Finishing Your Wood Projects – Decorating Techniques

Once you’re done working on your wood piece whether it is a piece of furniture, a frame for a painting or a Jewelry box the last part of the project is the decoration. There are hundreds of ways and techniques to finish your project.

Plain wood grain

If your wood you have used has a lot of beautiful grain in it, you might want to consider letting the grain patterns be your decoration. Simply smoothing the surface of the wood and polishing it. Bringing out the wood grain even more. Maybe a clear protective coat of sealer over the piece ad you are done.

Wood stains and finishes

Another idea for wood pieces that may have a soft, light wood and want a darker color wood, use a dark wood stain on it. After applying the dark stain, rub the excess stain off with a rag, then after it is dry, apply a sealant coat of clear enamel or resign over the stain. The woodworker can also polish the stained piece for a more natural, less shiny look.

Frames for paintings or mirrors

The making of frames for paintings or mirrors are often made with angels and raised areas. Some can have cut out designs or engraved designs already as they are being made. These can be free formed or cut using a pattern. When the piece is done, the woodworker has a few choices on how they want to finish them.

They can be finished with the last two ideas, or the woodworker may choose to paint the frames with any paint they like to use. They can also gold leaf the whole frame. Gold leaf can be purchased in most craft stores. Using white Elmer’s glue and water to apply the gold leaf and letting it dry.

There are other types of colored leaf available. The frames can be whipped down with a thin mixture of black ink over the gold leaf. Then whipped again using a soft dry rag. This gives the piece an antiqued look to it.


Decorating furniture can be done using different techniques and depending on what the woodworker has in mind for the finished piece will have a lot to do with the techniques used during or after the making of the piece.

Furniture legs are usually the most designed piece of the furniture. They are the most important part of the furniture because they have to be strong enough to support the rest of the piece. There are hundreds of shapes and designs available for the woodworker to consider and use.

For the woodworker turning a strong piece of wood on the wood Lathe, he can choose to make bands and grooves as he shapes the legs of his wood piece. The actual bottom of the leg is usually rounded and then flat or squared and then flat.

Keeping that in mind the legs decorative design usually flows at the foot of the leg. The woodworker will then incorporate that design into the rest of the piece of furniture. Once the piece is put together, the woodworker may add designs to the whole piece also.

Raised or cut away decorations in furniture

Using a wood router or hand chisel, the woodworker may incorporate a cut-out design in the piece of furniture. Taking a simple drawing of the design he will start tracing the design on the piece of furniture. Then coming back with his tools of choice cut or carve the design into the furniture.

A drilled pattern or design

By taking a power drill, the woodworker can create a pattern or design with a series of drilled holes. Another idea he may set some holes with another color of wood doweling pieces. Creating a two wood color design.

Small thinly cut pieces of different color wood

Thin strips of wood can be cut out in different shapes from squares to abstract forms. These can be done with different color woods and inlaid into furniture in patterns and designs. Anything from abstract forms to whole landscapes can be designed andinlaid.

The woodworker needs to remember to use the same types of wood when doing the inlays though because different woods shrink differently over time and may cause problems as they do this. If the shrinkage is too great in one type of the wood, the pieces will pull away from the rest of the wood causing the inlays to split and fall out.

The use of other materials besides wood for inlay decoration needs to be thought through also. The foreign material may cause the rest of the wood to crack and pull apart if the objects shrink or change shape with age.

Wood carving used as decoration

While most tops of furniture are preferred to be flat, level and even, the rest of the piece except for the seat of chairs does not. The woodworker can use their imagination to create different designs, texture and carvings on the body of the furniture, sides, legs and arms.

Dresser drawer fronts can have any decoration carved into them as well as the sides. A Dremel tool is a great tool to use for intercut forms of carved designs. The tool comes with all types of bit attachments.

The Dremels even have tiny buffer attachments, and small wood files can be used to smooth down the tiny areas of the carving. The designs can be drawn out ahead of time, and they can be placed next to the piece the woodworker is working on so they can check the pattern every so often.

Burl wood

Burl wood is a beautiful wood to use in woodworking. For table tops or any piece of furniture. A slab of burl wood with the bark left on the outside can be mounted on four legs of strong wood. The Bark design can be reproduced on the legs carefully with a wood rasp. Then smoother down with a sander. The woodworker can then stain the textured wood the color of the bark and sealed with a clear finish.

I have seen a dresser done in the same fashion as the table using the burl wood for the top of the dresser. The effect makes a very beautiful piece of furniture. The burl wood itself can be thinly slabbed, so the top is not too heavy for the other wood used to support it.

Shapes and designed wood furniture

In the style of artnovue, the whole piece of furniture, or wood piece can be designed to be decoration and shaped something other than a traditional shape of furniture, frame, bowl, cup or? The woodworker can start with a round of wood. Hollow out the inside and carve the outside to resemble any animal or bird, plant or? Then make a flat top of a table or seat that the carved piece is holding up or balancing on the back. This would become a table or chair.

The decorating techniques of the woodworking project are endless. The woodworker can choose to be very simple or get as creative with ideas as the wood will let him. The simple and elegant plain wood grain can be just as beautiful as the most intricate carved design. It is all in the way the finished piece is presented.

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