Can You Stain Over Wood Burning? — Finish Your Burnt Wood

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Pyrography technique or wood burning can give your wooden project a unique design. But many beginner woodworkers have hesitations about which finishes they can use to avoid potentially damaging their project.

I understand this dilemma, so I will share here some insights on whether you can stain over wood burning and other alternatives you can try.

Can You Apply Stain After Wood Burning?

If you want put some color to enhance your pyrography project’s wood grain and the art itself, you can certainly stain it.

Staining after wood burning gives your design a more polished and smooth finish while accentuating the details. You can use light shades of stain to mix with the burnt effect of the pyrography designs.

I also stain the wood after designing it, because burning stained wood creates toxic chemical fumes which are harmful to your health and the environment. Not to mention, stained wood is more flammable than bare wood.

staining burnt wood

Therefore, I strongly recommend staining it after wood burning by following these exact steps.

How to Stain Wood Burning

Although art enthusiasts usually only consider sealing wood burning, staining emphasizes the pyrography designs. Here’s how you would stain after wood burning.

Supplies You Will Need

Step #1: Clean and Prepare the Surface

Wear gloves and a mask before cleaning and preparing the burnt wood. Then, get your wood-burning project and ensure the burnt design is cool already.

Remove burnt wood particles from the surface using a clean rag or a dust collection pipe system to clean thoroughly. The surface should have no dirt or any impurities before staining.

If you can see the evident wood grain or raised wood fibers on the surface, lightly sand the surface using 220 or 320 grit.

Sanding the wood surface will create an even and consistent absorption of stain. An unsanded surface could create tacky surfaces, streaks, and blotches formation.

Harry Potter Cutting Board With Pyrography

Step #2: Condition Your Wood

It is time to condition your wood after sanding. Use a pre-stain similar to your stain products for a better result. Wood conditioning is essential to your wood-burning project to ensure that stains are spread equally and evenly on the entire surface.

For optimal absorption, utilize a paintbrush to apply the pre-stain in alignment with the wood’s grain. Allow the wood to sit for a minimum of one minute to enhance absorption.

Step #3: Apply Your Chosen Wood Stain

Apply your preferred stain using the paintbrush. I would recommend using a lighter shade of stain to emphasize the lines of your burn wood project. Also, it is better to apply thin coats of stain for each layer and brush along the direction of the wood grain.

Avoid putting pressure on your paintbrush while staining so you won’t get any marks because the high pressure creates deep color covering the burned lines. The maximum coats should be two layers for better results.

After you have achieved your desired stain, wipe off the excess stain using a clean, lint-free tack cloth. Removing the stains prevent streaks and blotches and creates a glossier burn wood project. 

Rust-Oleum 260358 Ultimate Wood Stain

Step #4: Let the Wood Surface Dry and Cure

After the last layer of your stain, let it dry for 24 hours to dry and cure it for a couple of days to see the color of your stain over your wood-burning project.

If you’re looking for easy projects, here is a list of the best wood burning ideas to try!

The Best Stains For Wood Burning

The best stains for wood-burning projects are gel and water-based to prolong your wood and enhance the burning lines. The following are the best stains:

The Best Sealants for Wood Burning After Staining

Here are some quality sealant options you can use:

best sealants after staining

Sealing your stained burnt wood to add a protective layer is essential because stain only enhances its physical appearance.

There are many ways to apply wood sealants, such as the spray-on and brush-on methods.

Spray-on method takes less time to apply but is more expensive than a paintbrush, and you need to have the skill in application. While the brush-on method is cost-efficient and easier to control than spray paint [1] but takes longer to dry.

Also, you can have different finishes depending on your desire, such as matte for a dull finish, satin for a velvety look with a bit of shine, semi-gloss for a slight gloss but not shiny, and gloss for the most lustrous look.

tissue holder

Tips & Tricks On Applying Stain on Top of Wood Burning

Here are my proven tips and tricks on applying stain on top of wood burning:

Should You Burn Wood Before Or After Staining?

Let me tell you, from years in the woodshop, you’re gonna want to go with burning, then sanding, and finally staining. Sure, you could sand before you burn if you like, but whatever you do, don’t skip the sanding part.

Sanding is important after you create a unique burnt design, and it will also help your wood absorb the better stain.

Regardless of the imperfections on your wood, sanding resolves issues of any woodworker about raised grain, dirt, grease, splinters, and deep grooves.

customized coffee table

Now, I’ve heard some folks wonder about staining before burning. Trust me, you don’t want to go down that road.

This procedure is dangerous and the same as burning treated or painted lumber. Aside from it can cause accidents, the fumes coming from burned stained wood are toxic both to your health and the environment.

Plus, you run the risk of over-burning your project, and in the world of pyrography, there are no do-overs.

Therefore, you must create your burning wood designs before sanding and staining.

Should You Sand After Wood Burning?

TECCPO TAMS22P Compact Detail Sander

Sanding is essential to wood preparation before staining or painting your wood and creating your unique burning-wood designs. It accentuates the burnt lines, which make an aesthetic look after staining it.

Also, sanding the surface of your wood creates better and more consistent absorption for your stain.

See Also: Does Charring Wood Seal It?


Now, with the steps I’ve laid out for staining over wood burning, you can embark on your wood projects without the fear of something going awry. Just remember to follow these guidelines carefully, or you might find yourself back at square one.

In the past, pyrography may have posed its challenges, especially when it came to choosing the right shade. But now, you can confidently stain your wood-burning projects to perfection.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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