How to Engrave a Wood Plaque

Written by kaye wagner
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How to Engrave a Wood Plaque
You can add colour to wood plaques with watercolour pencils. (bois image by Unclesam from

Homemade wooden plaques can commemorate family events, family records or keepsakes. Wood burning is one way to engrave wood plaques at home. Wood burning tools supply enough heat to burn the top few layers of the wood. By adjusting the pressure you use you can create shaded areas in your wood plaque.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Wood-burning tool
  • Wood plaque
  • Wood-burning tip
  • Sandpaper
  • Watercolour pencils
  • Paintbrush
  • Shellac

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  1. 1

    Sand the plaque with fine sandpaper until the surface is perfectly smooth. Smooth over any cracks or gouges as these may catch the tip of the wood-burning tool and may ruin your design. Wipe away all of the sawdust as it can interfere with the wood burning.

  2. 2

    Place carbon paper over the piece of wood and then place your design over the carbon paper. Draw over the lines of your design with a sharp pencil. This will transfer the carbon to the surface of the plaque. Remove both pieces of paper and darken the lines with a pencil if needed.

  3. 3

    Press the blade of your wood-burning tool into the surface of the plaque and move along the lines. Use the same pressure and speed so that the lines are the same darkness and width. Roll the tool between your thumb and forefinger to create curved lines.

  4. 4

    Shade the design on the wood plaque if necessary. Hold the tool on its rounded side and press it into the surface of the plaque. Shade on one side of the lettering or design to make it look three-dimensional.

  5. 5

    Add details around the plaque by pressing the tip of the tool into the wood to make dots or very lightly dragging the edge across the wood to make light lines.

  6. 6

    Colour the design with watercolour pencils. Do not push too hard as it can bruise the wood or cause scratches.

  7. 7

    Dip a paintbrush in water and squeeze most of the water out. Draw it across the coloured areas. This will help blend the coloured pencil lines. Do not blend one coloured area with another as it may cause the colours to mix and get muddled.

  8. 8

    Coat the plaque with shellac once it is completely dry. Allow the shellac to dry completely.

Tips and warnings

  • Carbon residue will build up on the point of your wood-burning tool. The residue can interfere with wood burning. To remove it, simply drag the blade across a piece of sandpaper.
  • You can purchase a wood burning kit at any craft or art supply store.
  • Be careful when using wood burning tools as they can get up to 900 degrees and can easily burn your fingers or start a fire.

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