How to Make Wood Carvings Smooth & Shiny

Written by sam owens
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You have put a lot of work into a wood carving. The wood chips have all been cleaned up when you realise that your piece does not look quite finished. It still lacks some of the professional lustre that you were hoping for. Finishing wood takes only care and minimal equipment. Even the simplest projects, finished correctly, leave a lasting impression.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Sandpaper (60- and 100-grit)
  • Dust sheet
  • Quality stain brush
  • Gloss wood stain with polyurethane
  • Clean damp cloth

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  1. 1

    Take your 60-grit sandpaper and sand down all the carving's surfaces by hand. Pay close attention and care to small details in the carving. It should lose roughness to the eye but a slight roughness will remain to the hand. Take care not to sand away any fine details.

  2. 2

    Sand your carving lightly with the finer 100-grit sandpaper. You will feel the surface becoming smoother to the touch.

  3. 3

    Wipe down your carving with a clean damp cloth, focusing in particular on the small crevices in the piece where dust might be trapped. Allow the carving to dry thoroughly before moving on.


  1. 1

    Place the dust sheet under your carving and over anything in your work area that you don't want to risk getting stain on.

  2. 2

    Using the stain brush, apply a very thin and even coat of stain. A quality stain job takes a few coats to achieve the proper colouring. Thin coats prevent any unsightly dripping or streaking that may occur with a thick coat.

  3. 3

    Consult your stain's label for dry times. If dripping or streaking occurs, let stain dry and then lightly sand with 100-grit sandpaper before applying the next coat. The gloss finish and polyurethane give your piece shine and protection.

Tips and warnings

  • Consult swatches of stains at the store you will purchase the stain from. A range of shine and colours are available. If you want the natural colour of the wood to come through, use a gloss polyurethane wood sealer instead of tinted stain.
  • Make sure your work area is well ventilated. Many stains give off harmful vapours.

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