Staining and carving

Newby with a question on staining before carving.

I stained my wood before I used my CNC machine to carve the words. I want the words to be the color of the wood and stand out against the darker stain on the perimeter.

When I carved the word with the CNC machine, the stain was ‘pushed’ into the carved area leaving spots of stain in the carved area. It looked like garbage and I could not sand out the letters to remove the stain. Maybe the stain soaked into the wood that deep, but I don’t think stain would seep 1/2 an inch into the wood?

Has anyone done this or is there a better way to do this. I think it would be difficult to stain the wood, and leave the carved area unstained at the same time. I also let the stain dry over night after I applied it.

Thanks for any feedback!

I’ve done this a bunch of times… and it came out great each time.
I did wipe off the stain pretty quickly (to avoid it soaking in too deep into the wood) and waited a day for it to really really dry.



I find that staining the wood is problematic for me because there is always fuzz around the carve. You cannot just run sand paper accross because it messes up your stain. Be sure your stain is dry over night.
Additionally try gel stain. Gel stain does not penetrate as much but you put it on and wipe it off. You just reapply a couple of times for darker staining. But you still need to let the stain dry over night. You could try a mask like Easy Shelf Adhesive Liner or Oramask 813. That would protect your stained area and you could run a sandpaper accross it to know off the fuzzies left behind without damaging our stained area.

You are right that trying to stain after carving is pretty hard to do without getting stain on the natural wood.

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Off topic, but is that a view of Portland, Burnside Bridge Westbound? Been quite some time since I’ve been there.

yup it is that (a design I bought on etsy); the overall design is basically a skyline of Portland

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A thin layer of clear coat over the stain (I use one which claims to dry in 2 hours but I give it 4) and allowing it to dry for 24hrs (not just overnight) in a humidity and temp controlled space has always worked for me. Granted, it is harder on your cutters and requires you to clean them regularly as you will get a buildup on them after many cuts.

The clear coat will help on “multi-stain” projects, as well.

Sometimes the stain still seeps through, but a thicker stain like @gdon_2003 recommends should probably help with that. Sometimes it can be embraced for a really neat look like the wood is spalted or mineral stained like these coasters:

These are a result of leaving a penetrating stain on the surface for quite a while.
And I know it may seem counterintuitive in your case, but using downcut endmills will keep you from having to sand the delicate stained edges, and the clearcoat helps protect them.


could you point to how you did the multi-stain.
Thank You.

WOW, I mean really, I’m just finishing some coasters that look just like these!
Mine were inspired by @Julien and his Enough With the Trivets Already
Is it just coincidence?


@scottjritt, I took my stock and “prepped” it by sanding and staining and clear coating. Let it dry 24 hours, cut on the cnc, remove from machine and cleanup the carve. Sand, stain, and clear the freshly carved areas and let dry for 24hrs. Put it back on the cnc (making sure to use the same exact spot for x, y, z-zero) and make another cut. Rinse and repeat. The key is that little bit of clear coat and being careful with each new round of stain application. After you have done it once or twice it becomes a rather simple process.

@MikeG, Hexagon is the bestagon, right? Haha! “Honeycomb” coasters must have been the third or fourth project I ever attempted on my Shapeoko back in early 2019 (why does that feel so long ago?). If the other work you have posted is any indication, I bet yours are going to look awesome! Please post the results when you are finished!


Hexagons are indeed the bestagons! Yes, Early on I also did a hexagon box following John Clark’s method. In hindsight on these, I would make the center structures thinner to match the outside border. These only have a satin seal coat so far, hoping for warmer weather today so I might get to apply the gloss finish.



Nice work @MikeG!

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thank you everyone, scott

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Mike - Those hexagon are really amazing. What amazes me is how you are able to get such clear color differentiation. Can you walk me through that, or point me to a video?

Thank you Brandon. I have a post covering the complete process here.


Brilliant- so last question: Is that a dark wood that you started with, or can you apply a stain to light color wood and it won’t stick to the epoxy?

Been using some dark and some light wood, haven’t stained any so far. Pretty sure a water based stain would wipe right off epoxy, but I’d use caution and try a test piece first if using a solvent based stain.

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