Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pinterest -An Awesome Game of "Telephone"

    As many of you know, I am an avid Pinterest user and enjoy the amazing things you can find on there. However, I have come to realize MANY pins are in fact just repins of previous pins of previous pins where the original had a false caption about the image it posted. Now this has become so common I pretty much look over it and giggle at those who repin with out even looking at the website they so happily added to their board.




    BUT I have recently come across a ton of pins pertaining organic wood stains and how to accomplish them. Now the pins aren't wrong by correctly siting the website, it is indeed the website which is wrong. (I don't think it would be too kind of me to post the website where the information can be found)

    Since I am an applied design major emphasizing in woods, I have taken a liking to using more organic ways to embellish on my surfaces. Many stains have very toxic chemicals and can ultimately cause bodily harm if inhaled time and time again. Sounds appealing right? Here is where my organic stains enter. I have taken a liking to vinegar and it's additive (I prefer pennies and steel wool) to make marvelous colors. As the websites suggest you simple soak either pennies or wool in vinegar and wait for the magic to happen. Wrong. This is absolutely wrong and was even tested to make sure that method didn't work. In fact just soaking pennies in vinegar can completely break the penny down and eat it to death, same with the steel wool. Proof of the annihilation of pennies:


This is what I got when I let the pennies just soak for a week in pure vinegar. FAIL
It actually ended up never producing the beautiful color it was supposed to, more
of a crappy greyish color.


THIS is how they should look when you are finished with your stain making.
Shiny, beginning stages of oxidation, and not the size of a dime with chunks missing.



The way the pennies stain should look


The beginnings of steel wool stain

    So what was my secret to achieving the right results? First there are two ways to get what you want. Both are right, but one takes more time than the other. The only differing factor - heat. 

    Secret ingredient? HYDROGEN PEROXIDE. Magical stuff isn't it?

The recipes -

Pennies 
- 1 cup vinegar (Either white or apple. Apple produces a little more of a teal color rather than bright blue.)
- 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
- 40 ish pennies (this number varies largely on the amount of tint you want to your vinegar.)

Place the pennies in the mixture (hot or cold) and remove once the desired color is achieved so the pennies don't get eaten to death by the vinegar generally no more than an hour. 

Do this in a glass jar (for the heating) and DON'T put the lid on it once you place the pennies in. The chemical reaction causes it to off-gas and may make the lid blow off 

You can choose to microwave the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide mix to a boil, this speeds up the process but does not effect the outcome. The cold mix should be left longer than the hot for maximum potential of the gorgeous blue hue. 

Keep in mind this stain is harder to maintain with out a sealant and generally doesn't respond well to thick layers of sealant. 


Steel Wool
- 2 cups vinegar
- 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
- 1 or 2 steel wool pads (the number of pads makes the mixture darker and red/rustier looking)

Same rule applies with the lid, the off-gas may make the lid blow off (but I have not ever put the lid on this mixture while it cured so I can't say for sure this happens)

I used a plastic jar since I used the cold method. 

Again, heating the mixture speeds the process but really not needed for the process since the steel reacts much faster than the pennies. 

This stain holds best on woods that accept stain easily and does well with all wood sealants. 

SIDE NOTE - if you leave your steel wool mixture too long and it goes back to being clear, pour a little hydrogen peroxide in your mix to reactivate the color. Be sure to remove the steel wool so no more chemical reaction takes place. 

Stay tuned for examples of the stain soon!





**** I have gotten several inquiries regarding the actual color that you get when applying to different kinds of woods. Please remember all species of woods have different tannin levels in their make up naturally, so whether you are using the penny or steel wool method your colors will be VERY VERY different from one wood type to another. Always have a piece of wood you designate as your test piece, or at least use the back/inside/non-visible area to test your stain. With the copper you can get anything from pale blue to dark green. Steel wool can produce anything from a rusty red to a black depending on the species of wood.**** 

    Here is in fact a very very different result than what someone would expect using steel wool and vinegar. I was making my final project in wood shop and decided that red oak just was not going to cut it in the jazzy department. Lo and behold, my natural stains came into play. By applying one coat of steel wool and vinegar I got this very bold bluish/purple. I have to say, I love it. 




58 comments:

  1. Thanks for this! I tried the penny and vinegar mix with disappointing results. Will definitely try this!

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    1. Sorry you had such a bummer of a first experience with making this kind of stain, but I'm glad you are willing to try this method. Best wishes in concocting your very own mad science stain!

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  2. Wow, believe it or not I had never heard of making stain with pennies (only steel wool)! Yes, I do live under a rock lol. Thanks for the info, trying this soon, I love the teal/blue!!

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    1. Absolutely! Anything that is reactive in vinegar works quite well. Pennies aren't the only thing that can turn your vinegar this lovely hue, using old copper pipe or anything made of copper works just as well (if not better because of the solid copper core unlike pennies that have a zinc middle). Happy crafting and creating =]

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    2. Great tip - I've just renovated and have a few lengths of copper pipe I can try!

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  3. Quick question...if I don't have 40ish pennies (maybe half of that) do I just let it sit longer? Thanks.

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    1. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way (at least not always). Because pennies have zinc interiors, ones made in 1940-1943 and 1982 - now are NOT solid copper. You can choose to do pennies that are outside this time frame (meaning pre-1940 and between 1944-1981) and let them sit longer in the solution with out it getting eaten to death by the vinegar. If you really don't want to take the time to sort through pennies, it is kind of a bummer for the method on this post... you need to do this all at one time with the right amount of pennies OR soak the amount of coins you have, take them out, wait for them to dirty up again by being exposed to the air, and let them take another soak. Personally, I haven't done this method of removing and reintroducing them so I can't speak for its effectiveness. However, I do encourage a little experimenting and I wish you the best of luck and happy crafting!

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    2. Removing and reintroducing won't accomplish anything other than add time. What you want in the solution to produce color is copper ions. The only thing you add to the pennies by removing them and letting them out is oxygen. Literally oxidizing the copper. You don't produce any compounds that will increase the penny's ability to contribute to your stain.

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  4. I have some copper pipe I may try this with too

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  5. Please please please be extremely careful when trying the steel wool hot method. I just attempted this with less than savory results! After heating at a very very slow rate in glass on the stove top, the glass unexpectedly exploded into a thousand tiny pieces all over my kitchen. Luckily, neither I, nor my trusty little sidekick Nora (feline friend), who was standing next to me was injured. How both of us escaped without a single cut is beyond me. However, I was startled and the unstartled Nora proceeded to meow at me as if I intentionally succeeded at a science experiment. It appeared to be a very proud moment for her. I was only left with a fun little mess to clean, ringing ears from the incredibly loud shot gun like sound of the glass exploding, and a racing heart. I will attempt this again but Nora and I will be patient and attempt the cold method instead. Once my nerves calm that is.

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    1. Yikes! That's a thing that will get the heart racing. Here's the problem with stove tops, glass, & mixtures that naturally off-gas... not a good combo. I always heat my vinegar/peroxide prior to adding the steel wool or any other additives and in the microwave. This way it's just vinegar being heated not a ticking time bomb like you unfortunately had to endure. Maybe the glass you used wasn't tempered? That can cause a lot of glass not being kept in one piece. I wish you the best of luck on your next go around!

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    2. I wondered if this wasn't what would happen when I saw the instructions say to use a glass jar. Jars, even ones tempered for heat, aren't made to withstand direct heat. Indirect heat in the form of being placed in a water bath or oven ( in some cases) is the only safe way. If you notice in canning supplies the rack the jars sit in lifts the glass jars away from the heat source.
      I would wonder if perhaps the safest approach wouldn't be to add the liquid ingredients, heated individually in saucepans, to the jar and left to sit to work it's magic wouldn't be the safer approach?

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    3. Since heating doesn't affect the outcome i personally wouldn't bother to do it, especially since adding peroxide to the vinegar causes a chemical reaction that heats the solution anyway.

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    4. But it has your stain ready in an hour instead of a week....

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    5. i only just found this. good greif. never ever close the lid on these kinds of things or use the stove. putting your mixture in an UNSEALED jar on a coffee cup warmer in a well ventilated area is all the heat you need. i hope folks learned closing the lid on a bubbling solution is dangerous. also for this whole project using pennies is laughable..
      this project for the pennies basically was trying to make copper sulfide BADLY. never use pennies to make this blue copper sulfide solution. its a waste of money and time. use copper pipes or copper scrap. heck you can buy pure copper wire at lowes and its less trouble and simpler than using pennies.

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    6. Umm... Copper Sulfide? No. Just No. There is no Sulfur anywhere in the process. It's Copper Oxide, and yes, this can be effective. It's basically patina in a jar.

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  6. I managed to get a jar of beautiful blue stain (thank you). Now it doesn't want to adhere. Any tips?

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  7. Some times tighter grained woods are less receptive to stains (which is a bummer). This basically just means the fibers of the wood's make up are really close together and there is less space for the stains to wiggle into. However, you might want to use a little coarser grained paper when sanding. Too fine of a paper leaves less tooth on the surface and makes it harder for stain to "grab on" to the wood (which can tend to be an issue with tighter grained wood). Now I don't mean grab the chunkiest grit paper you can find, you'll want it to still make a smooth surface. One other thing you may want to try is just making sure you have a clean, dry, un-sealed surface. I know, it goes without saying, but we all forget to prep a surface properly sometimes.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing about the use of pennies, I'm very excited to try this. To open up the wood grain I spray bleach on my wood and use a heat gun to dry the wood. Repeat this step until you can see the grains swelling, then i rinse the wood with water and use the heat gun to dry again, how this helps.

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    2. Thank you so much for sharing about the use of pennies, I'm very excited to try this. To open up the wood grain I spray bleach on my wood and use a heat gun to dry the wood. Repeat this step until you can see the grains swelling, then i rinse the wood with water and use the heat gun to dry again, how this helps.

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    3. late to say much but god i wish people would stop thinking using pennies in these kind of projects is a good idea... its not it never is. pennies are not made of copper anymore. all people do is eat off the plating.
      what most people are after when making this blue liquid is copper sulfide. thats what people are trying and failing to make properly. yes the chemicals are the right mixture but next time, use bits of real copper, this can include wires, sheeting, and chunks of copper pipe scraps. this gives you an actual vivid true blue, not the tepid semi blueish thing shown in the photo above.
      copper sulfide if made right and kept clean can also be used to rub onto other metals and create a copper sheen too. its not just a wood stain. its a very useful chemical solution.

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    4. It depends on what kind of wood it is. Oak has alot of tannins..pine does not. Black tea will help get a darker stain on the wood. Brew some black tea, paint it on the wood, then add your vinegar/0000 steel wool...it only takes the steel wool soaking in the vinegar about two days in a cloth covered jar to make a beautiful stain. Experiment on the kind of wood with either cider vinegar or regular clear vinegar.... you will get a lovely gray that looks like aged wood..or a more brown or reddish stain. But use the black tea.. the more tannins, the deeper color the appearance of the wood.

      I used a copper washer with vinegar and got a beautiful caribbean blue stain...Add the black tea to the stain... just lightly and the stain will set darker.

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  8. I loved this post. I took 40 pennies, 1 cup vinegar, 1/2 hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for over 24 hours. I got this gorgeous color blue that I loved. BUT, when I went to "paint" it onto a piece of plain 2"x 4" piece of wood, nothing happened other than it just looked like wet wood. Let it dry and than tried applying it again. Still no color at all. Am I doing something wrong? Should the wood be treated already with something? I'm at a loss. Was so excited about the blue....

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    1. There are many factors that could be playing into this tricky situation. Lets talk about the actual solution first, was it a pale blue or a pretty vibrant blue? When there isn't a highly concentrated color you get more of a washed out water color pale base to work with. This means you get less color to stick to the wood. How about the wood, was the wood from a previous project and potentially have a finish on it? That would block any new stains from settling in. How about the species of wood? Some woods are a little picky with what they will let into their grains. Also, depending on the species of wood, the tannin levels may not allow for much change to happen. Was the wood fully dry before applying the stain? Sometimes wet, just not completely dry wood, or wood stored in damp places don't have the "room" to absorb more into the fibers because they are saturated already. How about the color of the wood? Was it a lighter species? Darker woods and reddish/orange woods tend to not respond well to any blue hues. I know, lots and lots of factors. BUT this is a lot of trial and error for projects since so many materials are very different. Let's get this problem solved!

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  9. Try rusty nails in a bottle of cold tea. Leave for a couple of days. The reaction of tannic acid & iron oxide gives a strong black stain (dye). Works great with leather...haven't tried with timber but should work OK with any porous material.

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  11. I have been on Pinterest for awhile now and have to agree about the bad information out there, I have repined a few myself discovering later that the info was bunk.
    I am going to give the penny solution a try and use it on cedar that I am using to build Garden Trugs with, I think the blue would look very cool, currently I am just using minwax stain. I would include a link to my pin of the Garden Trugs but I am a bit more computer challenged than most. Bruce

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  12. Why do folks seem compelled to put that screen darkening, arrows circling stuff on their, otherwise very nice and informative site? It's a PIA for sure and detracts and degrades your nice site.

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    1. Anon ... that is not on her site .. that is from a computer issue, whether it be bad connection or your flashy may need be updated.I would run diagnostics and find out why your computer is bogged down

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  13. Does it matter if you use really copper pennies or the new version of pennies that contain very little actual copper?
    --cakooncreations

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  14. I tried the steel wool and vinegar and guess what? I got zip!! I will try your method with the peroxide next time. i too hate it when I see something on Pinterest and it doesn't work. Like the one for vinegar and water to melt ice on your car. That doesn't work either.

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  15. When you got the bold bluish/purple color by using the steel wool and vinegar, how much of each did you use? No pennies involved right?

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  16. I've used vinegar/steal wool many times. Works great on some woods giving a nice greyish barn wood look, on other woods I've gotten a deep walnut shade. I've also had woods that won't stain at all. I'm curious about getting a blue effect! Sounds cool!

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  17. I am posting anonymous because this is my wife's Pinterest account and she gets aggravated when I use her name...
    I am a chemical engineer so i am familiar with some of the reactions occurring. And for safety reasons felt it appropriate to comment. The gas given off in these reactions is hydrogen, which is very flammable. Since vinegar (acetic acid) is a weak acid the reaction goes slow so the amount of hydrogen given off is relatively low and slow, and generated over a longer period so it dissipates, hydrogen is lighter than air an will go up. I suspect the post from Corey King with the exploding glass jar was included some hydrogen and not a simple glass breakage due to thermal stress, unless she had the lid on the jar you are not going to get a shot gun shell sound, or at least I never have had it happen. Also for this to occur you have to generate a lot of gas quickly. As long as that does not happen there should be no issue.
    Couple of other comments: The steel wool reacts faster than the copper penny because it has more surface area, lots of small "strings" vs. flat piece of solid copper. I have not tried it, but using copper wool which you can get in most grocery stores should react faster for the same reason. Or is you have an old electrical cord that is no longer usable strip out the wire. If it is the twisted kind it will have lots of copper strings. I do some copper smithing - "pickles" are used to clean the metal after you solder or braze. The most common is a strong acid, which develops the pretty blue color after cleaning copper. I have seen, but not tried, in some other pins that a mixture of vinegar and citric acid, which is used in canning foods, make a good pickle. If true it would be another organic way to process the copper with similar results to adding hydrogen peroxide. But probably more expensive.
    Maraatheoutre thanks for the site, it has given me some ideas for projects to mix copper and wood. Blue wood (if i can make it work) and patina copper.

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  18. I used pieces if copper tubing and no. 8 copper wire, but I can't get the colour to come out in the wood. Any suggestions?

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  19. This sounds interesting. What kind of H-Peroxide did you take (%)? Novadays high concentrations are a bit hard to get :)

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  20. 3% was all I could find at the local drug store. The colour of the solution is nice just can't get it on to the wood.

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  21. I was not aware of the the blue stain method and it's really pretty, I wish I could see it as a green color, since I am very partial to greens.
    I have tried some old rusty metal junk soaked in white vinegar for about 2 weeks and stained my entire screen in porch and ceiling with it, it has received many compliments, so I would say it was a success.
    But your site has encouraged my to try other colors, so thank you, I appreciate the time you took to put this together.

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    1. You may be able to add some RIT dye to the mix

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  22. Tried this with the apple cider vinegar, and once the mixture started changing I stirred the pennies up and let it sit for another 40ish minutes. Then i removed the pennies and let the stain sit uncovered overnight. I git a beautiful emerald green color. It didn't soak into my project either, but can't wait to find something that it will!

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  23. These stains that you are making with pennies are highly toxic in the water table, because of the copper in them. They will kill fish and most water treatment plants do not have the means to remove copper from water. So if you dispose of any first neutralize it by slowly adding baking soda. It will foam up so put the container in a larger container to catch any overflow. After you have added enough baking soda that it no longer reacts dispose of it as hazardous waste.

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    1. That would neutralize the acid, but would not remove the copper...

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  24. I've read lots of posts on creating a "weathered wood" stain. Most used vinegar & steel wool. Then, I saw yours, and I wanted some boards with this blueish color, so I was going to use your technique.
    However, now I am confused. With your method, will steel wool, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide result in a rust-brown stain or a blue stain? The last photo and description is what has me confused. The description states, "by applying 1 coat of steel wool and vinegar, I got this very bold blueish/purple.
    Again, while I do want some "blue" stain, I want the majority to be rust-brown.
    I would appreciate clarification.

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  25. I think you meant "citing" a website vs. "siting."

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  26. Vinager and steel wool worked great for me. I used it to cover cat scratched wood paneling and doors that were made of various types of wood. I did not add hydrogen peroxide to this but would like to try it. I also Am egar to try making blue or green stain with pennys.
    Regarding the comments about color not sticking to the wood in my experience stain should be highly consintrated color if you like the color in the jar seen above you will need to make it about 5 times darker in order to get that color on the wood. Also the steel wool method takes time to develop at first you wont aee any color come back in 5 minutes and the color of the wood will be stained a darker color.

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  27. Seems this process isn't working for a lot of people as it won't absorb inro the wood. Will pine work? Like the kind 2x4s are made of?

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  28. This mixture will not work well on pine. The color is caused by a chemical reaction between the mixture and the tannins in the wood. Pine is very low in tannin. Try brewing some tea and brushing that on the pine and let it dry. Then put on your mixture. The tannin in the tea will help make the reaction work.

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  29. Could you use the sun for heat, like when you make sun tea?

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  30. The copper solution has dangerous copper ions in it. Don't get it on you. Don't flush it (it will kill the bacteria in a septic tank) or pour it outside as it will kill all the fish and amphibians in a waterway (which is where it will go if you have a sewer connection). Dispose of it as hazardous waste. (Call your county).

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  32. So black tea bags have tannic acid in them. It works very well when curing your batch. I just did my whole two story deck then did a grey wash over it. I'm now trying to get less red and more of the green/blue in my grey stain to do my kitchen table. I have tons of old aluminum electrical wiring from my grandparent's house they built in the 1940s. We have old copper too but I'm going to experiment. I'm a huge believer in investing in a HDPE tray. They're a great investment and fairly easy to find, and I live in Alaska. So for $20 you have an overspill tray. I was with the fire department through college and saw some bad chemical fires and burns. This can get out of hand if you try and vary types of peroxide rather than OTC hydrogen. I have seen terrible Pinterest fails and had patients who used "teeth whitening recipes" and severely traumatized their soft tissue.

    For those who have had issues with staining... Consider most wood is treated. Pressure treated lumber or manufactured furniture will not stain. Use coarse steel wool (1 or 2 grade) and roughen up the surface. I had to completely strip my deck because the outer layer was so resistant. Also I clean my husbands gun after moose season in the dip. 50/50 of 3% hydrogen peroxide and 5% apple cider vinegar. It created a nice dark grey.

    It is a chemical and the mix will eat through gloves. I have chemical resistent gloves and that hazmat spill mat and it works great. Never be too safe with experiments.

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  33. very difficult to read your instructions due to your choice of background

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  34. All of the comments are great comments. My comment isn't regarding the comments themselves. My comment is to mention that the purple patterned background makes it very difficult to read the black print. Is it possible to change the background of your site?

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    1. Sorry about that! I haven't been on my blog in ages! (My greatest apologies on that, I need some new content too!) They added a mobile interface while I was away that wasn't too friendly with my layout. I have since, hopefully, corrected that issue. Happy creating!

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  35. Soaking the dry outer skins of onions in the vinegar also produces a nice stain for pine. Especially red onions. Try lots of different organics for color - orange skins, lime or lemon. I'm trying spinach next and adding peroxide to see if I get a deeper green.

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  36. my question is with pennies and vinegar... lid or no lid on jar ? how long to make ?

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  37. I am curious to know if you actually used this copper penny stain on any wood? You show the pretty blue stained piece that you state you used the steel wool stain on. So many comments say they achieved the blue color in their mixture but it is not appearing when they use it on wood. So I am wondering why we are not seeing an example of what this stain looked like when you used it on a project.

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