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Start with either a painted or an unfinished wooden bench. Sand the piece smooth, and remove dust with a tack cloth.
If the piece is unpainted, apply a base coat of paint, and let dry. Choose the muted colors of the seashore -- blues, greens, pinks or corals -- for the base coat, with a top coat of beige or muted yellow.
Brush oil-based polyurethane randomly onto areas of the bench, along the grain of the wood, and let dry. The oil-based polyurethane will act as a resist, keeping the top coat of paint from sticking in those areas.
Brush on the top coat of paint, and use a rag to lightly wipe off some of the paint while wet. The base coat will show through on the areas treated with polyurethane.
Other ways to give wood an aged look are sandblasting and pressure washing. These methods may be used on painted or raw wood, and both remove the surface of the wood, raising the grain and giving the look of years of natural aging by the elements. Sandblasting can be done at monument companies, glass shops and auto-body shops. Pressure washing is a do-it-yourself project: rent a power washer at a paint or hardware store.