So, I recently created some laser cuts and was tasked with the job of varnishing them. It was safe to say that I knew nothing about varnishing or the process involved but luckily my colleague Jane Wolff was somewhat of a varnishing /powertool ninja! She not only talked me through the process but provided me with all the tools and tips I needed. So I decided to document the process and hope it will help other varnishing newbies : )

Note: I do not have a professional set up for wood work type activities but the below set up can be done pretty much anywhere as limited tools and space are required.


Step 01: Sanding

When laser prints are hot off the press, they can contain a lot of ‘blackness’ for want of a better word! This all needs to be removed before varnishing and can be achieved manually using sandpaper. But why go manual when power tool exist!? Not only will you feel extremely powerful when using power tools but it will speed up task. I used a mini work zone power sander. You can buy specific sandpaper which will stick on to the bottom and away you go. Luckily I had a few blank tags to practice on while getting used to the sander. Note, also sand with the grain! Repeat this mantra throughout. (I forgot this during the testing stage)




My housemate Andrea kindly let me borrow her vice, this was great for holding the tags in place when I sanded them. If you have small items that requires sanding a vice is pretty darn useful.



Step 02: Cleaning and steel wool

After sanding, it is best to clean the laser cuts with a dry cloth to ensure all the ‘blackness’ and dust has been removed. In addition to this steel wool is really useful in further preparing the laser cuts for varnishing. It features in the overview image of the work station below.


Step 03: Varnishing

As regards varnishing I chose a clear matt varnish to keep the original color of the birch wood. But there are endless options when it comes to varnishes….. a bit overwhelming really! After a few unsuccessful attempts with applying the varnish using a brush, Jane advised simply dip the tags into the varnish and allow to drip dry. Eureka! This method while using a lot more of the varnish, is way easier.


Step 04: Drying

Ok, so if using the ‘dipping’ method, I found implementing a coat hanger as a drying rack ingenious! (Thanks you Jane’s husband Sean!) A coat hanger is easily accessible, easy to ‘break’ and re-engineer into a more usable shape and can be set up pretty much anywhere. Just ensure that not too many items are left dry on each hanger as it may fall and mess the varnish.

You can use how many coats you wish. I found due to time restraint that one coat sufficed.


Step 05: Beeswax

Once varnishing was complete, I finished using Colron natural beeswax which should be applied with a lint free cloth. I found old t-shirts re purposed as rags to work pretty well!

And voila! You should now have beautiful works of varnished art! I hope the above documentation was helpful and I would love to see pictures of other peoples work!

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Varnishing 101: For Newbies