Best Sealer for Wood Carvings

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been carving wood for a while, there’s something crucial you need to know: how to protect your creations. That’s where sealing comes in. It’s like giving your wood carving a shield to keep it safe from harm. But not all shields are the same. Choosing the right one can make your carving last longer and look better. In this article, we’ll walk you through different types of sealers and help you pick the perfect one for your wood carving. Plus, as a bonus, we’ll show you how to use it step by step. Let’s get started!

Why Do You Need to Seal Wood Carvings?

Wood is a special material because it can soak up things like water, dirt, and other not-so-nice stuff. When wood carvings don’t have protection, they can get hurt in a few ways:

  • Damage: Water can make wood puff up or bend, which can mess up the shape of your carving. It can even make the wood crack.
  • Discoloration: Sunlight can change the color of the wood, and not in a good way. Your carving might lose its pretty colors.
  • Dirt and Dust: Wood without protection likes to collect dirt and dust, making it look dirty and not so nice.
  • Insect Friends: Bugs like termites love wood. Without protection, your carving could become a home for them.

But don’t worry! By putting a coat of sealer on your wood carvings, you make a shield that keeps all these problems away. Your creations will stay beautiful for a long, long time.

Related: How to protect outdoor carvings

Types of Wood Sealers

There are various types of wood sealers available, each with its unique characteristics and purposes. Let’s explore the most common ones:

sealing with polyurethane

1. Polyurethane Sealers


  • These sealers are really strong.
  • You can choose if you want your wood to look shiny or not.
  • They keep water away, so they work inside and outside.
  • You can put them on easily with a brush or spray.


  • Can be challenging to reapply or repair if damaged.
  • May give a plastic-like appearance if not applied correctly.

Polyurethane sealers are a popular choice for wood carvings due to their robust protective qualities. They come in both water-based and oil-based formulations, offering different finishes to suit your preferences.

2. Tung Oil


  • Makes wood look warm and lovely.
  • Goes deep into the wood to keep it safe.
  • Putting it on is easy, and you can fix it if needed.


  • Requires multiple coats for maximum protection.
  • Longer drying time compared to some other sealers.

Tung oil is a favorite among woodcarvers who want to preserve the wood’s natural look while still providing adequate protection. It’s a great choice for indoor carvings and decorative pieces.

3. Linseed Oil

sealing with linseed


  • Makes wood’s grain and color pop.
  • It’s not too hard to put on, and it dries fairly fast.
  • Protects wood from moisture and wear.


  • May darken the wood over time.
  • Requires periodic reapplication to maintain protection.

Linseed oil is another natural sealer that brings out the wood’s beauty. It’s a versatile option suitable for both indoor and outdoor wood carvings.

4. Paste Wax


  • It’s simple to put on and gives a nice, smooth look.
  • Keeps moisture and dust away.


  • Requires more frequent reapplication compared to other sealers.
  • Not ideal for outdoor use or high-wear areas.

Paste wax is a straightforward and effective sealer that adds a lustrous finish to your wood carvings. It’s an excellent choice for decorative indoor pieces.

Choosing the Best Sealer for Your Wood Carvings

Selecting the right sealer for your wood carvings depends on several factors:

1. Type of Wood

Different types of wood have varying levels of porosity and natural resistance to moisture. Hardwoods like oak and walnut may require different sealers than softer woods like pine or cedar. Consider the type of wood you’re working with when choosing a sealer.

2. Indoor or Outdoor Use

Will your wood carving be displayed indoors or outdoors? Outdoor carvings need sealers with superior moisture resistance to withstand rain, sun, and temperature fluctuations. Indoor pieces can use a wider range of sealers since they don’t face the same harsh conditions.

3. Desired Finish

Think about the finish you want for your wood carving. Do you prefer a glossy, matte, or satin appearance? Each sealer type offers different finishes, so select one that complements your artistic vision.

4. Ease of Application

Consider your comfort level with applying sealers. Some, like paste wax, are beginner-friendly and easy to use. Others, like polyurethane, may require more skill and equipment for application.

Now, let’s delve into some of the best sealers for wood carvings available in the market.

Best Sealers for Wood Carvings

When it comes to choosing the best sealer for your wood carvings, you have several excellent options. Here are some top choices:

1. Most durable sealer for carvings

Minwax Helmsman Indoor/Outdoor Spar Urethane

If you're making a wood carving for the great outdoors, especially in places with rough weather, then you'll want to meet the Helmsman Spar Urethane. This stuff is built to last and protect your carving like a champion. It's like putting on a sturdy coat for your wood.

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But Wait, It’s Versatile!

The cool thing about Helmsman Spar Urethane is that it’s not just for outdoor jobs. Nope, it’s a versatile player. You can totally use it for indoor carvings too. So whether your masterpiece will live inside or outside, this urethane has got you covered.

Easy to Put On

Now, you might be wondering how to get this Helmsman Spar Urethane onto your carving. No worries, it’s a piece of cake. You can use a polyurethane brush for a more hands-on approach, or if you want to make things super easy and get an even coat even in those tricky spots, they’ve got a spray can version. It’s like magic in a can! So, choose the way that works best for you, and let Helmsman Spar Urethane do its job. Your wood carving will thank you for it!


  • May require multiple coats for maximum durability.

Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane is a trusted choice for woodcarvers creating outdoor pieces. It’s known for its long-lasting protection and versatility in different weather conditions.

2. Easiest to apply sealer for carvings

Rust-Oleum Watco Danish Oil Wood Finish

When it comes to bringing out the beauty of dense or dark-grained woods like teak or mahogany, Watco Danish Oil Finish is the real MVP. Not only does it make your wood carving shine, but it also offers excellent protection that sets it apart from other oil finishes

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Why It’s Great:

  • It enhances the natural beauty of dense woods, making their grain and color pop.
  • This special oil goes deep into the wood to keep it safe.
  • Applying it is a breeze, and you can easily fix it if needed.

What Makes It Stand Out:

  • Unlike some oil finishes, Watco Danish Oil Finish is like a mix of oil and varnish, creating a hybrid that offers better protection.
  • It’s like a spa treatment for your wood carving, making it look warm and lovely while safeguarding it.

What to Keep in Mind:

  • For the best protection, you might want to add a few coats.
  • It takes a bit longer to dry compared to some other finishes, but the results are worth the wait.

So, if you’re all about making that wood grain pop while ensuring your carving stays safe and sound, Watco Danish Oil Finish is your best buddy in the workshop. It’s perfect for indoor pieces that deserve to shine and stay protected for years to come.

3. Non- yellowing sealer for wood carving

Minwax Clear Polycrylic Water-Based Finish
$22.97 ($0.72 / Fl Oz)

If you've heard about the issue of polyurethanes turning yellow over time and want to steer clear of that, then consider using a water-based polyurethane. The Minwax Clear Polyacrylic Water-Based Finish is an excellent choice because it won't give your wood carving that unwanted yellow tint.

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Why It’s Great:

  • It provides a protective coat without changing the natural color of your wood carving.
  • Being water-based, it doesn’t have the yellowing effect that some oil-based polyurethanes might have.

What to Keep in Mind:

  • For larger projects, you’ll need to work quickly and efficiently to ensure an even application.
  • It’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for drying times between coats.
  • Stirring the polyurethane gently before use helps maintain a consistent finish.

So, if you’re working on a smaller wood carving, the quicker drying time of water-based polyurethane can actually be a benefit, allowing you to complete your project efficiently. Just be sure to plan your application process and work diligently to achieve a beautiful and protective finish.

Now that you have an overview of some of the best sealers available, you can select the one that best fits your needs. In the next section, we’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to apply your chosen sealer to your wood carvings effectively.

How to Seal Wood Carvings

Applying the sealer to your wood carvings correctly is essential to ensure the best protection and appearance. Follow these steps to achieve the best results:

  1. Prepare Your Work Area:
    • Choose a well-ventilated workspace to avoid inhaling fumes.
    • Cover your work surface with protective materials to catch drips and spills.
  2. Prepare Your Wood Carving:
    • Ensure your carving is clean and free from dust and debris. You can use a soft brush or a tack cloth to remove any particles.
  3. Sand the Surface (Optional):
    • Depending on your sealer and the condition of your carving, you may choose to lightly sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper. This step helps the sealer adhere better.
  4. Apply the First Coat:
    • Using a clean brush, sponge, or cloth, apply a thin and even coat of your chosen sealer to the wood carving. Follow the grain of the wood for a smoother finish.
    • Allow the sealer to penetrate the wood for a few minutes.
  5. Wipe Off Excess Sealer:
    • After a few minutes, use a clean, lint-free cloth to wipe off any excess sealer from the surface. This helps prevent drips or an uneven finish.
    • Be thorough but gentle in this step to avoid damaging the carving.
  6. Allow to Dry:
    • Follow the manufacturer’s recommended drying time for the first coat. This can vary depending on the type of sealer you’re using.
  7. Repeat as Necessary:
    • Apply additional coats of sealer as needed. Most sealers require multiple coats for optimal protection. Be sure to follow the drying and sanding steps between coats.
  8. Final Buffing (Optional):
    • Once your final coat has dried, you can choose to buff the surface with a soft cloth to achieve a higher shine, if desired.
  9. Allow Proper Curing:
    • After applying the final coat, let your wood carving cure for the recommended time. This ensures that the sealer fully sets and provides the intended protection.
  10. Display or Store Safely:
    • Once the sealer has completely cured, your wood carving is ready for display or storage. Place it in a suitable location away from direct sunlight, excessive moisture, or extreme temperature changes.
Video Tutorial: How to Seal a carving

Read: How to Paint Basswood

Conclusion: Sealer for Wood Carvings

Preserving the beauty and integrity of your wood carvings is essential for any woodcarver, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist. Choosing the right sealer and applying it correctly can make a significant difference in how your creations withstand the test of time.

Remember to consider the type of wood, whether your carving will be displayed indoors or outdoors, your desired finish, and ease of application when selecting a sealer. And don’t forget to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

Now that you’ve learned about some of the best sealers available and how to apply them, you have the knowledge and tools to protect your wood carvings and ensure they remain stunning works of art for generations to come.

If you have any more questions or need further guidance on wood carving or sealers, please feel free to ask. Happy carving!

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