How to Finish / Seal Fine Wood Art Tutorial wood burning

This blog is a “how to” or “informational page” on the different products used to seal/finish fine art.   It is written in part (ok, mostly) by Todd as he’s the expert in our household on this subject.   Todd also creates and preps most of the boards that I burn on (yes, I’m a very lucky person), so not only will he discuss sealing the wood, but he’ll mention prepping the wood for optimal burning.  Without further ado…

Last updated August 2020 – new finish test panel photo

At the bottom of the blog I summarize when I’d use a particular finish.

Watch a YouTube video on this subject by clicking on the image to the left.  The information in the video covers the very basics of using finishes.



Considerations on Finishing Wood

When I say finish the wood, by that I mean to seal it.  You are attempting to protect it against water (spilled or just humidity), oils (from your fingers or anyone else’s fingers who picks it up to look at it), and dirt that can accumulate and then get ground in when touched; giving it a dingy look.     

Also, sealant provide a barrier to keep moisture levels constant in the wood.  This prevents moisture loss/addition which can cause the wood to contract/expand.  This can cause wood buckling, warping, or cracking. 

Even though you seal the wood, remember that this is not bullet proof armor you will be putting on, so you must still treat it with respect.  You can still scratch it, dent it, break it, etc.

Next warning: there is no “best” finish.  The finish is dependent on the project.  For example, I finish a cutting board very different than I do wall art.


Before we get started on finishing the wood, I’d better throw in a quick word about prepping the wood before you burn.  I always sand my blanks down to at least 220 (grit sandpaper).   I then take a bowl of water and a rag and wet down the wood thoroughly and let it dry.  I do this to raise the nap of the wood.  I then sand it down again to 220.  Depending on the wood, I might do this twice.  Woods like Basswood, Poplar, and Maple need a single wetting and sanding.  Others, like Oak, Hickory, or Cedar, I would probably do twice.  The reason you’re doing this is because, when you put your finish on, it’s wet and that will raise the  nap, so you will then have to sand it to get it smooth.  I find it objectionable to sand over finished artwork, therefore I try to get that all done before the wood is burned on in the first place.  

So, here are a few of the  most commonly used and available finishing products today – without having to mix your own.  I will cover each one and give its advantages and disadvantages as I see them.  I’ve used them all, including doing nothing to the wood and can give a firsthand account of how that worked out over time.

FOREWORD – a quick word about ALL finishes/sealants.  

1) Never dip your brush directly into the can of sealant/finish because you can contaminate the product.  Some woods, like padauk, will leach color, so the brush will pick up that color.   You don’t want your finish/sealant to be tinted red, so always put a small amount of sealant into a bowl, mason jar, etc for use.    Another common source of contamination is stained or dyed wood.  

2) Also, all of these – excepting oil finishes and doing nothing to the wood, will require that you have a space that is warm enough to apply the finish to the wood.  Read the container, but essentially, if should be about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 celsius).   If it is not at least that warm the finish will either not set right or will set so slowly, glaciers will be passing it by.  

Also, if you take a cold can of finish out and start to use it in a warm room, you will most likely get bubbles in the finish as it warms up.  There were bubbles in there you couldn’t see and when they warm they expand and poof – there they are ruining your nice finish.  Warm up your can of finish first and warm up your wood too! 

3)  Apply the finishes in a well ventilated area.  Some of them are very strong smelling and the fumes can be irritating on the lungs. 

4) Always apply at least 3 thin coats of finish to ALL sides of the wood; including bark if present.  3 thin coats will provide much better results than trying to apply 1 thick coat. 

5)  NEVER mix your finishes!  The chemical properties of the different finish are not always compatible with each other, so mixing finishes can ruin the finish or prevent it from curing properly.  If you start out with a lacquer, you finish with a lacquer.   If you start with a polyurethane, then you finish with polyurethane.


Should you spray on or brush on the finish?  It really doesn’t matter unless you have applied color to your work. 

If you have applied color, then use spray on finish for the first couple of layers.  You can follow up with a brush on, but make sure it’s the same type of finish.  

Spray on is a lot more convenient, but a bottle of spray cost more than a jar of brush on finish.  Between the wood working I do and Brenda’s pyrography, we go through a lot of finish, so purchasing jars of finish is more economical for us.   A standard 12 oz can of Lacquer costs around $10 and will cover approximately 3-4 art projects.   Whereas a gallon can of lacquer costs a little under $30 and will easily cover 20 projects.

If you use a spray on finish, make sure to spray in uniform passes.  Keep your pace steady as you move across the board.   Start spraying just BEFORE reaching the board and continue to spray just after passing the edge of the board.  This ensures you don’t get pools of finish along the borders of the wood, or, put another way, the layer of finish is uniform across the entire board.   


Added 6/18/2020 by Brenda.  A while back I was told that matte finishes have additives put into them to reduce their sheen.  Furthermore, the additives supposedly interfere with the ability to see the fine details in artwork.   I will admit right off that I had not thought about this before, so I set about testing out this idea.   To watch a YouTube video on this just click on the image to the left.


First off I went to the store and bought a can of Min Max polycrylic in all 4 sheen levels:  Matte, Satin, Semi-Gloss, and Glossy.






Also, I created a test board, and I broke the test board up into 4 sections.  Each section was labeled with the type of finish I would use on that section.  Plus I left a small space between the sections that would be free of finish.


I masked off all but one section on the test board.








Then I applied the appropriate finish to that section following the directions on the can.   In total each section received 3 coats of finish.






Here’s how the board looked once I was done.   I cannot tell a difference between the finishes other than the sheen level.



I will continue to use Matte or Satin finish on my artwork as I don’t like the glare or reflected light interfering with viewing the artwork.  The far right section on the board is matte.




Here’s the glossy end of the board showing how the light reflects off of the surface.





This is the matte section showing the before and after finish was applied.  Unfortunately the lighting was different when I took the photo with the finish applied.





This is the satin section showing the before and after finish was applied.






This is semi-gloss section showing the before and after finish was applied.






This is glossy section showing the before and after finish was applied.







  • Nothing – raw wood
  • Lacquer – Brush On, Spray On; with Lacquer Thinner
  • Mod Podge (hard coat) – brush on
  • Oil only – Mineral Oil, Tung Oil, Walnut Oil, etc.
  • Polycrylic – Brush on
  • Polyurethane – Brush On, Spray On
  • Shellac – Brush On, Spray On
  • Spar Urethane – Brush On, Spray On
  • Tru Oil – brush on


I will start the discussion with nothing, because nothing is the easiest thing to do.  Once you’re done burning the wood, you simply hang it on the wall, or prop it up on a table if you like; whatever works for you. 

When to use:  I don’t recommend doing nothing!


  • Simplicity 
  • Time saved; which can be several hours of work depending on size, type of finish/sealant, and the number of coats you need/want to put on.


  • If anyone picks it up to look at it, the oils and anything else (like hand lotion) on that person’s fingers/hands will transfer to the wood and penetrate it which means that you can’t just wipe it off. 
  • It is more prone to moisture loss/addition which can cause the wood to contract/expand.  This can cause wood buckling, warping, or cracking.  Sealing the wood provides a barrier to keep its moisture levels more constant to help prevent the aforementioned problems.


Lacquer offers a tough, durable finish.  It can age over time, but is fairly easy to repair without sanding down the wood.  Lacquer can be sprayed or brushed on.  It can be thinned down with Lacquer Thinner to the consistency you desire.  It comes in satin, gloss, or high gloss.

When to use:  This is a great finish for musical instruments and artwork.  Note that it is not good in high moisture situations like a coasters.





To Apply:  I recommend thinning the lacquer with lacquer thinner for the first coat; about 50/50.  It flows better and dries faster.  Then go to full strength.   As with all sealants, use in a well ventilated area.  Allow to dry a minimum of 30 minutes between coats.  When applying additional coats, do not pour on and then brush out.   Any lacquer that sits in a pool will soften/dissolve the previous layer and make your finish pitted and uneven.

Note that as of March 2019 Lacquer continues to be our favorite finish for Brenda’s pyrography.



  • Tough finish. 
  • You can polish this finish after it hardens. 
  • It requires no sanding between coats. 
  • It does not discolor the wood as much as other products like shellac or polyurethane do. 
  • Has the fastest dry time.
  • Does not have hardeners in the mix, so cans and jars of lacquer will never dry out or become a solid mass like other finishes will.
  • If you thin the lacquer, it flows better and the coats dry more quickly.


  • It will not stand up to thinner being spilled on it even after it’s dried.  
  • Lacquer has quite a strong smell and requires a space with good ventilation.  (Brenda here – to me lacquer is nowhere as stinky as polyurethane and for some reason the smell reminds me of dill pickles).
  • It will take three or more coats to get a good solid finish.  
  • When thinned it is very wet and if you haven’t raised the nap of the wood and then sanded it back down, you’ll wish you had.

MOD PODGE (hard coat)

Mod Podge is a waterbase sealer, glue, and finish. It’s found in craft stores and doesn’t have a strong odor.   

When to use: In crafting situations where you want to decoupage a photo onto the wood.

To Apply:  Brush on a thin coat and let dry 15-20 minutes.  Sand with 400 grit sandpaper between coats.  Apply 3-5 coats total.  Fully cured in 4 weeks.






  • Tough finish. 
  • Cleans up with water
  • Doesn’t have a strong odor (Brenda here – it reminds me of Elmer’s glue mixed with acrylic paint) 


  • Need to lightly sand between coats.  
  • Unsure about how well the finish will age, but we are testing it.
  • Takes 4 weeks to fully cure.  That’s a long time!

OIL ONLY  (for cutting boards)

By oil only, I am referring to products like tung oil, mineral oil, lemon oil, walnut oil, etc.  These are mostly for things like cutting boards to keep the wood moisturized and to prevent water from penetrating the wood that would causing it to warp, swell, or crack (this is mostly on end grain cutting boards, but you get the idea).   

WHEN TO USE: Cutting boards and other items that are in contact with food and/or items that be will exposed to extremely high heats.   Food grade mineral oil is what I use to treat cutting boards and trivets with.  Mineral oil doesn’t get rancid and won’t react with food.  Plus it can withstand very high heat without damage.  I’ve taken a pan out of a 450 degree oven and placed it on a oil coated trivet with no problems.  

To Apply:  pour a generous amount onto the wood and rub it it.  Let it sit for several hours and then apply another coat.  Continue until the wood quits absorbing the oil.      Once or twice a year re-apply to keep the wood protected.   

Here’s an article that goes into greater detail on the different types of oils for cutting boards and cutting board maintenance.   Ardec – Finish and maintain cutting boards


  • Easy to apply
  • Easy to reapply when you need a touch up
  • Minimal smell


  • The wood isn’t really sealed as additional oils can and will penetrate given the opportunity.  Again this oil can be from an unintentional source like greasy hands. 
  • Dirt and dust will accumulate on it and because the oil is a “wet” finish it will stick. 
  • Oils don’t quickly dry out, but they do need to be reapplied to keep up the protection level.
  • A mineral oil finish is one of the better choices for projects like trivets that will be subjected to high heat.  I’ve taken pans straight out of the oven at 400F (204.4 celsius) and placed them on the trivet without experiencing any problems like wood discoloration, etc.


Polycrylic provides a clear tough finish that is water resistant, so can be used for coasters.   

When to use:  This can be used for all indoor applications, and is a great choice for coasters.  I wouldn’t recommend it for items that come in contact with food; especially cutting board.  

To Apply:  Brush on a thin layer and let dry a minimum of 2 hours.  Sand lightly and then brush on another coat.   Continue this process until you reach the number of desired coats.





  • Tough finish. 
  • Comes in a variety of finishes from matte to glossy. 
  • Cleans up with water
  • Doesn’t have a strong odor (Brenda here – it reminds me of Elmers white glue) 
  • It is water resistant.  (Brenda here – I did a test by placing a wet glass on it for several hours.  Then I removed the glass and let the water ring dry on its own.  After it was dry I couldn’t tell where the glass has been.   Also I put a coffee cup filled with boiling water and let that sit for several hours.   Again, it did nothing to the finish).   
  • We couldn’t tell the difference between wood treated with this and lacquer by just looking at it.  If you touch it they have a texture difference as the polycrylic has a slight plastic feel.


  • Need to lightly sand between coats.  
  • Unsure about how well the finish will age.  We have a test piece sitting in a window to age in the sun, so will follow up later on how polycrylic ages.
  • Makes the wood feel like it is coated with plastic and Brenda doesn’t care for that.


This is a plastic in the form of a liquid that goes on either brushed or sprayed and then dries to a solid firm coat.  There are basically two forms – water based and oil based.  Oil based is slightly tougher than the water based.   I don’t worry a lot about toughness in a finish on artwork, usually, as I find it mostly stays indoors and on a well, but if the piece is going to get handled, then polyurethane good option if you don’t mind that it adds a yellow hue to the wood.  

When to use:  This finished will handle tough treatment and resist moisture better than lacquer, so it is good for furniture.  Note that it adds a yellow hue to the wood that in some applications this is desirable.  If the yellow hue is undesired, then use Polycrylic instead.

To Apply:  in a WELL ventilated area, brush on a thin coat, and let dry 3-4 hours.  Lightly sand (220 grit), apply a second coat, and let dry 3-4 hours.   repeat.   I typically apply 3 coats to a project.


  • Tough finish
  • long lasting,
  • Easy to apply, but needs sanding between each coat. 
  • Comes in several varieties: matte, semi-gloss, gloss, and high gloss. 
  • Can be sprayed on or brushed on, whichever you prefer.
  • Oil based handles heat better than water based. 
  • Water based finish has significantly less odor when applying.


  • Water based doesn’t handle high heat well, so don’t use it for the finish on your coasters, trivets, or anything that receives what’s coming out of a hot oven or stove top as it will discolor. 
  • You have to sand between each coat; not much but it must be scuffed or the next coat will not bond properly. 
  • Oil based will add a bit of a yellow hue to the piece you are applying it to.  Water will too, but not as much.  
  • Also oil based has quite a strong smell and you must have a large enough room with good ventilation to be working with this.   (Brenda here – this stuff STINKS…a lot)
  • Has a very noticeable yellow hue to it.


Shellac is a “natural” finish in that it is made out of the secretions of a female Lac bug and a solvent (alcohol).  It is a very safe finish; once it is dried and hardened.

When to use:  I have used this for woodworking (jewelry boxes), but I no longer use it.  Also, it can be used on items for food, but make sure it is completely cured before using the items.  I would not recommend it on cutting boards.  

To Apply:  In a well ventilated area apply a thin layer and let dry a minimum of 45 minutes.  Then brush on another coat.   Do not pour on additional layers and brush out as any pooled shellac.  Otherwise it will dissolve/soften previous coats resulting in a pitted uneven finish.



  • Easy to apply
  • Food safe once fully cured  


  • Will discolor under heat and it imparts a tan or yellow hue to the wood.
  • Not nearly as “aromatic” as polyurethane or spar urethane.  (Brenda here – can’t comment on the stench factor as I’m not sure.  Todd offered to let me sniff, but I declined)


This is a tougher  form of Polyurethane with more solids in it and is consequently more durable.  It is used primarily for outdoor wood or wood that will be left around the water.  Same rules apply for putting it on as the polyurethane; sanding required between coats.  Can be brushed or sprayed on as preferred.

When to use:  If you want something for outdoor use (signs, tables, etc.,) then this is your product.  Make sure to purchase the type for outdoor use (the picture shows the can show for indoor use).  

To Apply:  this works just like the polyurethane. In a very well ventilated area apply a light coat and let dry 3-4 hours.  Lightly sand (220 grit), apply another coat, and let dry 3-4 hours.  Repeat.  Outdoor items need a minimum of 3 coats.   Let sit for a minimum of 24 hours after last coat before placing outdoors.


  • About as tough a coat as you can get although poured epoxy might be tougher.  
  • It is the only type finish/sealant recommended for outdoor use.


  • Will really yellow up your wood, however, if that’s an effect you want, based on your subject matter, composition, or preference, it can be an advantage. 
  • Has quite a strong smell and you must have a large enough room with good ventilation to be working with this product.   (Brenda here – this means that this stuff is really, really stinky)

TRU-OIL (birchwood casey)

Tru-oil is designed to provide a protective finish to gunstocks.  There is also a version for guitars.   Easy to apply, but extremely stinky in my opinion (brenda here).  The oil is a “blend of linseed and natural oils.”   Can be buffed to achieve a luster finished. 

When to use:  I don’t use this product and have no experience with it.  It is a favorite for those who refinish gun stocks, but note that it imparts a yellow hue to the wood.

To Apply:  Pour oil directly from bottle onto properly prepared wood surface in a well ventilated area.  Spread evenly with the grain and allow to thoroughly dry.  Buff lightly with 00 steel wool between coats.  Repeat until desired finish is achieved.





    • Inexpensive. 
    • Very easy to apply


  • Need to lightly sand/buff  between coats.  
  • Adds a tan/yellow color to the wood
  • Is a touch smelly.  (Brenda here – this was the nastiest smelling stuff!  It smelled worse to me than any of the other finishes and I can’t even put into words what the foul smell reminded me of).

Sealing Wood with Color Pencil Work

October 2017 – 

We’ve learned the hard way that color pencil will smear when lacquer is brushed on.    To prevent this from happening use a spray on finish.  Apply 3 layers of spray on and then you can switch back to brush on (if you so desired).     

Make sure to use the same type of finish for both spraying and brushing on.  


The below latest edition to the test panel was added on March 28th, 2019

August 2020 – All of the finishes have been on the board for over two years now.   

I often think that comparing the yearly photos isn’t a good idea because the light is not always the same.  The light can really alter how an image looks.   So I will tell you what I’m seeing from the board.   The board was originally created in February of 2018, so it’s over 2 years old now. 

The polyurethane (5) and Truoil (7) have yellowed a lot, but they imparted a yellow hue immediately.  Of the two, the Truoil is darker.   

The Mod Podge (6) and shellac (4) are close to the same tan hue.   The polycrylic (3) is a bit paler in color than the lacquer (2).   

The color samples all look good except the yellow which is getting tough to see on the polyurethane and the Truoil test patches. 

In this photo I’m holding the board to angle it towards the sun in an effort to show the sheen of the different finishes.  (this photo does not have the TruOil on it) 







Our Preference for pyrography is Lacquer

Todd prefers to use Lacquer as this is what he uses in the shop, so has it on hand.  Even though the polycrylic finish is a bit lighter in color than the lacquer, the color difference isn’t huge.  The big difference is that you do not have to sand between coats of lacquer like you do polycrylic. 

Todd uses a 2” wide brush to apply.  The first coat is a 50/50 mixture of thinner and lacquer.  Subsequent coats are full strength lacquer.  Most of my pyrography art is sealed with 5 coats, but some items that get more handling (like flutes) receive more coats.  

As mentioned before, lacquer is rather smelly so use in a well ventilated area.  

Todd has found that it’s easiest to keep three mason jars filled with different solutions of Lacquer or thinner on hand.  The glass jars don’t rust out, the wide mouths easily fit the brushes, and he can write the mixture on the top.  Another advantage is if a jar gets contaminated, only a little amount of the product is lost.   

In the photo you can see the 3 jars;  The first one is full strength lacquer, the middle is half strength lacquer (50/50 mixture of lacquer and lacquer thinner), and the last one is filled with all lacquer thinner.   The white stuff at the bottom of the lacquer thinner jar is lacquer that has settled to the bottom after I clean the  brush.   Eventually the thinner jar will get enough lacquer residue in it, that it gets poured into the 50/50 mix jar and I start over with fresh lacquer thinner.


Lacquer = Fine art & musical instruments

Mineral Oil = Cutting boards & trivets

Polycrylic = Coasters.    Can use it for fine art, but it does need to be sanded between coats and lacquer does not.

Spar Urethane = Outdoor applications (signs, furniture)

Modge Podge, Polyurethane, Shellac, & Tru Oil = We don’t use.  Not to say they are bad products, but we prefer to use one of the above finishes instead.

That’s it for this blog.  Hope it answered some questions and helps you with your projects.

Todd & Brenda

January 2016 (original posting)

Last updated August 2020

82 thoughts on “How to Finish / Seal Fine Wood Art Tutorial wood burning

  1. Hi Brenda,
    I found the video and chat on this thread very informative. I’m burning various pieces at the moment including chopping boards, coasters and signs (all for gifts). It looks like mineral oil would be best for what I’m working on, but you say other oil’s will still penetrate. I have also found yacht varnish could be useful. Could I put mineral oil on first, then yacht varnish over the top?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Hannah,

      That’s a technical question that I do not have an answer for.

      A quick search on the internet says that if you use a non drying oil (like mineral oil) you cannot put a varnish over it. If the oil is a drying oil (like tung or linseed) then after the oil finish cures you can put any oil based finish over it.

      The best I can tell you is to try out your idea on a piece of scrap wood.

      1. Thank you so much. When I’ve searched, the answers were so varied, was a little confusing. I’ll test out a few.
        Thanks again.

        1. There is a lot of vague and / or contradictory information out there. Plus each person has their personal preference on finishes. For example, Todd really prefers mineral oil versus tung oil, but mostly because of the cost difference. He has to re-oil the cutting boards and trivets more often, but in the long run it’s still a lot cheaper.

          By the way, Todd did inform me that “drying oils” are only drying if they add something to them. I think he said some sort of solvent, but I can’t remember. I don’t feel like asking him because he tends to ramble on and on. Quite truthfully I don’t find wood finishes that interesting. 🙂

          good luck with your finish tests and have a happy new year!

  2. Hi! Where I live we recently had an intense wildfire that incinerated most of the trees and shrubs in its path. What’s left is “snag” (standing fire-killed trees) and fallen dead branches, primarily juniper. I’d like to use some small, blackened branches in some artwork I am doing. When collected and handled, they get charcoal all over one’s hands, and leave charcoal smudges on anything they touch. Do you have any idea what might be the best sealant for the charred branches (maybe 2″ diameter at most, not big tree limbs) to be handled without smudging the hands and walls of anyone installing the finished artwork (the branch would rest against a wall horizontally)? I’d prefer a matte finish. I was thinking spray, as brushing I believe will move the charcoal particles around and clog up the brush. All thoughts are welcome.

    1. Hi Robin,

      if you are wanting to keep the charcoal particles in place, then you are correct that you need to use a spray on type of finish. Since it will be for indoor use, any finish that is suitable for wood would work.

  3. Hi Brenda,

    I always love coming back to your very informative site to learn, re-learn, and ask questions. And love seeing your new projects pop up in my e-mail! I also keep directing people to your page when they ask questions in a facebook pyrography group that I belong to!

    I have a beautiful box elder plank with pretty red streaks in it. I want to use one portion to make a charcuterie board. Another portion I was going to have one side (burned) to be used as a charcuterie board and the other side (unburned) as a trivet. Though now I think the burned side can be used for both purposes, based on what I read on your finishes, but would like to confirm.

    It sounds like you say food grade mineral oil is the oil to use, as it is not only food safe, but also protects from heat, which is great! Originally I was going to ask about using beeswax (I worried about heat for that) or tung oil. It sounds like Todd’s experience is really with food grade mineral oil. Any brand better than another?

    Is it ok if the recipient of a board uses something different (still food safe) later on? Lets says I use the mineral oil, but then they use beeswax in 6 months time? (Although I’ll probably just add a bottle of mineral oil with the gift.)

    Would you put the oil on all sides of a board, or just the top? Would the stickiness of the oil leave marks on a tablecloth or wood table?

    Does using the oil actually make the wood itself food safe because it penetrates the wood? So even if someone were to forget to recoat it once or twice a year, it would still be food safe? Hopefully it would also protect from what I read on that Box elder, along with other maples in the Acer genus, have been reported to cause skin irritation, runny nose, and asthma-like respiratory effects – I’m guessing that really applies more to the cutting and burning process, but not later use?

    I read also read on that Box Elder has a distinct and unpleasant scent when wet, which mostly subsides once dry. I can try a scrap piece, but just wondering if you or Todd have any knowledge of this when it has been sealed with oil, or gets washed in soapy water.

    Sorry for just a long post and so many questions, but I really do value your great guidance!

    1. Hi Marlies,

      The finish does not make wood food safe. The finishes just seal the wood to keep it looking good and prevent it from cracking, warping, etc.
      Yes, wood toxicity charts are based on inhaling dust or fumes if burned. Not to say that natural aromas of wood can’t be toxic as I’ve know of people with allergies to pine trees, so they can’t use “real” christmas trees.

      Pure tung oil and mineral oil are both good choices for resisting heat. This is important if you plan to use it as a trivet where it will be exposed to high heat.

      Todd coats the board very liberally with oil on ALL sides. He puts the board in a big plastic tub, so he doesn’t have to worry about drips or run off.
      He repeats this until the board quits absorbing the oil, and this takes several days or more.
      Once the wood won’t absorb more oil, then he wipes off the excess, and let’s the board dry for a a couple of days. Once done the board does not have an oily feel, but dust will stick to the board. I do wipe them down ever so often and even give them a washing. 1 or 2x a year they get a light coating of oil again. The frequency depends on how many times I have to wash them due to oops. 🙂

      Todd puts cork feet on the bottom of the trivets for better air circulation, so I’m not 100% sure if the wood leaves marks. I’d recommend testing out on a small scrap piece.

      According to Rockler you can apply a wax over any finish. here’s a link to that article: Applying Wax

      Todd doesn’t have any experience with box elder wood, so he can’t advise on that. Your idea of testing it out is a good one.
      Hope that helps

      1. Thanks for your quick and informative reply, as always, Brenda! And that link from Rockler is very helpful, too. I’m looking forward to starting this project! I’d better get cracking, given the oiling process taking at least 5 days, by the sounds of things.

        1. Hi Brenda,
          Thanks again for this helpful advice. I would never have thought to put on all those layers of oil for it to fully soak into the wood! That part is now all done, so just waiting for it to dry a bit more before screwing on handles and wrapping up the gifts!

          1. Hi Marlies,
            I’m always amazed with how much oil the wood can absorb.
            By the way, I should asked Todd sooner, but he said after he’s done oiling he wipes off the excess, let’s it dry for a day or two, and then coats the board with a light layer of beeswax. I learn something new all the time.

            I’m sure the recipient will love your gift!

          2. Hi. It looks like I cant put a response to your last reply below, but I can to my own. Strange.
            Anyway, now not sure whet to do. The link you provided to Rockler said that you can put wax on oil, but not oil on wax. So if I now put on a layer of beeswax, does that mean that in 6-12 months you can no longer use mineral oil on there again, but need to use wax? If so, I guess I could skip the wax – why does Todd put that on? I recently waxed one of my cutting boards (after learning about the need through pyrography, ha-ha) and I feel that’s a bit sticky, so not a huge fan of that.

          3. Hi Marlies,

            I asked Todd his total process. Make the board, apply the oils until the board quits absorbing, wipe off excess, let dry a day or two, apply a very thin layer of wax. When it’s time to re-seal the board, wash with hot soapy water uning something like Dawn dish soap. This will remove both the wax and most of the oil on the surface. Let the board dry completely and then re-seal. Todd coats the board with the light layer of wax to keep the dust from sticking, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

            Here’s an article that discusses the different oils to use on cutting boards and whether or not to seal with wax. This particular seller is a big fan of tung oil, but keep in mind they sell it so that might make them a touch biased towards that particular product. On the flip side it might be as awesome as they claim.

            I think their article will answer most if not all of your questions on the subject

  4. This is the best article I’ve ever read about wood finishes! Thank you SO much for your thorough descriptions and advantages/disadvantages lists! This is extremely helpful! 🙂

  5. Thanks for this article! Would you use oil to seal a charcuterie board? I plan to put vinyl on a bamboo tray and use it as a charcuterie board.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Karlie,

      Todd only oils boards that will be in direct contact with food. If you will be covering the board with vinyl, then I’d use the finish of your choice to seal the wood. Polycrylic is nice because it’s durable, stays fairly clear as it ages, and it doesn’t need to be sanded between applied coats.

  6. Hi Brenda,

    So glad that I found your blog! I have recently become more active with wood burning and am starting to sell a few pieces so want to make sure I am providing a good quality finished product. If I have used white acrylic to fill in burned birch trees on a piece, what would be the best finish that will not yellow the white acrylic?


    1. Hi Shelly,
      thanks for the lovely comment. I’ve had excellent results with lacquer and polycrylic. I haven’t had issues with color reactions and both finishes are doing quite well on my aging test panel. Speaking of which I’m overdue for updating the photo on that. I highly recommend doing a small test board where you apply the paint you used and then coat the board with the finish of your choice. So far any really bad reactions I’ve had with color happened within a day as the finish dried. So far any problems I’ve experienced was due to really low quality color paints, pencils, etc.

      Since you’ve applied color, I always recommend using a spray on finish for the first coat or two.
      Hope that helps

    1. Hi Cassandra,

      I’ve yet to see a rolling pin that has a finish on it. At least those that are functional rolling pins. I asked Todd and he said if was to use a finish he would use a salad bowl finish or polycrylic. Once fully cured the manufacturers claim they are food safe, but make sure you purchase one that the label states this.

      Hope that helps.

  7. I just ordered 30 or so beautifully done, wood burned coasters with my name, my fiance’s name and our wedding date on them, to give out as favors. What is the best thing to use to keep them cracking when being used? i’ve gotten a few from the same person and as soon as a cold glass hits it it cracks. I would hate from them to crack when our guests get them home and use them.

    1. Hi Rose,
      Todd thinks that the only reason a coast would crack is if it was made out of a tree branch cut into slabs. These type of coasters tend to look rustic and have rings. Wood cut this way is very fragile. If this is what you have purchased I would recommend applying a number of coats (5-7) of polycrylic finish. Just make sure to let the coats thoroughly dry before applying the next layer. That many coats would help protect the wood, but still I could not promise they won’t crack because of how they are cut.

      1. Thank you.

        They look like the ones you could probably find at any craft store. The one’s i have that cracked i resealed and then did 2 coats of wood glue on and seems to be working. I drink a lot of iced drinks so they’re always in contact with cold and water condensation.

        1. It might be that they are just too thin. The thinner the wood the more chances for cracking, warping, etc.
          Either way I would still recommend a number of coats of polycrylic, and that should help prevent problems.

  8. This was very helpful! But im still a little confused. I just ordered and received a bunch of beautiful wood coasters with our names and wedding date burned into them, and i want to seal them so they don’t crack when being used. What do you recommend?

    1. Hi Rose,
      I would use polycrylic. Keep in mind that depending on how the coaster are made they might crack regardless. If the coasters are made from a tree branch that was cut into slabs, they will most likely start cracking the minute they experience any sort of extreme temperature change. To make sure you understand what I’m trying to say, here’s a link that shows a “log” coaster:–4-Piece-Log-Coaster-Set-5018-L1047-K~FRRE1059.html?refid=GX444304715187-FRRE1059&device=c&ptid=410110377021&network=g&targetid=pla-410110377021&channel=GooglePLA&ireid=67435484&fdid=1817&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-5iG7qm86gIVAxLnCh17TAkFEAQYASABEgIGp_D_BwE

  9. Hi Brenda,

    I made a table top easel that i would like to decorate with some pyrography. Which finish would you recommend to resist paints such as water color, acrylic and very rarely oil based paints?


    1. Hi Alec,

      I asked Todd and he said the Polyurethane is the most durable finish. It’s what he uses on his work bench, but be aware that it will yellow the wood considerably! Depending on how fancy the pyrography art is that you’ve done, you might lose some the lighter burn tones (light tans). To prevent that use Polycrylic as it doesn’t impart the yellow hue that urethane does.

      Also, Todd said that you should apply a minimum of 5 coats since this is something that will get handled. Keep the surface as flat as possible while applying the finish. If using a spray on finish this is especially important as it is easy to spray on too much and it will run or sag. Basically, apply thin layers of finish.

      Hope that helps and enjoy your easel.

      1. Hi Brenda,

        thanks for the reply!

        Most of the design will be stippled and deep black so i don’t think the polyurethane will ruin it. But more importantly, id like the paint to be easily wiped away without the wood absorbing any and covering my burns.

        thanks again!

  10. Hi Brenda,
    I plan to glue some laser-cut letters onto my pyrography art, rather than burning the words. Do you (or your husband) have a recommendation on what glue to use for this, that will also work with a lacquer spray applied to the art work once complete? I prefer the thought of adhesive spray (again the question would be which one), so that i don’t have any leakage, as the letters are very fine; however, perhaps you don’r recommend that.

    1. Hi Marlies,
      this is something that neither Todd nor I have experience with. Todd really likes the Titebond brand of wood glue and they do have a spray on type. Again we do not have any experience with the spray on glues, so we can’t say for certain how good or bad any brand might be.

      My thoughts on the matter are that as long as it forms a permanent bond that’s all you care about. The glue won’t be exposed, so the finish you use won’t matter. Plus the finish will also help keep the letters adhered to the board.


  11. Hello Mam, I carve snakes onto canes and for the first time I used true color pencil for the color. Could not get it mixed properly with paints and had a problem as I needed to make sure that the heavy wood burned scales stayed black from the color,(if you search for a snake called a baby blue racer you will get a picture of what I mean by black scale stand out from the color. I am one of those that uses tru oil for my canes cause it does make a tough coat for the stick but that is when I paint them. to help seal the colored pencil work what would you suggest to use as I like to get them glossy looking. I had over 500 scales to do individually for color and do not want it to run or smear if I can help it. lot of hours so far and would like to keep it nice. I found your site by typing in how to seal colored pencil art and found you so thought i would give it a shot. Thank you for any help you can offer
    Best Regards
    Bob Beaver

    1. Hi Robert,
      Sounds like a beautiful and labor intensive project!
      I had to consult with Todd on this one as he’s the woodworker. He recommended using a can of Spray-On Outdoor Spar Urethane for at least the first coat to seal the color pencil. After that you can use a brush on spar urethane if you prefer. Spar Urethane is a very durable finish and it comes in glossy and satin (maybe others). Just make sure to get the version for outdoor applications. One last thing, it does add a very pronounced yellow hue to the wood, but so does Tru Oil so that shouldn’t be an issue for you.

      I personally would recommend coloring one or two scales on a scrap piece of wood and spraying it with the spar urethane to see how it reacts with the color.

  12. Hi Brenda, this article is fantastic. As someone who is just looking into burning – you’ve answered my questions about sealing.
    So for anything touching food and things such as high heat coasters, you suggest food grade mineral oil (because it’s safe?) – have you got any recommended brands that won’t ruin the colour of the finish and are safe? Last thing I want is ruined artwork and it to be not food safe!
    Thank so much for posting something so amazingly helpful!
    Beki 🙂

    1. Hi Beki,
      Food grade mineral oil is perfect for cutting boards because it is safe. That said, I wouldn’t bother doing pyrography art on any cutting board that will be used. First off the mineral oil will darken the wood a lot, and the knife will leave cut marks in the wood (and the artwork). So if you did art, I would keep it very simple like silhouette style of art.
      As for coasters, they wouldn’t be coming in contact with food, so I wouldn’t worry about food safe there. Instead you want something that is durable and can handle both hot and cold. I would use Polycrylic. Don’t confuse that with Polyurethane. Polyurethane is more durable, but it is also a lot more stinky and imparts a yellow hue to the wood. The yellow hue is extremely noticeable and gets darker with time.
      Hope that helps. Thank you for your question and comment!

      1. Thanks so much Brenda! What would you do about pre bought chopping boards that will have been varnished? Or even wood from trees that could have fungus in them? Would you recommend not using them or sanding them right down to be able to burn safely on them (thinking toxic fumes from treatment etc). And maybe if its wood from outside treating them or drying them out? Thanks so much!

        1. Hi Rebecca,
          thank you for the comment and question.
          Todd says that the same rules apply regardless of finish; remove 1/8 – 1/4 inch of the wood on the side you plan to burn on.

          As for trees. If the tree is healthy, then it can be used. Keep in mind that it takes a LONG time for wood to dry from freshly cut trees. If the tree is fallen, it would depend on how long. If a severe wind storm came through, knocked down a tree, and you processed that tree within a day or two it should be fine. If the tree looks like it was knocked down because it was diseased, rotten, etc., then I’d leave it alone. Again, I have to point out that fresh wood take a long time to dry before you can use it.

          While we’re on the subject, don’t ever use reclaimed wood (old fencing, etc) that has been outdoors or pressure treated wood. God only knows how long the wood has been there being exposed to a host of toxic fungi, molds, etc. It’s not worth the health risk.

  13. Hi there! Thank you for by far the most comprehensive guide to wood preservation on the internet! Just curious if you have any experience or opinion about using mod poge to transfer an image to a cutting board and whether or not mineral oil would be suited to preserving the wood before or after the transfer?
    Thanks again for your time, am looking forward to hearing back from you.

    1. Hi Victoria,
      I would have to say that I haven’t tried that.

      First off, is the cutting board going to be functional? By that I mean will food be chopped up on it?
      If it’s going to be a functional cutting board mod podge is not food safe. Then there is the situation of using mineral oil and mod podge on the same board. Mod Podge is water based and I doubt it would stick to the wood if it was oiled first.

      My thoughts on the matter are:
      Functional cutting board – do not use mod podge. It’s not durable enough and it’s not food safe.
      Decorative cutting board – use mod podge to secure the image and let it fully cure (up to 30 days). Then coat the entire board with polycrylic for long lasting durability.

      Hope that helps.

  14. I have had several wood burned pictures that had high amounts of light detail that have been absorbed away by various finishes, as they apparently dissolved some of the carbon burns. Have you noticed this at all, and if you have, do you have a solution? Makes me want to leave my more complex pieces unfinished, but I hate to leave the wood exposed like that.

    1. Hi Scott,
      It’s not just the finish. Wood oxidizes or ages over time turning tan in color as it does; at least if it’s basswood it turns tan, pine tends to turn yellowish. The finish helps slow down the oxidation process, but it can’t stop it completely. Another benefit of the finish/sealant is that it will help prevent moisture loss and gains which can lead to buckling and cracking of the wood. Some woods are worse than others, but I’d put Plywoods at the top of the list for aging. I’d would venture a guess that it has to do with the glues as I doubt they are archival quality.

      As for leaving the wood unfinished, I don’t recommend that. I have a couple pieces of art I left unsealed and I lost everything except the darker browns hues. Yes, unfortunately the finishes also age over time, but the pyrography retains more of its tonal range if the wood has been sealed.

      The options are to use less light tan colors or burn on paper. If you burn on paper make sure it is 100% cotton. Anything with wood pulp will have the same problems as solid wood, but it just takes longer to become evident depending on the quality of the paper.

      Also all artwork will last longer if kept out of direct sunlight.


  15. Great list.
    I was wondering if you had kept an eye on the art work for fading under each type of sealer. Just read some where that the polycrylic was the best. I have just been using polyurethane
    Regards Theresa

    1. Hi Theresa,
      thanks. Polyurethane adds such a yellow hue to the wood, that I don’t much care to use it for artwork. Polycrylic is doing very well on my test panel. I have one piece of artwork that Todd used it on and it is aging very well.

      Thank you again for the comment.

  16. Good evening, I have recently started burning cutting boards, any suggestions for sealing so they can be used in the kitchen?

    1. Hi Daniel,
      Todd always uses food grade mineral oil for cutting boards. The mineral oil can be bought in numerous stores and online. Todd applies many heavy or thick layers of oil and when the board won’t absorb anymore, he knows it is ready. Then he wipes it down and lets it sit for a day or two. Once or twice a year, depending on usage, he re-oils it.
      Hope that helps.

    1. Hi. Thanks. Pyrography is a wonderful artform to work in, and my website is a way to share my love of the medium and hopefully encourage others to try the artform. Mod Podge has its uses in decoupage, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for sealing wood. One reason being that it’s rather expensive compared to jars of polycrylic or lacquer, but if it was the only thing I had on hand to seal the wood with then I used it.

  17. Hi Todd and Brenda! Thanks for the fantastic information I am very new to pyrography and have been hunting a way to finish my artwork! I was wondering if you have any experience staining your pyrography? I didn’t know if it would ruin the artwork or not but I like the idea of making the wood look prettier. Thanks again for all the great info I’m excited to try things out!

    1. Hi Adam,
      I have not stained the wood after I’ve burned on it. Mostly because I think it would interfere with being able to see the artwork, but that would also depend on the color of stain you planned to use. I would recommend doing a test burn on scrape wood. Heck, you might be onto something new and wonderful.
      Thank you for the question and comment. Hope you have a great time with pyrography!

      1. Thanks for the reply! I will give it a try I have some older test pieces and I’ll be sure to share my results!

  18. HI Brenda. I am a woodworker/woodturner who recently “discovered” Pyrography. Your and Todd’s much needed work on finishes is very helpful. I have often used the moistening method on flat surfaces (table tops, etc…) and was wondering if it helps you to prevent having to sand at all after each coat of Lacquer. I am currently using 3 thin coats of Polycrylic with a topcoat of Permalac for UV protection. I believe that ANY sanding to reduce the nap removes the subtle light tones from burning and should be avoided. The problem comes in if I use the Permalac only. It has a dramatic effect on the Prismacolor pencils I use to accent my burning with. The solvent in the Lacquer causes the pencil to fade and run, destroying the finished burn. This creates a dilemma for me as to which finish to use. I don’t want to sand and can’t use the Permalac over the colored pencils (at least for the first coat). Any suggestions?

    Please visit my website below to see some of what I do (sorry, no Pyrography displayed as of yet).

    1. Hi Stan,
      you create some beautiful turnings. The water helps prevent the nap on the wood from becoming an issue, but sometimes it still does.

      Todd hasn’t heard of Permalac, but I did a quick internet search and all of the articles I read said you should mix your finished. If you start with a polycrylic, then finish with a polycrylic. One article said that the acetone and thinners in lacquer can eat through other finishes and really make a mess.

      As for UV, unless the art is sitting outside in the sun, the UV shouldn’t be an issue. I always tell people who buy my art to hang it in a place where it doesn’t receive directly sunlight.

      According to Todd, his first coat of lacquer is a very light layer of 50/50 lacquer and thinner. After the first coat then he starts applying 100% lacquer. He only sands, and very lightly at that with 600 grit sandpaper, if the finish is feeling a little fuzzy or rough.

      If I have used colored pencils on the artwork, then he uses a can of spray on lacquer (I know he has used min/max) and applies a very light first coat. He lets that dry for several hours and applies a second light layer. After that he switches to brushing on the remaining layers of lacquer (100% lacquer no thinner). He thinks brushed on lacquer provides a better coat vs sprayed. Plus he doesn’t have an airbrush for spraying on finishes and I won’t let him use mine as it’s for fine art and I don’t want it getting ruined.

      I should also point out that not all colored pencils are the same. Some colors are more lightfast than others. If the colors are in the “good” or lower rating they will fade. I would really stick with colors that are in the “excellent” to “very good” rating. This link will open a lightfast color chart for Prismacolor Premier pencils that I found on Dick Blick art supplies.

      Be aware, that ALL pyrography on wood loses some of the very subtle tan shades. Sealing the wood prevents the worst of it….as long as it isn’t plywood. Plywood fades no matter what and of all the woods I’ve tried it is the worst for fading and starts fading pretty quickly.

      I hope my long and windy answer helps.

  19. Brenda and Todd,
    Oh my goodness thank you so much for this blog! I’ve been struggling to find much information for Pyro art finishes-or from other artists. I’m about to do some test pieces today for the woods I use-marri, sheok, gum, blackbutt- and this has helped me considerably.
    The yellowing/darkening of the wood is what I struggle the most with as I feel like I’ve finished a piece, only to get disappointed when I lose half of my shading and detail when the finish is applied!
    I’m very excited to read your other blogs and tips.

    Thanks again

    Afyre Design

      1. Hello!
        I have not used waxes over any of my art. Keep in mind everything I’ve ever created has been decorational indoor art. I’ve burned on cribbage boards and gun stocks, but people aren’t going to leave those outside in the weather or cut food on them.
        I asked Todd about waxes and he said that he has used wax a couple of times, but a long time ago. Mostly he said what he doesn’t like about waxes, and oils for that matter, is that they attract dust and dirt. Or I guess I should say that dust and dirt stick to the surface and it’s a lot harder to clean than other finishes.
        Cutting boards he uses food grade mineral oil. Once a year re-applies the oil.
        Anything going outside he recommends polycrylic finishes as they are durable and don’t yellow. Unlike polyurethanes that really add a yellow hue to the wood.

        Thank you for your question and previous comment!

    1. Hi!
      I’m glad you found the blog helpful. I’ve experienced the same disappointment as you. Unfortunately when burning on wood you will always experience some fading as the wood ages and continues to oxidize. Like all artwork, exposure to UV will increase fading. I hope your testing goes well. I had to look up the woods you mentioned and they are beautiful.

    1. Hi Kirsty,
      thank you for the question. I asked Todd as he is the wood worker, and he is doubtful it would make a good seal. Todd recommended trying it on the underside or non-visible side of your project to test it out. Also he said that the tung oil would need to be completely cured or dried before testing.

  20. Hey there! Awesome article.
    I’m here because I’m stuck on what to use for my birch coasters without having them turn super dark and yellow. I’ve been using polycrylic so far, but like you’ve pointed out.. that plastic-like finish isn’t my favourite. Birch is super light when it’s dry and looks so good with fresh dark burning but as soon as the finish goes on it just makes it dark, murky, and blurry looking.

    1. Hi Kaitlyn,
      thanks for the great question. You mention these are coasters, so they will be exposed to wet and a variety of temperatures. My recommendation is Tung Oil or food grade Mineral Oil. They will handle extreme temperatures (even items fresh from the oven) and repel water, but I’m not sure how much they will darken the wood.

      Another option might be Arm-R-Seal urethane. I haven’t tried this finish, but have read that it provides a very durable finish that can tolerate heat. Since it is oil based it will repel water. Also, make sure to apply in a VERY WELL VENTILATED room!

      I highly recommend doing a testing out the finishes on a piece on scrap wood as I really don’t know how much either finish will darken the wood.


  21. I am wood burning cooking wood bamboo spoons and a piece of a log. What should i use for the spoons that wont be harmful in food?

    1. Hi Valerie,
      Use food-grade mineral oil. Once or twice a year it might need to be re-applied, but it is the only finish I would recommend for items that touch food. Thank you for your great question.

  22. If I’m going to paint, with acrylics, how should I seal wood burned wood be for painting to keep the paint from bleeding…what’s the best product overall?… I use a lot of wood canvases I purchase on amazon
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Holly,

      Thanks for the question. I’m not sure that acrylics can bleed after they are dry, but I haven’t experimented with sealing them so I’m not 100% sure. Generally speaking, the only time you have to worry about bleeding is if you brush on a finish, so I would use a spray on sealant. One that I’ve had great results with is Krylon’s Matte Finish. It’s designed for artwork and is non-yellowing, permanent, and eliminates glossy sheen. If you like a glossy or shiny finish they have Krylon Clear Coat which will impart a touch of sheen. I would apply a very light coat the first time, and let that dry very thoroughly before applying more coats.

      Good luck with your project and thanks again for the question.

      1. Hi Brenda! I love your articles, you’ve definitely been a massive help to me overall.
        I’ve burned my sign, and the bark is falling off in huge chucks all over the place, so I want to seal it to help with that, and also paint with some metallic paint for an accent.
        Am I right in assuming that the right process would be to spray minwax polyurethane (clear satin), and THEN paint my accents with my metallic finish acrylic paint? Or do you have any other suggestions?
        You’re like the authority on this and I so greatly appreciate your input!

        1. Hi Corinne,
          I’d have to say it’s a scary day when I’m the authority of wood finishes as my knowledge of them is very limited. Fortunately I have a hubby who is into woodworking and he has done a lot of research and testing finishes. So I talked to him and here’s the recommendation:
          1) glue the bark chunks back onto the side and let that dry. Use a wood glue or elmers white glue. This is of course assuming you want to keep the bark.

          The finish is dependent on whether or not this is an indoor or outdoor sign.
          If it’s outdoor sign, then yes Polyurethane should be applied. Keep in mind that polyurethane will had a yellow hue to the work, and it stinks something awful but it provides the best outdoor protection.
          If it’s an indoor sign, then I’d recommend polycrlic.

          As for the paint that’s a tough one. I don’t tend to use acrylic paints except on the sides of the board and for indoor use only. Regardless here’s what I’d recommend:
          Outdoor sign: I’d paint it first and the apply the finish. I’m just not sure that the acrylic paint would weather well in the outdoors. The quality of the paint might have an impact, but that’s just a guess. Also, be aware that matte and satin finishes will dull the metallic finish. You’d be better off using a semi glossy or glossy finish to keep the metallic sheen.

          If it’s an indoor sign, then apply the finish, let it cure, and then add the metallic paint accents. If the paint doesn’t seem to adhere well you can always mix it with a little varnish. I like to use the Pearl Ex varnish for that.

          No matter if it is an indoor or outdoor sign I do recommend testing out the finish with the paint on a piece of scrap wood first. It’s always good to see if the paint will react with the finish. I’ve had some react and turn colors I did not like, but I was using some really cheap watercolors. Do 2 tests on your scrap wood. One test would be with the paint applied first, and the second with the paint applied afterwards. This way you’ll see if there are any problems before you alter your artwork.

  23. I am going to be wood burning a friend of mine a door sign, and I will also be using acrylic paint what should I finish it with to keep it from getting weather warped, and keep it from fading since it’s going to be outside.

    1. Hi Jesse,
      Thanks for the great question. I talked with Todd and his recommendation is to use Indoor/Outdoor Spar Urethane in a matte or satin finish. I avoid glossy finishes over pyrography as the high sheen can make it hard to see the artwork. Helmsman makes an oil based Spar Urethane that should work perfect for you needs as it is UV resistance (sun protection) and protects against the wet elements.

  24. This is a very informative article. I am just beginning to get into pyrography seriously and am studying finishes, as in the past I have burned portraits and left them unfinished. They are fading, and I do not want to offer my work for sale if the wood burning will fade. I am bookmarking this as a great resource and to be able to follow along with your test results.

    1. Hi Jocelyn, I’m glad you found the article useful. I too have experienced fading and the worst offenders are pieces I’ve burned onto plywood boards. I’m guessing that’s because of how plywood is made (lots of glue involved), but I don’t know that for sure. Also I’ve found that it’s better to burn a little darker because really pale subtle color tends to get lost after finishing. I plan to create a new finish test piece that includes the polycrylic finish we’ve semi-recently discovered. My polycrylic test piece is aging well, but I’d like to compare it with other finishes on the same type of wood for better comparison. Hope your pyrography endeavors go well. Brenda

  25. Hi! What finish would you suggest for coasters? I’m looking for something which will withstand heat and moisture, but not yellow the wood.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Great question. The finish you want depends on the heat you want it to withstand and the amount of moisture. The heat is the most important part. If your coasters are for a hot coffee mug, hot chocolate, etc., try Minwax Polycrylic. Lots of different finishes from matte to gloss – your choice on that. If your “coaster” also doubles as the thing you put the frying pan on straight from the stove, this finish will likely discolor or turn waxy looking from that high a heat. If you do want something that will handle very high heat, all I can tell you is to use mineral oil and treat the coasters regularly to keep them up. I use this for the trivets I make and it works very well. Have put pans straight from the oven at 400 and never hurt that finish.

      Hope that helps,

      Brenda (and Todd) 😉

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