Hi, my name is John McNair. This is a website about Homemade guitars, Cigar box & 3 string guitars, Cookie tin banjos, and all things made by people like yourself who have decided building and playing homemade instruments is so much more rewarding than buying "name" brand guitars.

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The Player's best friend

If you would like to learn a cool way to make your cigar box or homemade guitar look like it's a vintage well played road worn instrument, there are several ways to get that "old time" used look, but here below is perhaps the easiest method I've ever seen.

This is a simple recipe that my friend Bill Baker used to make this gorgeous guitar body.




This is an easy to follow and fun recipe that only has a few steps.

It is a homemade "Steel Wool & Vinegar Stain"

You'll only need a few things,

1. Vinegar
2. Steel wool
3  A glass jar
4  A paint brush

You can use any vinegar. In this example white was used, but Apple Cider vinegar would be a little darker and Balsamic Vinegar darker still.  As you can see however the White resulted in a near-black stain.

Use real steel wool, not the scouring pad kind.

Caution, do not cap tightly or leave on your kitchen table.

To prepare:
 Shred up one wad of steel wool and put in glass jar.  Add about a cup of vinegar.
 If left indefinitely the steel wool will disintegrate. During the process of the build in the photo above, Bill prepared 2 jars. One the steel wool was removed after 5 hours.  The other after several days.
Less time will be more clear. More time will create more a rusty looking and cloudy effect.

 In this process, the iron in the steel wool reacts with the vinegar. The iron oxide reacts with Acetic Acid to produce Iron Acetate.  This reacts ultimately with tannins in the wood when you brush it on. Different woods contain different amounts of Tannin.
 Some recommend diluting the solution with more vinegar as it ages as the chemical process can continue and the solution get stronger. It also needs to be strained to remove particles.

 Application:
I suggest you try it first on a piece of scrap but similar wood to your guitar.
It is like brushing on water, it's very thin. It will not penetrate varnished or finished wood. Some sanding may be in order. In the above cigar box example, it had a varnish coat from the cigar factory. So some sanding was done before the homemade stain was applied.  As happens on a lot of projects,  the sanding missed some low areas and when stain is applied that's what give its a really interesting light and dark distressed look as well.  The effect was visible in only minutes after application.

***Wear gloves or you'll look like you have been picking blackberries all day.

   It can be applied with a brush or a rag and it goes on thin.  It dries in only a few hours and can be sanded afterwards if you feel it should be. 

If you want to protect your weathered stain look, you can coat it with varnish, or clear. In this project, Tung Oil was used the same afternoon and buffed after a few hours.  Sanding will remove some of the stain, but the piece should be smooth when you apply tung oil or any type or protecting layer.

 Well, that's it, that's the easy as pie homemade Vinegar & Steelwool stain....sounds fun huh???..so, what are you waiting on?.....give it a try!