3 Best Ways to Finish a Chip Carving

Finishing a chip carving is just as important as finishing a regular wood carving. A finish will preserve your chip carving for longer, protect it from moisture, and improve its aesthetic appeal to anyone who looks or touches it. However, it is important that your carvings are finished with the right kind of finish, and this is exactly what this article is about. So, what are some of the best wood finishes for chip carvings?

There are different ways to finish a chip carving and the best ones that are commonly applied include using polyurethane spray finish, using satin lacquer finish, and applying paste wax finish. The finish that you choose would depend on the outcome that you want – whether light or dark and also the type of wood – whether softwood or hardwood.

Finishing a chip carving is an art that requires a good understanding of the different finishes and methods. After the painstaking effort of doing all the carvings, you don’t want to mess up the last step and make the overall outcome look ugly. In that regard, some of the few things that you should do when finishing include:

  • To remove the leftover patterns or lines that are left on the wood before applying any finish. You should ensure that all the carvings are clean and free of any dust or unintended lines.
  • The next step is to apply a coat of a sanding sealer, then leave it to dry, and then lightly sand, then remove all the dust with a vacuum cleaner.
  • Paying attention to the kind of wood you are using, and if it is a part of our Top 5 Best Woods For Chip Carving.

Once your project is ready for finishing, these are some of the best ways to achieve the best depending on the outcome that you want:

Option 1: Polyurethane Spray Finish

If you want a high-gloss effect on your carvings, then a polyurethane spray finish is the best option. The good thing about polyurethane finish is that they are the most durable and are also easy to apply.

Many woodworkers would tell you that there are a number of ways to go about polyurethane spray, and even getting the best of it when you don’t want a sharp gloss. One way is to paste wax over a dried finish, and that will reduce the gloss effect. However, if you don’t mind having a bright gloss, then these are the steps:

When using polyurethane finish, you need to apply light coats then sand with 220 grit sandpaper after it has dried. After that, add the gel stain.

There are different types of gel stains but I would recommend using MINWAX gel stain.

The third step after the stain has dried is to apply the polyurethane spray until you achieve the perfect taste that you want. This is an easy process, especially when using a spray gun.  


  • Polyurethane finish is durable and would last on your carvings.
  • It is easy to apply polyurethane spray since it comes in a spray bottle.
  • Results in a good high-gloss finish.
  • Works on different types of woods whether hardwood or softwood.
  • It protects the wood against harmful chemicals that would otherwise damage the wood.


  • Not good for those who don’t want a high gloss effect on their carvings.

Option 2: Using Satin Lacquer finish

Before applying satin lacquer, as in option 1, ensure that there is no dust or unwanted pattern lines. You can sand lightly and clean the dust with a vacuum cleaner. When the carving is ready for finishing, apply 2 – 3 coats of satin lacquer finish evenly. You can do this using by using a small paintbrush.

For the best results, however, I would recommend that you spray the satin lacquer rather than brush it.

Satin lacquer gives a warm glow and dries up quickly. It is also easy to spray. In addition to that, it is suitable for most wood types, except on oily exotic woods.


  • Gives a warm glowing finish.
  • Suitable for most wood types.
  • Easy to apply using spray guns.
  • It dries up quickly.
  • The color does not change when it gets dry, it is the same when wet and when dry.
  • It is wear-resistant and resists heat discoloration hence gives wood a durable finish.


  • The off-gassing is toxic when it is wet but safe when dry.

Option 3: Applying Paste Wax finish

Paste wax finish is common for use with decorative carvings. This is because they are not durable with excessive handling. They are good for pieces that do not need handling such as decorative carvings as we have mentioned.

The good thing about wax finish is that it gives a clear final finish that makes the wood look natural. This means that it does not leave a different stain color that is different from that of wood. It just gives it an outstanding clear finish.

To apply the paste wax, you need a high-quality synthetic paintbrush. I would recommend a ½-inches size brush, then load the brush with wax. You need to ensure that you don’t carry a lot of wax on the brush, then apply gently and evenly on your carving.

After the first application, let it sit for about five minutes. Then with the same brush, ensure that you do not have excess wax on the brush by cleaning it with a clean piece of cloth, then do the final touch to puff the wax until you achieve the desired results of your carving.


  • Paste wax looks great on hardwood.
  • It gives wood a natural warm glow that is not different from the color of the wood.
  • It is eco-friendly and non-toxic.
  • It is the clearest finish of all.  
  • Easy to apply.


  • Not good for oily woods.
  • Does not last long on constant handling.

100% natural finish for a chip carving

There are different types of finishes for chip carving. Other than what we have discussed, there are natural options that also work great for finishing works. These are categorized into:

1. Penetrating finishes

These kinds of finishes are the ones that penetrate into the wood. This gives the wood a natural appearance and is easy to apply. Penetrating finishes include Danish oil, tung oil, Cedar oil, and linseed oil among others.

2. Surface finishes

The surface finishes as the name suggests, are the kind of finishes that are applied on top of the wood. This works as a protective finish on the surface of the wood. These finishes include beeswax among others.

Of course, there are different types of natural wood finishes and each comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, it is important to understand the choice that you want, and how it will look on your carvings.

Other ways to finish a chip carving

Apart from staining or using any type of finish, sanding is also one of the ways to finish a chip carving. This works to give your carvings a fine look even without applying any spray or finish. However, this is a delicate process and you need to be extra careful on the choice of sandpaper that you use, for finer artworks, 220 grit sandpaper is recommendable.

Final Thoughts…

As we have discussed, there are different ways and options to finish a chip carving. The choice is dependent on what appearance you want to achieve, the glow that you want, the type of wood, and perhaps personal preferences. We hope that this guide will help you achieve the best of your carvings.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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