Create distress marks in the wood. Use a hammer and a small finishing nail to create random holes. Chisel off the corners of the piece with a chisel and sand down the edges so they are rounded. Create other distress marks with chains or other heavy metal items.
Lightly sand the surface of the wood with 100-grit sandpaper. This step does not remove the imperfections that you just created. Instead, you are simply sanding the piece to prevent splinters.
Clean the surface with a damp cloth. Allow the surface to dry completely. Alternatively, wipe the surface with a tack cloth to remove tiny dust particles.
Apply wood stain to the surface of the wood with a staining pad or cloth. Remove some of the stain with a second cloth. This process should highlight the distressed areas.
Apply polyurethane to the piece with a paintbrush or foam roller. Allow the polyurethane to dry for approximately six hours and then apply a second coat of polyurethane. Let the second coat of polyurethane cure for a week before regular use.