A few weeks ago, I found a really nice stick. I carved it and sanded it into a walking stick. I want to apply polyurethane, but I don't know how. I have several cans (the spray-on kind) of it in my garage. This is my first woodworking project.

Also, if I were to woodburn it, should I do that before application of polyurethane?

  • 4
    I've never seen a can of finish that doesn't include basic application instructions on the label. Did you look there?
    – Caleb
    Aug 7, 2015 at 6:25
  • Oil-based or water based?
    – Steven
    Aug 7, 2015 at 15:25

2 Answers 2


You will want to do the woodburning before you apply finish. It's usually a good idea to lightly sand the area around the woodburn after doing the burning and before applying finish. Woodburning has a tendency to create little ridges at the periphery of the burn.

Make sure you remove all of the sanding dust from the stick before applying finish. This can be done with a rag wet with water or mineral spirits, or you can use a tack cloth.

Applying polyurethane may be done with a bristle brush, a foam brush, or even a rag. It all depends on the type you have bought, and the can will give you directions for applying the finish.

If it's a spray polyurethane, read and follow the directions to see the ideal shake time and distance from which to spray the finish. Remember that it is best to apply several light coats instead of one very thick coat. This is because the light coats will dry more evenly with less dripping.


What @grfrazee said, plus...

In your garden (assuming you do not own a professional laquerer shop with suction, which you don't, seeing how you ask), with a breathing mask, gloves, and long sleeves on. Not anything different.

PU is pretty idle, safe and chemically neutral once hardened, but this cannot be said about the various other isocyanates that are part of any PU product and that you get in contact with during application. That stuff is the Devil.

Skin contact can cause allergies (use a lot of water and soap if you have contact, no dissolvents!), inhalation can cause acute asthma and seizures, depending no dose. As a "free bonus", isocyanates are cancerogenous.

A simple A1B1P2 (EN 141:1990) class breathing filter (20€) is sufficient, but the "normal" home-improvement-store single-use dust filters are not. That kind of "piece of cloth" filter doesn't eliminate the fumes.

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