Many consumers doing home renovation who want the cozy charm and country feeling that comes from using distressed wood beams can learn how to distress wood beams using new wood that is manipulated to have the appearance of being a century or two old.
Any wood beams currently in place must be removed for the distressing process or purchase new lumber and cut the beams to properly fit the location prior to distressing. For a distressed look, put one coat of either ivory, white or olive green paint on the beams and let the paint dry for a full day before proceeding.
You'll want to have a variety of materials on hand to start the distressing project. These can include hammers, mallets, chisels, ice picks, awls, hatchets, chains, wire scrub brushes and nails. First use your hatchet to rough up the edges of each beam to simulate the weathering that comes with age. Be sure to have protective eyewear in place prior to starting your distressing project and wear heavy protective gloves to prevent your hands from getting splinters or cuts. Make sure you are working in an area with enough space and keep curious children and pets away from your workspace while distressing wood beams to prevent accident or injury.
Now get busy with some of your smaller tools such as the ice pick, awl and chisels to begin picking away in a random fashion at the wood. This helps to create trails such as those left by termites or holes used by worms. Every once in a while, get up and away from the wood, and look at it from a distance to see if the effect looks aged enough. If not, continue picking and poking away in order to distress the wood.
Now use a hammer and a mallet to create dents in various places throughout the beam. Use full force to create a few deep gashes, and barely strike the hammer with the mallet in other places to create barely visible dents and creases. Be sure to avoid uniform pressure when making your distress marks. You are not creating a pattern, but rather a series of random marks and pockets that will look as though they occurred from age rather than from artistry.
Another creative way to create the distressed look of age marks on wood beams is to throw rocks at the beam which will cause random marks or hit it from several angles with a bike chain. Now you are ready to use various grades of sandpaper to weather the edges of each beam.
Once you are done using each of your distressing implements, take a look at each beam to see if it looks weathered and old enough. It's better to start out small and keep adding age elements rather than do too much at the beginning because you can't undo a dent or age spot, but you can always add one or two more as needed. Now you're ready to place your newly distressed wood beams into place and enjoy the illusion of having new wood beams that now look distressed.