Finding the best sealant for wood burning is important. It will protect and give longevity to your artwork.

We have put together a list of the different sealants available and how you can apply them correctly.

The Right Way To Burn Onto Wood

Pyrography is the art of burning designs, using calligraphy, and drawing freehand into wood using a hot tool.

Using wood as your medium requires that one treat the wood before and after the process of burning the wood.

Before burning the wood, the wood is prepped to ensure the good condition of wood for the tool to burn into. This allows the tips can glide easier over the wood guaranteeing a smoother expression of the art onto the wood.

After burning into your project one needs to seal the wood to preserve the wood. This creates a barrier to keep the moisture levels the same and to protect your art.

There is no one best sealer for wood burning. Choose the one that suits the object you have burnt into best and will protect what it is going to be used for most efficiently.

There is a multitude of methods and sealants that can be used, all with very specific outcomes and methods to apply them. They have distinct properties that make them appropriate for their use.
i.e. ornamental, practical, interior, or exterior use.

First Things First – Prepping Your Wood For Burning

Prepping your wood is just as important a process as sealing, and is done in three simple stages.

  1. Sand down the wood to as smooth as you can possibly get it, utilising low grit rough sandpaper (lower grit is more abrasive, hence it will sand off more much quicker). Buying different grits and working your way from a lower to a higher grit makes the wood smoother each time.
  2. Once the sanding is done, wet down the wood, making sure not to drown the wood. Leave the surface wet to the touch, then leave the wood to dry.
  3. Once dry, sand the wood again with a higher grit (220 grit is recommended).

Now your wood is ready to be burned into.

Different Types of Sealant Applications

Before any sealant is applied, make sure you have removed any wood residue left from the burning. Lightly brush over the wood and then you can apply your sealant.

Here are the methods of application:

Spray-On

This is applying a sealant from an aerosol can.

This method will not disturb any of the etching especially if you have added any color to your project.

One sprays lightly, layer by layer, taking intervals to let each layer fully dry. Apply the next layer, until the desired finish.

Make sure that the nozzle is not very close to the wood to ensure thin layers. Hold the nozzle at least 5 centimeters away.

This prevents unevenness and pooling (visible droplets concentrated around an area) in the finish. These cannot be removed from the finish.

Brush-On

This is the application of the sealant utilizing a brush. This requires a certain level of expertise to get a smooth finish.

METHODADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Spray-OnTakes less time to apply as the sealant dries quicker.Rather costly in comparison.
Great skill is required in the application process to make sure there is no pooling.
Brush-OnCost-efficient.
Easier to control the application with brush maneuvers and reapplication and spreading evenly.
Longer time for application and drying, as singular layers may take a whole day to dry.

Find The Best Sealant For Wood Burning Art

Best Sealant For Wood Burning

The finishes range from glossy to matte, moving from the shiniest finish, which reflects more light to matte, which absorbs the light instead.

  • Matte – is the most absorbent, leaving the finish with a dull finish
  • Satin – a slightly velvety look, still absorbent with a very slight shine
  • Semi-gloss – closer to gloss
  • Gloss – this leaves the piece the shiniest and lustrous

So now let’s have a look to see what the best sealant for pyrography options are.


Types of Wood Sealer And Application Methods

Nothing (Raw Wood)


This is when the wood is not applied with any finish, so when one is done, the art can be displayed.

But do you have to seal wood after burning?

It is recommended to give the wood some protection. Leaving the wood natural can lead to the distortion of the piece, from the accumulation of dirt and possible loss and gain of moisture in the wood.

ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Simplest and cheapest method.Leaves the piece vulnerable to moisture build-up or loss, which can lead to cracking of wood.
Less time-consuming as once the piece is done, it is done.Subject to absorbing oils, smells, and dirt that cannot be wiped/ cleaned away.

Lacquer


Lacquer is one of the more resilient forms of finish for sealing burnt wood.

Composed of a shellac solution it is a formidable sealant. It keeps the wood water-resistant and durable, leaving the piece with a glossy finish.

It can be applied by both sprays and by brush. One must use lacquer thinner to thin it down to the consistency one wants.

With the first coat, it is advisable to thin out the coat and then use less lacquer thinner in the following coats. Use stronger coats on the external layers.

Lacquer has a very strong smell hence application should be done in a well-ventilated place so you do not inhale the fumes. These can be damaging to one’s health.

ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Strong finishVery pungent smell that could be harmful if inhaled in large amounts
One can polish the wood after the finish is applied as a form of keeping the piece cleanIt will require a number of coats (three or more) for a good finish
A very quick dry timeThinner will dissolve this finish, even when it has dried
Does not discolor at the same levels as other finishesWill age over time
No need for an extra stage of sanding down between coat layering
No hardeners in the composition, so the mixture will not dry up but can be utilized until it has been used up

Over time lacquer finishes do age and start to look unappealing. But one can sand down the coats and then re-apply lacquer.

Furniture Wax


Wax is possibly the easiest form of finish to apply and hence has been in use for a very long time.

Application method:

  • One simply applies the was with a cloth and buffs the layer and on to the next layer and next buff, simple.
  • One can use a soft bristle brush to get to the grooves during application and then a wax brush to remove excess wax.
ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Easy to applyMust be reapplied over time
The end result is a more natural lookDifficult to remove if over applied
Comparatively cheaperMinimal protection to the wood
Buffing is extra work

Mod Podge (hard coat)


The water-based sealer is very versatile, working both as a sealant, finish, and glue agent for those that may want to try decoupage.

Application method:

  • Firstly, one applies a thin coat with a brush, (use Mod Podge brushes for the best results). Allow it to dry for about 20 minutes, then sand it with 400 grit sandpaper.
  • Then apply another coat, repeat until you have about 4 coats.
ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Very durable finishTakes very long to fully dry (cure), 4 weeks
Does not have a pungent odor and is nontoxicPricey
Can easily be cleaned up with water
Available in many finishes from glossy to matte

Oil


This refers to any oil that can be applied to the wood to keep the moisture in the wood. Due to its non-toxic property, it works well on cutting boards or wooden bowls that will have any contact with food.

The most common oils are:

  1. Tung Oil – great for a close to the grain look, allowing you to touch and feel the texture of the wood.
  2. Mineral Oil – great for any cutting surface or anything that will be in contact with food.
  3. Walnut Oil – for a lush satin finish that is food safe.

Application method:

  • Apply with a cloth and work the oil into the wood, rubbing the oil into the wood in a back-and-forth motion.
  • Leave the wood to absorb the oil for a couple of hours and then apply another coat. Do this until the wood stops absorbing any more oil.
ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Easy to applyDirt and dust accumulate due to the wet finish
Nontoxic and eco friendlyTakes a while to fully dry between coats (a couple of hours)
Very easy to reapply when neededNeed for reapplication to retain the protection
The finish can withstand very high heat causing no damage to the wood

Polycrylic


A clear, durable, and water-resistant finish that is quick-drying and non-yellowing.

This finish gives the wood a very resilient result, protecting the wood from damage caused by temperature and light.

Application method:

  • Brush on a thin coat and then let it dry for about 2 hours.
  • Gently sand and then brush another coat and repeat the process until you reach the desired coat.
ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Available in many finishes from glossy to matteThe finish has a plastic feel
Easy to clean with a bit of waterIn between coats, one must sand before applying another coat
Nontoxic and eco friendly
Very strong finish
Water-resistant

Polyurethane


There are two types of this finish.

  1. Oil – the more durable and cheaper of the two, normally lasting about 10 years.
  2. Water – this is the quicker drying one that requires far much more skill to apply.

The main factor to the durability is the percentage of polyurethane in the mixture. The higher the percentage, the more the durability and the long-lasting.

This sealant can be applied both by brush and spray.

Application method:


Water-based:

  • Brush or spray on a thin coat and then let it dry for about 2 hours.
  • Gently sand and then brush another coat and repeat the process until you reach the desired coat.


Oil-based:

  • Make sure the area is well ventilated. Brush or spray on a thin coat and then let it dry for about 2 hours at a minimum (this could take longer).
  • Gently sand and then brush another coat and repeat the process until you reach the desired coat. It may take more than a day for the wood to be fully cured.
ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Very strong finishNeed to sand between coats so the coats bond
Can either be sprayed on or brushed onVisible yellow tinge in the finish
Available in many finishes from glossy to matteOil-based has toxic fumes and takes longer to dry
Water-based is quicker to dry and has far fewer vapor odors

Resin


This may also be referenced as epoxy resin.

It is a two-component mixture compounding an epoxy liquid and a hardener.

This sealant is best for waterproofing a wood piece and if you would like to incorporate color into the barrier. Adding a tint will change the shade and natural color of the wood.

Application method:

  • One must clean the wood and sand it down and make sure that the wood is dry.
  • After mixing your resin, spread it as evenly as possible. (The thicker the coat, the more protection for the wood piece).
  • Remove any excess whilst the resin is still wet, utilising a cloth with methylated spirit. One should also remove any bubbles that have formed with either a hot air gun or a torch.
  • Then allow the wood to cure overnight.
  • One can scrape off bits when the wood and resin have dried.
ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Very easy to applyThe finish yellows over time
UV protection
Classy glassy finish
Extremely durable

Shellac


Shellac is comprised of resin made from a secretion from lac bugs and a form of ethanol.

This mixture is soluble in denatured alcohol, rendering the quick-drying property in shellac. Found in clear, white, and orange, the color may affect the wood color during the application process.

One can brush or spray shellac on and is great for a natural finish.

Application method:

  • Make sure to apply in a well-ventilated space.
  • Brush on or spray your coat and let it dry for about an hour. Continue to apply another coat. With each coat, the coat absorbs into the previous coat.
  • Hence there is no need to sand down each coat before applying a new one.
ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Very easy to applyCan be damaged by alcohol
NontoxicShort shelf life
Very quick dryingHeat softens and discolors the coat
Can be brushed or sprayed on
Easily repairable by applying a new coat on top of the damaged area

Spar Urethane


Normally the go-to for any outdoor wood piece. This finish is a stronger variant of Polyurethane with added oil solids in the mixture for a tougher finish.

Application method:

  • Prep the wood by sanding it down using 150-220 grit sandpaper. Then remove all dust particles before the application process.
  • Make sure you apply in a well-ventilated area, brush or spray your first coat and allow the wood to dry for 3-4hours.
  • Gently sand with a 220 grit sandpaper before applying the next coat, then wait another 3- 4 hours.
  • Apply a minimum of 3 coats and once done, allow the wood fully to dry for 24 hours before use.
ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
More durable, normally used for outside furniturePungent odor
Can be brushed or sprayed onStains the wood yellow
Most suitable for wood that will be in a place with high moisture

Tru Oil


A blend of oils (linseed, mineral spirits, and other oil), which makes the finish dry quicker.

Application method:

  • Prep the wood by sanding it down using 150-220 grit sandpaper. Remove all dust particles before the application process.
  • Apply in a well-ventilated place to quicken the curing process. Apply the tru-oil, spreading it evenly for a very thin ad uniform layer on the wood.
  • Once uniform, allow it to dry completely (2-4 hours). Then lightly buff with steel wool and then apply another coat.
  • Apply as many coats until you are satisfied. Then leave it for a day for the final coat to dry.
  • A general rule is if you can smell the oil, then the wood has not fully cured.
ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Very easy to apply to the woodYellows the wood
Dries quicklyNeed for buffing or sanding in between coats
Fairly cheap

Food Safe Products And Their Application

The process of making any food-safe wooden utensil or object will begin with using oil. The oil works to create a moisture barrier to ensure the retention of the shape of the object and prevent cracking over time.

Progressing to the next stage, the application of a water-resistant sealant forms an exterior shell.

Phase 1 – Oil


Depending on the type of oil, there will be different drying times, most favorable to use are:

Tung Oil


Even though the biggest problem about this oil is how long it takes to dry it is the most organic (when it is 100% pure). It is the safest oil to use in this phase and when completely dry the finish leaves the wood stronger.

Mineral Oil


This petroleum-based, non-toxic oil is fairly affordable. Once cured it is resistant to liquids and foods, but it does wear off over time and may need reapplication.

Walnut Oil


Another organic oil that once dry does not give off a smell of old food like other oils. It also leaves the wood with a satin finish.

The oil cures best in warm environments. Fully cured this sealant may last for a greater time.

One should look for allergen-free oil, especially if a food utensil is being sealed.

Butcher Block Oil


The natural oil is environmentally friendly, which cures the wood to a low allergen. It also produces a relatively impervious finish.

This will prevent any of the wood from molding due to the moisture barrier that is formed.

For the best possible results, 2-3 coats of the oil of your choice should be applied.

Phase 2 – Conditioner


This process is to create a barrier to strengthen the water-resistance of the wood.

Plain waxes will be mixed with oil; the oil will facilitate the penetrating of the wood. The wax activates inside the wood, to create its water-resistant property.

These blends will be applied to the wood and will sit for about 30 minutes, before buffing or sanding off.

Beeswax & Oil


The natural (no chemicals or additives) blend darkens woods. It is also highly functional against fighting bacteria.

Beeswax is a natural protection from stains and liquid. This conditioner will need regular application.

It brings back the luster of the wood and keeps the wood healthy.

Carnauba Wax (food grade) and Oil


Carnauba wax is a hard drying wax that leaves wood surfaces protected and lustrous. It adds a natural oil that helps create a moisture barrier maintaining moisture both in and outside the wood piece.

Applying regularly ensures protection.

Butcher Block Conditioner


This blend of beeswax, pure USP Food Grade Mineral Oil, and Brazilian carnauba wax will not go rancid. It will maintain the wood by keeping the mineral oil in and any moisture out.

By retaining moisture it ensures no cracking of the wood.

How To Seal Wood Burning Art with Colour Added

Colour can be added using watercolor paint, ink, acrylic, or color pencil. These can be applied either around or inside your burn area.

Before one seals the art, try to make sure that any painted or wet colored medium is dry before using the sealant.

The best finish for wood burning work with color:

Spray Varnish


The method of application is very important; spraying will ensure that the color is not smeared in the application.

Always apply thin coats, in the beginning, making your way to thicker coats. You may even move to a brush application when the first coats have dried and the color cannot be disturbed. Varnish also works to enhance the colors.

N.B Choose spray varnish specifically made for oil paintings, and for any colored pencil piece.

Spray Polyurethane


The quick-drying sealant is one of the best due to its fast-drying and application method. It will not smudge the design and one can find a variety of finishes from matte to gloss.

Preparation For Sealing A Wood Burning Artwork

Good Ventilation

Ensure that the space you are working in is airy and allows circulation of air

Due to the sometimes toxic fumes that sealants have, you should make sure you are never in a place that is stuffy. You do not want to inhale a lot of the fumes.

One can even have a fan in that space blowing the fumes away from you. This could even help in the curing process of the wood.

Work In A Warm Room With Warm Wood

With some sealants, a warm environment proves to improve the performance. It also helps activate the curing process.

Make sure that both the wood and sealant are warm. This helps to prevent any bubbles from forming distorting your finish.

Apply In Thin Layers

This is key to remember, thin layers allow for quicker drying times. Thin layers permit easier correction of errors.

For most sealants, the first coats always have to be thin working towards thicker layers.

Do Not Use Directly From The Bottle Or Can

Always put the sealant you are working with in a separate container to brush from. Contaminating your product can easily happen as some woods stain or leach color.

This may mix with your large volume of sealant meaning you would not be able to use it again, due to the shade of color that has now been acquired.

Do Not Mix Products

Each sealant has a different chemical makeup. Even with the natural and organic products and sealants that have the same base, components differ.

Some compositions may have other additives that may work to counteract how other sealants work. Overall, mixing products could cause less than optimal performance.

It could possibly damage your wood too.

Finishes For Wood Burning Done on Non-Wood Products

Burning may be done as an art form on other materials just as effectively. Read on for how to finish and protect them too.

Gourds


Prep the gourd – clean the gourd interior by scooping out the seeds using a spoon. Gently scrub with steel wool.

After one has burned into it, one must proceed to open up the gourd’s pores for effective application of the wax. Heat an oven to 135 degrees Celsius and then place in the oven.

Application:

  • (Carnauba wax, Paraffin wax, Beeswax) : melt the wax. When liquid, quickly apply thoroughly and generously with a brush on the warm gourd.
  • Let dry and apply another two coats permitting the gourd to fully cool down between the coats.

Leather


Leather Conditioner – add a small amount of the conditioner on a soft cloth. Spread evenly all across the leather piece and then start to rub it in gently, in a circular motion.

When done, with the dry side of your cloth, lightly wipe off any excess conditioner left.

Bone


Spray Polycrylic – Prep the bone. Dip the bone in a high-grade peroxide and clean it by scrubbing off any material within the crevices with a toothbrush.

Then mix some peroxide and water and allow your bone to sit in there for about a week and allow it another week to dry.

Application:

  • Spray on a thin coat and then let it dry for about 2 hours.
  • Gently sand and then spray another coat and repeat the process until you reach the desired coat.

Cotton Fabric


Textile Medium – apply by gently brushing the medium onto the fabric.

Paper


Spray Archival Fixative – spray evenly across your paper, keeping the spray about 15cm away from the paper.

Conclusion


Finding the perfect sealant for your project is critical to ensuring that your work lasts and looks better for a longer period.

The questions to ask yourself before buying a sealant are:

  1. What is the object going to be used for?
  2. How often shall it be used?
  3. Where will it be placed or stored?

Answering those three questions will help you in finding the best wood sealer suitable for your piece.

Also with this information, you can try them all out to find which works best for you.

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