Some woods are very absorbent. Basswood is one of those woods. Because of its absorbency, it should be sealed before staining. If you don’t seal it, don’t be surprised if some parts of the carving absorb more stain than other parts, resulting in a blotchy appearance.
Another option is to seal the wood with thinned polyurethane varnish. I have recently used this mixture on two carvings with great success. Here’s what I did.
- After sanding, wipe the wood clean of any dust with a lint-free rag dampened with mineral spirits or a tack cloth.
- Prepare a 50:50 mixture of polyurethane varnish and mineral spirits.
- Using a paint brush, coat the surface of the carvings with the thinned varnish. If the wood is thirsty, it will drink up plenty of the mixture.
- Allow 24 to 48 hours for the thinned varnish to dry. If there is any dried contaminate on the surface of the wood, buff the surface with 0000 steel wool to remove the debris. After this procedure, wipe the surface clean with a tack rag.
- Apply a second coating of the thinned varnish mixture to the carving. Again, I used a 50:50 mixture.
- After allowing 24 to 48 hours for the thinned varnish to thoroughly dry, I stained the carvings with gel stain.
- The finishing touch was to apply two coats of polyurethane varnish.