Wondering if Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator is worth it? I tested it on five popular wood types, and I’m sharing the results with you!
If you’re like me, you love the look of aged wood but don’t have the time or patience for it to happen naturally. Varathane’s Aged Wood Accelerators promise to give your projects an aged look in just minutes!
I was skeptical, so I bought and tested them on five wood species: pine, red oak, white oak, maple, and cedar. In this article, I’m sharing the results and if the accelerators are worth your hard-earned money!
Table of Contents
- What is Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator?
- What are the Aged Wood Accelerator Colors?
- How Do You Use Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator?
- How Do You Seal Weathered Wood Accelerator?
- How Did Varathane Aged Wood Accelerators Perform on the 5 Woods Tested?
- Are Varathane’s Aged Wood Accelerators Worth It?
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What is Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator?
Varathane’s aged wood accelerator collection is designed to give your wood projects an aged appearance in minutes.
What are the Aged Wood Accelerator Colors?
This collection of water-based finishing products comes in several variations:
Weathered Wood Accelerator
The Weathered Wood Accelerator promises to give your projects the look of “weathered” wood, exposed to the elements for years. Based on the container’s color, I expected it to produce a timeworn, faded gray.
Aged Wood Accelerator
The Aged Wood Accelerator promises to give your wood projects a “rustic brown” appearance. The container’s color led me to believe it would darken and warm a wood’s natural tones.
Varathane also offers a charred wood accelerator, replicating the look of fire-scorched wood.
Related: How to Get a Charred Wood Finish (Without a Torch)
The container’s instructions say it can react differently with different wood types, so for this article, I’ll be testing each accelerator on five popular species:
- Red Oak
- White Oak
How Do You Use Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator?
I followed Varathane’s instructions, and here’s how it worked:
Varathane suggests applying the Accelerators onto bare or untreated wood for the best results.
I’m using new wood for this experiment, but if your project already has a finish, then it’s recommended that you remove it either by sanding or using a liquid stripper.
Related: Best Sanders for Furniture (Which One to Buy & Why)
Next, the instructions recommended sanding the surface with 100-grit sandpaper which is a bit too coarse for my liking. I typically go for a finer grit of at least 120 or 150.
I suppose aged wood is seldom smooth, so I followed the directions and sanded my samples with a random orbit sander and a 100-grit sanding disc.
Once I sanded my samples, I removed the dust with my ShopVac and any remaining dust with a tack cloth.
Related: What is a Tack Cloth? (How to Use + 4 Alternatives)
Next, I thoroughly stirred the accelerator using a paint stick. The directions didn’t mention it, but I wore disposable gloves to protect the solution from staining my hands and protected my workbench with a drop cloth.
Related: How to Get Wood Stain Off Skin (10 EASY Methods)
You can apply the Accelerators with a synthetic bristle or foam brush. I was concerned the solutions might stain my good bristle brushes, so I used a foam brush to apply them.
Related: How to Clean Paint Brushes (& Mistakes to Avoid)
It’s worth noting these Accelerators are not thick like a wood stain but instead have a drippy, water-like consistency. I applied them onto horizontal surfaces without any issues; however, applying them on vertical surfaces could be tricky due to their runny consistency.
If you want a darker effect, you can apply a second coat after one hour. I applied one coat on half of the samples, and on the other half, I applied two.
How Do You Seal Weathered Wood Accelerator?
The Accelerator’s instructions recommend sealing your project with lacquer spray. However, if you would prefer to use a different finish type, it’s recommended that you first spray a lacquer coat before following up with your chosen top coat.
I previously tested applying shellac and Polycrylic directly to Varathane’s Charred Wood finish, which also recommended spraying a lacquer layer first. Both caused some of the color to be removed from my project.
I recommend following the instructions and either finishing your project with lacquer or spraying a coat before applying your desired finish.
There are some key points to keep in mind when working with lacquer. First and foremost, it is highly combustible, so always work in a well-ventilated area away from flames, sparks, or heat.
Second, once lacquer has dried, it’s sensitive to heat, meaning it might not be the best choice for dining tables where it may be exposed to hot pans and dishes. Lacquer is also sensitive to acetone and products containing it, like nail polish remover, so it might not be the best option for bathroom vanities where it could be exposed to this solvent.
Related: Mineral Spirits vs Acetone (Differences + Which to Use)
How Did Varathane Aged Wood Accelerators Perform on the 5 Woods Tested?
Now it’s time to see how the Accelerators performed. First, I’ll share my overall impressions before I get to the results on the five wood species.
Weathered Wood Accelerator
I have to be honest. I was not impressed with Weathered Wood Accelerator. It appeared to have little effect on some samples, while others looked purple, rather than a timeworn, weathered gray.
You can see how purple it looks on this paper towel where I rested my brush.
After conducting this experiment, I researched other reviews and discovered this product could be a gamble. Occasionally it appeared grey, while other times, the color looked more like grape Kool-Aid!
Wood species and the number of coats applied can impact your result when dealing with any wood stain; however, I read several reviews that it took five to six applications before achieving their desired color.
I also wonder if the Weathered Accelerator has a shelf life or time it remains usable and effective. Its varying results remind me of the steel wool and vinegar stain I made, which immediately reacted with the wood changing white pine to a rich, dark color. However, despite storing it in a sealed mason jar, it had no effect on the wood when I tried to use it a few months later.
So perhaps more dramatic results are produced when the Weathered Wood Accelerator is fresh?
Rustic Brown Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator
The rustic brown version of Varathane’s Aged Wood Accelerator produced much better results than the Weathered Wood color.
Although I thought this Accelerator performed better, the samples didn’t replicate the aged wood look. Instead, they looked as if I had applied a brown wood stain. Even though it didn’t produce an authentic aged wood effect, I will probably use it on some of my upcoming projects.
Varathane Weathered Wood Accelerator on Pine
When applied to pine, the Weathered Wood Accelerator is far from the faded gray look of wood exposed to the elements; instead, it has a purple tint.
However, in dim light, I found it has more of a grey tone. This Accelerator might work if you plan to use your project in a dark room; otherwise, I will not be using it on my pine projects.
Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator on Pine
When used on pine, the Aged Wood Accelerator takes on a warm and inviting brown color. It looks great with either one or two coats; however, you risk obscuring the grain pattern if you apply a second coat.
I frequently build with pine, so I plan to try this on upcoming projects.
Varathane Weathered Wood Accelerator on Cedar
Although the Weathered Wood Accelerator gives cedar a somewhat aged appearance, it’s not the beautiful silver/gray patina it usually develops as it weathers in the elements.
Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator on Cedar
When the Aged Wood Accelerator was applied to cedar, it produced what I thought was one of the most striking results in this experiment, transforming into a rich brown tone after applying two coats.
Varathane Weathered Wood Accelerator on Red Oak
The Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator produced a disappointing splotchy, purple appearance on red oak. I had high hopes for these samples because red oak was one of the transformations shown on the front of the Accelerator’s container.
Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator on Red Oak
While the Aged Wood Accelerator looks good on red oak in these photographs, I thought it looked lifeless in person. If you wanted a color similar to this, I’ve used oil-based stains that have produced better results.
Varathane Weathered Wood Accelerator on White Oak
I thought the Weathered Wood Accelerator on white oak produced the best results and looked the most like wood exposed to the elements.
Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator on White Oak
Like red oak, the Aged Wood Accelerator on white oak was “just okay” at best. While it did produce a pleasing look, I think you could probably get better results with an oil-based stain.
Varathane Weathered Wood Accelerator on Maple
Varathane’s Weathered Wood Accelerator on maple had a purple tint and an unattractive, muddy appearance. I wouldn’t recommend it for this wood species. I’m also slightly biased, as I prefer to leave maple natural.
Varathane Aged Wood Accelerator on Maple
While the Aged Wood Accelerator looks decent on maple in these photographs, I think it looks muddy and obscures the wood grain in person. Again, I’m biased, as I prefer to leave my maple projects natural.
Are Varathane’s Aged Wood Accelerators Worth It?
Given my experience with Varathane’s Weathered and Aged Wood Accelerators, I would say that the Aged Wood Accelerator is worth it for some woods, such as pine and cedar. But remember that I think it appears more like wood that has been stained brown rather than aged wood. That said, I plan to use it on some upcoming pine projects.
Unfortunately, I didn’t think the Weathered Wood Accelerator was worth it for any of the woods other than white oak.
Whatever you decide, I recommend trying it out on scrap wood first before committing to use it for an entire project.
Varathane’s Weathered and Aged Wood Accelerators can be useful for certain projects. While I don’t think they always produce the most realistic results, they can give your wood projects a unique look. As with any finish, it all comes down to personal preference and what look you’re trying to achieve.
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