Wood Burning Finishes: Can you wood burn over polyurethane

Sealing your wood burning projects is the best technique to give your woodworking and furniture a natural and long-lasting finish.

Pyrography is art developed long ago to get the burn-type mark or texture on the wood surface.

Yakisugi, which translates to “burnt wood,” is the end product of a natural wood preservation method with Japanese roots known as the Shou sugi ban.

It involves thoroughly burning the surface of a board to obtain a thin coating of carbon on the board’s surface.

Can you wood burning over polyurethane?

Polyurethane, on the other hand, does not allow for wood burning. A finish or sealant is generally applied after burning, not before.

The burning poly-coated wood also emits noxious odors. Before doing any burn work, you should remove the finish first.

Try a varnish removal or a chemical solution to remove the poly coat. If you don’t want to use chemicals, you can take off the top layer of sealant with sandpaper.

Wood sealing, polyurethane, and burning wood art have additional considerations.

Can you seal burnt wood?

Quite simply, the answer is yes.

If you burn wood, lightly sand the surface and transfer your pattern to it. After the burning is done, put a seal on the wood. For your project, it’s important to prepare the wood.

Wood must be sealed with a wood sealer if it is not covered with fabric or paper.

Untreated wood is more easily damaged than burned wood. To avoid chipping and water damage, it will still need further protection.

Even though charred wood is more durable than untreated wood, it is still best to seal any wood used outside. By sealing the wood, you protect it from the weather and stop it from cracking, peeling, and chipping.

As a result, a water-resistant oil finish, like Linseed oil and Danish oil, is usually required for fine wood-burned projects.

Moreover, sealing the wood with a burnt mark requires a safety tool and environment. You also dismantle furniture and add the sealant on the surface you intend to make.

Is it safe to burn polyurethane-treated wood?

In addition to making you turn your nose up at the smell, polyurethane smoke can have serious health consequences.

Polyurethane, despite being non-toxic after it dries, emits a hazardous gas when burned.

On the other hand, it contains a compound called isocyanate.

If you are exposed to isocyanate, especially by inhalation, you may experience chest tightness, pulmonary damage, and difficulty breathing.

Using a quality respirator to protect your lungs is critical if you must burn wood that has been treated with a polyurethane finish. This can be done outside or in a well-ventilated area.

Can you stain over a wood-burning craft?

So you’re about to seal your wood burning task when you decide it needs a little extra color and then tone it. Fortunately for you, staining the wood is a viable option here.

Staining wood after it has been totally burned is advisable for health and safety concerns. If you stain before burning, you are in danger since burning stained wood releases toxic fumes into the air.

Any color of the wood stain will work as a finish over a wood-burning project. It will do the same thing as the sealant, but it will also give the wood a rich, earthy tone.

Sealing wood burning with polyurethane

Oil-based polyurethane is more weather-resistant and is the better choice for finishes over wood burning.

Polyurethane is a type of thermoplastic polymer. It has several uses, including insulation and wood varnishing for a wood-burning project.

Polyurethane’s combustion produces similar fumes to other organic items, such as wood or cotton, when the fire is in close contact with the polyurethane.

It is possible to employ both water-based and oil-based polyurethane varnishes on wood. The water-based polyurethanes are environmentally friendly due to their base ingredients.

These varnishes are safer than solvent-based ones but do not hold up.

Is polyurethane toxic or safe?

Because it contains organic solvents, oil-based polyurethane can harm the environment.

In contrast, the water-based varnish is less harmful to the environment than solvent-based varnish.

The highly flammable oil-based polyurethane should be kept from heat and fire whenever possible.

Fresh polyurethane varnish has a distinct aroma and harmful fumes. When burning polyurethane, the smoke might harm your health.

Avoid inhaling the gas that is released when it is burned. After drying, polyurethane is non-toxic. However, it contains isocyanate.

Polyurethane fumes are toxic for how long?

Polyurethane fumes can take a long time to dissipate from a property, such as when it is used as a floor varnish.

For at least 5-7 days after application, you will be able to smell the polyurethane. It can take up to months for the scent to fade.

It is important to figure out how long the fumes will dissipate depending on whether the polyurethane is solvent- or water-based.

Water-based polyurethane is less harmful to human health and the environment than solvent-based polyurethane. Drying time is also longer.

As we just learned, Solvent-based cleaners are more environmentally harmful because of their long-term effects.

Generally speaking, solvent-type polyurethane coatings might take up to a month to cure, depending on the type of coating.

This means you should anticipate spending at least that long in your home or room exposed to the pollutants.

How do you prepare the wood before burning it?

After sanding the wood to a grit of 220, you should damp it down. To dampen the wood’s surface, take a sponge drenched in water and rub it all over the sanded area.

Sand it once more with sandpaper of 220 grit after it’s dry, and it should feel very smooth.

Is it possible to wood burn over paint?

Start your wood-burning endeavor on a clean, sanded surface for the safest and greatest results. Clean and smooth surfaces are much more important when practicing with a wood-burning pen.

It’s impossible to burn over painted surfaces due to the extensive prep work required, and it’s extremely hazardous. Sanding is the single most important preparatory step.

It’s ideal to do this outside or in an area that’s easy to clean.

Sanding wood furniture may take some time, but if you put in the time and effort, the result will be visually appealing.

You do not have to sand your lumber if you buy it from a craft or home improvement store.

Run over the entire piece with a card scraper if you want to go the additional mile to get a piece of wood that accepts your drawings well.

Once a pyrography item has been produced, it can be colored if desired.

After burning wood, is it possible to stain it?

After burning, you have the option to dye the wood, and it is highly recommended that you do so. For health and safety reasons, staining wood should be done after it has been burned.

Trying to color the wood beforehand and then burning it puts you at risk since burning tinted wood releases dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere. It would be a bad idea to inhale any of that toxic vapor.

Staining before the final coat or finish can help seal and polish the piece during design and burning.

It’s a good idea to add a touch of color to your boards to accentuate the grain of your work and the designs that you create.

Best wood burning and pyrography finishes

My favorite approach to adding varnish to wood-burning projects is to combine varnish and Danish natural oil, resulting in a mixture that is both an oil and a varnish.

So it not only helps to seal the charred wood.

Here are some wonderful options for pyrography finishes and general finishes for sealing wood-burning projects.

These finishes are also ideal for general wall art, jewelry, and pyrography projects.


Lacquer is another finish that is often used on wood. Most modern lacquer is made from solvents and gives a hard, durable finish.

Most types of lacquer dry into a hard film, and the FDA has said they are safe to eat. However, you should check your specific brand.

Lacquer is usually used to finish furniture and other wood items that get a lot of use.

Spar Urethane

When it comes to finishing it, you have a wide range of options, from matte to glossy.

It has excellent UV protection, making it ideal for things that get heavy use indoors and outdoors, such as furniture.

Tung Oil

The final wood finish you should consider using for your wood burning projects is Tung Oil, which is made from the Tung tree seed.

Tung oil can be used on surfaces intended for food and, when cured, is completely non-toxic. It also gives cutting boards a lovely sheen.

It should be remembered that tung oil alters the wood’s color, giving it a lovely amber finish.


Different finishes, ranging from matte to glossy are available; it does not yellow over time; it is excellent for heavily used interior goods, such as furniture; nevertheless, it does not offer UV protection.


It comes with a range of finishes, including as matte and glossy; this material is ideal for interior goods that receive heavy use, such as furniture; nevertheless, it will yellow over time because it lacks UV protection.


A smooth and glassy result

The artwork is better protected from damage than other finishes because some contain UV protection, which eventually becomes yellow.

Furniture Wax

A surface that is smooth and matte

UV protection that has worn off occasionally needs to be renewed, particularly to goods that get heavy use like furniture.

Butcher Block Oil

Butcher Block Oil is perfect for cutting boards, wooden spoons, and other kitchen tools because it is safe for food and a great way to finish wood.

Butch Block Oil is made from mineral oil, beeswax, and carnauba wax. It helps the wood dry out and is very resistant to water.

This choice is also good for the environment and won’t grow mold, which is excellent for the kitchen.

Danish Oil

A matte finish with no UV protection may need to be redone often, especially on things that get heavy use, like furniture.


Shellac is one of the most common ways to finish a film.

Shellac is made in India from insects. It is safe to eat and is one of the best ways to finish decorative pieces.

This finish is great for making the wood’s grain stand out.

Clear Spray Paint

Quick and simple to apply, it won’t turn yellow over time, and it comes in various sheens, from matte to glossy.

The matte finish may get foggy after drying (especially over paint)

a coating that is less protective than others

containing no UV protection

Final Thought

Even if you make beautiful and durable designs to last through most normal use, nicks and scratches can ruin the way it looks over time.

If your art is on a wood-burned cutting board or something else that gets a lot of use, it might not be recognizable in just a few months.

Because of this, we always suggest finishing wood-burning projects with a good wood finish, like the one we suggested above.

Frequently asked questions