Ink or stain to saturate wood?

First, I want to stain birch plywood so that the stain goes deep into the wood. I will paint over the stain so that when carved, the stain color shows through. I am thinking maybe 1/16’ deep or so since that will be the cutting depth.

My ideas were to use food coloring (not quite the permanent color that I had in mind), or to use watered down India ink.

Thoughts or suggestions appreciated.

There are some dye stains that will sink in, but I’ve never gotten them to go below the top ply. This is the approach I use when I want to do something like this. First, paint the wood. Apply four to five coats of a poly topcoat over the paint. This will act as a protective layer. Now rout the carving. So you should now have a routed, natural colored carving on the painted background. Apply paint/stain to the carved areas. You don’t have to be too careful; you can slop it over the edges. After this dries, use a random orbit sander and 220 grit sandpaper to sand the surface until all of the slopped paint/stain is gone. Since the original color is under four to five layers of poly, it will be protected as you sand the paint/stain from the top layer. The only way you can sand through the original painted layer is if you get really aggressive with the sander or you thought four to five coats covering it was too much.


You can also go to Home Depot and get a roll of Con-tact brand clear shelf liner.

  1. Paint your piece then cover it with the liner.
  2. Do your carving through the liner.
  3. Stain or paint the carved area (you don’t need to be to neat)
  4. After second color dries remove the clear shelf liner.
    This piece gets pretty intricate and shelf liner was used on it.
    I had to go over some green spots lightly with the green after but it was minor and no sanding.