Sealants and paints for reducing v-carve bleed

I did a v-carve plaque for the first time. I used basswood and sealed it with 2-3 coats of spray lacquer before spray painting the surface, wiping it off, and sanding things down to get dark lettering. As you might’ve guessed from the title, the black paint was wicked up by fibers in the basswood that the lacquer evidently didn’t fully seal.

I imagine I’m not the first to deal with this. A quick search brought up other paint bleeding issues and the recommendation to seal with lacquer, but as I did try to seal with lacquer, I have three specific questions:

  1. How many coats of spray lacquer do you do to get a sealed surface? The plaque has small lettering with lots of corners. Would a brush be better?

  2. Would a thicker paint or epoxy bleed less? Any recommended products. I used a play rustoleum I had on hand.

  3. And (on a different issue) For small letters, anyone have something better to recommend than basswood? The grain is pretty large and I had some chipout between characters.

Thanks for your time,
Adam

I use dewaxed shellac to seal projects prior to carving and I use either Oramask 813 or Easy Liner Adhesive Shelf paper to make paint clean up easier after painting. Many soft woods tent to soak up paint and/or finish. Next time try more coats of whatever you decide to seal with and make sure it is dry before starting your carve.
dewaxed_shellac

You can buy the canned dewaxed shellac at many box box stores, Rocker and Woodcraft.

waxed_shellac
This is the waxed shellac and can make some finishes not stick well. So dont mix them up.

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Basswood is a very soft wood (420 on Janka scale) and you are going to experience that issue with thin lettering and very fine detail. If you want to do fine detail v-carving, I would recommend stock with a Janka hardness of at least 920…think cherry.

Harder woods will also help with the bleeding of your finish.

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Have you tried a mask like Oramask 813 or even Duck-brand shelf liner? For my V-carves, I use Minwax polycrylic to seal the wood first, sand it down with 220 after it’s dry, then put the mask on before carving. I’ve found that lacquer causes the glue in the mask to leave a residue, that’s why I use the water-based polycrylic. I’m doing this primarily on Baltic birch plywood FWIW. Sometimes sealing the V-carve before painting also helps, but I honestly have not had to do this in quite a while. I also paint with acrylic paint using an airbrush, this has been a huge improvement over spraypaint.
As for the small letters, have you tried a single line font? I was trying to do small V-carve letters and they would chip out randomly, but I have recently started to profile cut a single line font. The font is much cleaner looking and no more chipouts. I setup the profile on, not outside or inside, and set the depth to about 0.020". The small fonts in this picture are about 0.22" tall.

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Thanks all! I didn’t seal prior to v-carve, but did the surface and the letters after carving. I haven’t used shelf liner or masking tape or anything. If I do more of this I might have to look into the airbrush option.

I like the single-line font idea. Where do you go to get them? Just downloaded from one or another source online?

I use Aspire, so hopefully someone else can chime in on single line fonts for Carbide. Aspire has a Single line option when creating text.

Inkscape has an extension (I think its under the “render” drop down list) called Hershey Text that will transform any text you type into a single line font in svg form that can be imported to Carbide Create.

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