wood to the size of whatever you're using it for, you're stripping away those years of weathering and exposing fresh wood to the surface. After the jump is info about how I tried to counteract this problem.
I used General Finishes Weathered Grey Wood Stain. In my experience, General Finishes gel stains work well and have extra thick consistency; they do not seem very penetrative, but this stain didn't seem to either.)
That's... a bit of a contrast.
This  is a bit of a problem. Humans are pattern seeking creatures. When something *breaks* a pattern, boy do we notice. Suddenly, by cutting the barn wood to size to make these picture frames, I've created a major color contrast that will catch the eye and distract the viewer from what they ought to focus on (picture first, frame second).
I'll just go ahead and say that it's aptly named
So I set out to fix the problem essentially by fooling the eye. The plan: Stain the fresh wood gray, and then, especially since it's on the edge of the frames and not a focal point of what people look at, the sharp contrast in colors will be no more and people will be less likely to notice. I turned to East Troy, Wisconsin's favorite purveyor of wood stain, General Finishes, which had a stain that looked like the stain for the job: Weathered Gray.

It's not perfect, but hey, it came out of a can rather than a century or so of exposure to Mother Earth's fury...  So I'll take it.
So, wipe on the stain we go. The consistency of the stain is thick, not quite a gel, but it's coefficient of viscosity is higher than a lot of water based stains or dyes (man, I remember the strangest things from high school physics). Looking at the picture above the edge of the piece of wood on the left is the only thing stained, every other surface is the natural aged barn wood.

Another shot to compare the coloration
Now obviously it is not the same color, nor is it the same texture. However, given that I really only needed it to break up the visual contrast to succeed, it succeeded. Beyond this application, if you want a weathered, barn wood-esque, look, this stain would absolutely do the trick.

Actual barnwood comes with complications. This stuff is brittle, weak, and frankly unfit for almost any load-bearing application. Picture frame? It can handle that. Actual stresses? It laughs at your feeble efforts from its place shattered in pieces on the floor. Recreating the visual effects of weathering, without the structural effects of weathering is a valuable trick to keep up the sleeve.

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