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Make Picture Ledges with Homemade Steel Wool and Vinegar Stain

This past Monday I completed my first LIVE build on @Hometalk’s facebook page. My project that day was to make picture ledges with homemade steel wool and vinegar stain. The broadcast pulled in over 100k views within the first 24hrs- pretty wild! The best part BY FAR was interacting with the viewers in real time. It was a ton of fun and I’m super grateful for the opportunity. Below you’ll find the 40 minute facebook live broadcast (sorry for the vertical video it’s optimized for mobile phones) and below that you’ll find the step by step guide so you can make picture ledges with homemade steel wool and vinegar stain yourself!


Time Required:

Under $25

Purchase ListMaterial Cut ListTools RequiredSafetyRelated Posts
2 – 1x4x6 Pine
1 – 1x2x6 Pine
1-1/4″ Pocket Screws
1-1/4″ Brad Nails
3″ Wood Screws
Steel Wool
Black Tea
Distilled White Vinegar
Mason Jar
Back Board:
1 – 1×4 @ 60″
Bottom Board:
1 – 1×4 @ 60″
Front Trim:
1 – 1×2 @ 60″
Kreg Jig & Accessories
Ryoba Hand Saw
Power Drill
1/2″ Forstner Bit or 1/2″ Bit
Wood Glue
Elmers Wood Filler
Brad Nailer
Power Sander or Sanding Block
Sanding Paper
Speed Square
Foam Brush/Paint Brush

Here are a handful of my favorite comments from the how to make picture ledges with homemade steel wool and vinegar stain LIVE broadcast…

OMG you cut like a girl – Kathy R.

He says to mark the studs on the back but when he turned around I didn’t see any marks on his back 😂 – Sarah E.

He is not handyman just a show piece… never seen that dumb handyman….lol – Shoib K.

Not sure what that last one means exactly but I LOL’d nonetheless.

Make Picture Ledges with Homemade Steel Wool and Vinegar Stain

Here is EVERYTHING I’ll be using to make picture ledges with homemade steel wool and vinegar stain. It may seem like a lot but there are always substitutes if you don’t have everything pictured here.

Step one is to measure out your desired picture ledge length and make a mark (mine will be 5ft or 60 inches). Carry that mark the width of the board with your utility knife. This is going to create a guide to rest the hand saw’s teeth into to enable you to make a straight cut. Think of it like bowling bumpers that keep your ball from FAILING- same thing here! Next, clean up the ends of your cut with a sanding block.

I’ll be using a Kreg Jig to join the back and bottom boards of our picture ledge. I mark out 2″ from each end and 8″ thereafter. Next I pre-drill on those marks using my Kreg Jig that has been setup to accommodate 3/4″ material.

If you don’t have a Kreg Jig you can use screws and wood glue through the back end of your back board.

Place a line of glue along the bottom board and flip it over!

After aligning the bottom board to the end of the back board, clamp the two together on each end in preparation for screwing.

Use 1-1/4″ pocket screws to secure the two pieces together…forever!

Fill in all of the holes using wood filler and a putty knife.

It may take multiple coats of wood filler and sanding to get the hole nice and smooth.

Next we’ll join the from 1×2 trim. Run a bead of wood glue along the front of our bottom piece…

Line the from 1×2 trim to the end of the 1×4 back board and use multiple pressure clamps to join them. If you’d like you can use a brad-nailer to reinforce the joint!

Locate your wall studs and transfer where they fall onto your ledge. Using a 1/2″ drill bit, drill a pilot hole just past 1/2″ deep.

Next take a drill bit slightly smaller than the shaft of the screws you’ll be using to attach the ledge to the wall and pre-drill through the ledge.

We’ll be using these white caps to conceal the hardware.

Grab your mason jar and tear up your steel wool. I’m putting 2 pieces of the steel wool in my one quart mason jar.

Take your distilled white vinegar and pour (4) cups into the mason jar (fill it to the top). Do not put the lid on as the chemical reaction will give off hydrogen gas and needs to breath.

Let the mixture sit 24-48 hrs.

Chemistry time!! When you combine steel wool and vinegar the solution is called iron acetate. Iron acetate reacts with the tannin in the wood, which is a naturally occurring astringent. Because pine is a softwood, it does NOT have a lot of tannin. But guess what does? Black tea!

So our first step in getting a nice rustic look is to brew a few bags of black tea and let them steep for about an hour. Liberally apply the tea to the wood. Once absorbed into the wood, the tea (tannin) will react with the steel wool and vinegar stain give the wood a weathered look.

Finally, pour your steel wool and vinegar mixture into a smaller container so that you can get a paintbrush into it. Paint the steel wool & vinegar stain onto the ledge. It will go on clear, but don’t freak out!! After a few minutes you’ll get an amazing weathered finish!

After staining the entirety of your ledge, throw some clear-coat on and attach to your wall using a level and 3-inch screws (or heavy duty wall anchors). And that’s it!

What I love about these picture ledges is that you can use them for a ton of different applications. I have some in my girls’ room for children’s books. You can use them for your family photos or your collection of succulents, if you’re into that. The sky’s the limit!


One stay at home dad (to be) conquers DIY and Diapers

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Stephanie B.

    Love it! I am making my own over this long weekend. Thanks for mentioning the kreg jig. That is something I don’t have and didn’t know that there was a mini jig for less $$. Thanks for the detailed instructions with photos, material’s list, and added info as you work. Great site and really developing with your new projects. The bedroom floor is just GORGEOUS!

    1. Rick

      Thank you Stephanie! If you ever need to borrow any tools please let me know!!

  2. cindy litchke

    Hi, I just sanded our hard wood floors, not sure what type of wood they are, but as of right now they are light. I put poly on some of the wood and the wood turned darker, with a red tint, but I did not want that to happen…..I would love to try to weather the wood. Your shelf is beautiful, but my goal is to make the wood weathered, but not as dark of gray? Have you ever applied the vinegar/wool acid without the tea? whatever tips you can provide will be appreciated.
    thank you

    1. Rick

      Hi Cindy! My wood was much darker because I applied multiple coats. Also keep in mind that I used pine, whereas I suspect your floor may be oak? Oak may take the stain differently. Lastly I would actually urge you not to use a steel wool & vinegar stain for a large floor because when you inadvertently overlap a new brush of stain over previously dried stain, it can leave an uneven mark. So it’s hard to get a nice, even coat over large spans.

      I would look into a store-bought stain such as Minwax’s classic gray or weathered oak. I’ve used them and they can give you the tone you’re looking for with the added benefit of a nice, even coat. Don’t forget if you don’t like one in particular color option that you can MIX STAINS! It’s fun just make sure you remember the formula if you need to mix more later on. Hope this helps and best of luck with your project!

  3. Chris V

    This looks like a great idea for a spice shelf in the pantry for the wife. Thanks!

    1. Rick

      Great idea Chris! Good luck with the build!

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