How to Make Homemade Wood Stain

The neighbor that lives behind me has a walnut tree and about a third of the branches hang over my property. A few years ago it produced an exceptionally bountiful crop of walnuts, which we have to keep picked up because they kill the grass and can turn into little missiles when mowing. We had harvested walnuts before for their meat but I remembered hearing about them also being used to make homemade wood stain. After a little research I gathered a bucket full of walnuts and topped it off with water. I let it set for several weeks until it was a stinky, rotten mess. After scooping out the husks and nuts (it’s a good idea to use rubber gloves at this point) I strained the liquid through an old towel to remove the small bits of debris. After pouring the stain into jars I added a rusty nail to each one, or you can add 1/2 teaspoon of alum as a fixative. Since the stain is water based wash-up only involves hot, soapy water. If the piece you are staining will be outdoors give it a couple of coats of a urethane varnish to protect it from the elements. Make sure to sand the piece before applying the stain and between coats of varnish.

Making your own wood stain is a frugal and natural way to color and protect your wood projects, and using pigments and dyes made from plants and minerals has been practiced for hundreds of years. Using different materials will, of course, give you varying colors. The following are some other homemade stains to try.

Try boiling roots, bark, leaves, beets, coffee or tea in four quarts of water to produce a variety of colors.

To make a dark gray or black stain soak iron nails in a jar of vinegar for several days.

Make a brown stain by soaking chewing tobacco in equal amounts of ammonia and water for a few days. Strain before using.

Boil onion peels for a yellow stain, raspberries for a dark red or soak in water for a few days some rusty iron nails to make a rusty orange stain.

Once you get started you could find yourself experimenting with all kinds of materials to make homemade stains.

Related Reading:

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  1. Fantastic idea, store bought stains are expensive and I always have some left over when I am done with a project. I wonder if tobacco or ash would work as a stain. I'll give this a try!

  2. so glad I found this. my husband and I bought a fixer upper house and were considered low income. so any way we can save money on fixing up the house is a big plus!! thxs

  3. I learned about homemade stains ages ago when visiting historic buildings in Salem Mass. They used buttermilk and vinegar with the crushed boiled fruits and what have you. I use that old method to this day to make my own stains.


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