How to finish your wood carving?

How to finish your wood carving?
When your product is almost done it is very important to finish your wood carving to protect it. A well-chosen finish enhances the appearance of a wood carving and ensures that it will last for a long time. If you’re wondering how to finish wood carvings, there are several methods that you can try out.
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How to finish your wood carving?

Basswood is the most popular carving wood because of it’s clean white coloring, fine and even grain, and softness in cutting qualities. Unfortunately, these three assets to cutting become the bane to finishing your project. The very whiteness of the wood makes it easy to transfer pattern lines but can be very uninteresting in the finished stage. So some type of coloring agent is often used to add interest. After the coloring you will wish to add a protective layer to your project as urethane, varnish, shellac, wax, or oil finish.

Because of it’s porous nature, Basswood absorbs any stain or finish that you apply very quickly, often making it nearly impossible to apply smooth, even, and thin coatings.

So in completing your project consideration must be given to how to apply any color coating, varnish, wax, or oils to compensate for the porous nature of Basswood. There probably are as many ‘techniques’ and ‘tricks of the trade’ to finishing basswood as there are basswood carvers. The ones listed here are those that I have found to give good, consistent results.

Here are some of the most popular finishing techniques for wood carvings.


One of the simplest ways on how to finish wood carvings is to sand it down. Sanding is a delicate process. Done well, it can provide a smooth finish that enhances the quality of the wood used. Done wrong, you’ll have to deal with variable surfaces and textures.

Before using any tools, make sure that the surface of your carving is as smooth as possible to provide a better base for the process. Clean up any uneven surfaces, messy corners, and gouge cuts.

Choose your tool

Effective sanding is primarily dependent on the tool you’re planning to use. For intricate carvings, it’s better to use sandpaper, an oscillating brush, or a contoured sanding grip to better get around curved edges and inside coves. For larger, less complex projects, you can stick to a rotary tool or a detailed sander.

Choose a sanding tool depending on three crucial factors:
- The hardness of the wood
- The intricacy of the carving
- Whether you plan on removing the finish in the future

Sanding Process

Follow the steps below to ensure a fast and efficient sanding process:
- Always go with the grain. Going against the grain can create scratches that are impossible to remove.
- Use a lighter touch. Bearing down with a power tool can alter the shape of the carving. It’s better to use sandpaper for tight nooks or crevices that your tool can’t reach.
- Use fine-grit sandpaper. The lower the grit count, the rougher the sandpaper is. For beginners, it’s best to start with 150-grit sandpaper.


You can use acrylic or oil paint to bring your wood carving to life. Just remember to sand down the surface before applying paint to ensure a smoother application. Below are some great tips to help you out when you want to know how to paint and finish a wood carving:
- If you want to create a glossy or satin-clear finish, use an overpaint. Spray the carving with light coats of lacquer. Once it’s dry, use a crumpled paper bag to smooth down any rough edges left by the paint.
- If you’re going for a more traditional feel or if you want to soften the appearance of acrylic paint, brush on some colored wax over the lacquer. After drying it for two hours, buff the carving using a shoe brush.
How to finish your wood carving?


You can also purchase stains if you’re wondering how to finish wood carvings with a subtle change in color. Before applying your chosen stain, make sure to test it out on some scraps from your project. Apply several coats to achieve the color you want. Just ensure that each layer dries down first before you apply the next one.