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Best way to get weathered gray wood look?

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Best way to get weathered gray wood look?
Posted by ChrisVA on Thursday, September 17, 2020 1:45 PM

What do you use if  you want an old abandoned barn or something like that with the gray weathererd wood look? I'm thinking India ink solution or gray stain? Any other approaches that work well?
Thanks in advance


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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, September 17, 2020 2:11 PM

There are classic ways to get a 'pickled wood' finish -- some are chemically dangerous if not done correctly, including the use of oxalic acid as wood bleach.  Sheldon (ATLANTIC CENTRAL) may have up-to-date approaches.

I cheated and used gray stain and wash, brushing lengthwise to get different colors for the 'boards' and other pieces.  Don't forget warpage, rot spots, rust streaks from nails or fittings, mold under the eaves, etc. which I did as largely overpainted weathering effects.

There are good weathering techniques for these sorts of effects through the P:48 modelers group -- now on -- and some of their other work is a source of inspiration and joy. 

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Posted by trainnut1250 on Thursday, September 17, 2020 3:13 PM

The classic is alcohol and shoe dye solution. There are many variations on this technique. Here is from a post I made somewhere on the forum in the past:


More tips on working with wood:


Wood: Use fine grained basswood, many kits of old days use big grain pine. This looks bad when stained as the grain is grossly out of scale. Balsa can have the same issues. Northeastern scale and Kappler  are two  good suppliers. Think in terms of scale dimensions when using wood I.e. 2 X12s for planking, 2 x 4 studs, 4 x 4 posts etc. If you plan to do lots of wood construction, buy an NWSL chopper – one of my most used tools. Tasks like cutting out 150 identical size planks are a piece of cake with this tool.

Cut wood before gluing as mentioned above.  Assemble before staining and you run the risk of the glue not absorbing the stain and you will have paint or resort to other methods to cover up bare spots – best to avoid if you can.

Alcohol shoe dye solutions: India Ink gives a slight blue cast to the stained wood, Kiwi shoe dye is more charcoal black, Lincoln dye is nasty but is very potent and gives a very dark jet black. Some modeler’s prefer premixed products such as driftwood stain or Silverwood stain. Micro mark’s sells a premixed shoe dye solution and another option is a product called weather it. All these methods and mixes work well, all have a different look…Refresh the dye in the bottle every so often.

Staining Process: Dyeing wood is messy and the dye solution is nuclear. It will ruin surfaces. God help you if drop your jar or spill it anywhere. Your dye bottle needs to be big if you are making large structures. Parts must be submerged completely for best results. Shake the bottle to  insure an even coat (carefully).  Get a fork (thrift store) to fish the parts out of the solution.

Drying: After dyeing the wood I will put the pieces in a paper bag with some paper towels and shake the bag a bit. This absorbs the excess dye and gives a nice even coat on the pieces. They are they laid out on paper towels to dry. To keep from sticking, I’ll turn em’ over once as they dry.

Construction of models: I use glass as the construction surface and 1,2,3, Blocks. I will often draw up a plan and put it under glass and then use the blocks, tape and small rulers to keep things square and true to the plan as they are glued up. Learning to freehand things against a template will make this much faster when there are lots of sub-assemblies to make. However, I also use fixture to make identical copies when accuracy is critical.

Glues: Elmer’s white glue has the advantage of being able to use water to soften the glue and reposition the part or take the model apart. Yellow wood glue dries water proof (can’t take the joint apart with water) but is easier to use in assembly than Elmer’s because it sets faster and “grabs” better. Aileen’s Tacky glue can be a good choice as it remains slightly pliable after drying allowing for minute adjustments and a little “give” in things. I am not as fond of working with it as it dries too quickly for my taste.

Glue technique: Get a coffee can plastic lid and pour out a button size dot of glue to use in construction. As the glue dries add another button. Glues can be diluted with glue for certain applications as well. Glue bottle tips will dry out and the current tips are a hassle to clean…Keep the cap closed while using your dot…

I love the look of wood and have many structures, decks, trestles, flat car decks and water tanks made from weathered wood. 

Way too much from me,



see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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Posted by HO-Velo on Thursday, September 17, 2020 6:41 PM

Check out, on the bottom right of their homepage is 'how to articles' lot of good info on staining & inking wood.

Regard, Peter

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Posted by SpaceMouse on Thursday, September 17, 2020 8:44 PM

I use various washes made from watered-down acrylic paint. Raw umber, dark gray, and light gray are most common.


Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

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Posted by pt714 on Thursday, September 17, 2020 9:42 PM

Dissolve a ball of #0000 steel wool in a small jar of white vinegar. The two react and form iron acetate, which when brushed or dipped lends a beautiful grey weathered look to wood. I've used it all over my small layout-- you can augment the effect and get different tones by pre-treating the wood with over-steeped black tea (I forget the science, but the tannins do something to accelerate the effect of the iron acetate on the wood.)



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Posted by oldline1 on Friday, September 18, 2020 8:52 PM

I like Minwax Driftwwod stain thinned down.


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Posted by da1 on Saturday, September 19, 2020 9:58 AM
Hunterline wood stains.
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Posted by kasskaboose on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 1:15 PM

Would artist chalk work that's adhered with dulcoate??

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Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 8:49 PM

What do you use if you want an old abandoned barn or something like that with the gray weathererd wood look?...

I'd build it in styrene, and then paint and weather it to look like old weathered wood.

Faster to assemble than wood, and less likely to fall apart in a couple of years.

Think of it as an alternative solution.


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Posted by dknelson on Friday, September 25, 2020 10:32 AM

Plastic certainly has the virtue that liquid washes and other liquid treatments won't warp it.  For flatcar decks I rattle can spray first a tan, then a gray, then I attack the plastic deck with the tang end of a file as per a Matt Snell article (I also use a drywall screw) which wears down the gray so just a hint of the tan shows, meaning just a hint of bare wood, and then I spray india ink and alcohol to lighten the gray and give it that vague silvery look that driftwood and old wood decks get.

My "Frugal Modeler" article in the Midwest Region's Waybill can be found here


For actual wood, I have had success using ash and bits of charred wood from the fireplace (but charcoal sticks from an art supply store would work too) and rub the wood with it.  The darkness really gets into the grain and securing it with DullCote does NOT remove the stain as it can with powders on plastic.

Again the Frugal Modeler article I wrote on this can be found here:


Dave Nelson

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