While it’s pretty easy to create scratches, nicks, and cuts in lumber to create the look of an old piece, it takes a bit of finesse to simulate worm holes. The actual insects that create those holes, powderpost beetles and their larva the woodworm, aren’t desirable, but the look of their impact on a piece of lumber is at times.
Here’s a rundown on creating worm holes:
Grab an awl or ice pick and a hammer or mallet.
Select where you plan to create the wormholes. I like to work on a spring wood, or early wood, area.
Make a combination of straight and angled holes (below), by gently tapping the awl or ice pick until it penetrates the wood at least 1/8 inch. Note: Angled holes often appear on lumber that’s been milled after the insect has bore a hole. Straight holes are associated with insect borers that have infested the lumber after it has been milled or used in a piece of furniture.
By using an awl or ice pick you can create the appearance of a wider exit point, simulating a realistic wormhole.
Make sure your holes aren’t too big, certainly no more than 1/8-inch in diameter. Create a few groupings throughout a project, but don’t go crazy. You don’t want to attract too much attention to the wormholes and not enough on the quality of your work.
To highlight the worm holes, you can apply inside the holes a darker finish than you plan to use on the main body of the project, or even use black paint. I’ve used a fine point black marker in some instances, and a small artist’s brush in others.