Q: I have some really old (more than 20 years) redwood. I am planning to build an outside bench for my grilling station and would like to restore the natural beauty of the wood (it is currently a dark reddish/brown color). The wood is already dimensioned and I would prefer not to run the boards through the planer. Do you have any suggestions that I could try? – Jeff Thomas
Tim Inman: You might get the look you want by applying an oxalic acid wash to the wood surface. Follow the label instructions. Usually, this will bring back the “fresh sawn” wood color. But why fight Mother Nature? Eventually, light and oxygen will bring the wood color back to what you are seeing right now. Outside service means just that more diligence will be needed to keep the “indoor furniture” look on your wood.
Chris Marshall: Given how old your redwood is, it’s hard to know for sure exactly what’s darkened it. Oxidation, possibly sun exposure or maybe just dirt. Could be all three factors, to some extent. Even if the lumber is already dimensioned, I’m sure you’re still planning on doing some sanding when the project is completed. Try sanding a test piece to see how easy it is to cut through that surface discoloration. It probably doesn’t go very deep. Or, scrub it with soapy water and a Scotchbrite pad to see if that lifts off any grime. You could even try one of the liquid wood brightening and cleaning products, fortified with oxalic acid and sold for deck maintenance. Home centers stock it. That should help bring back the original wood color, too.