A tree surgeon just took down a sycamore that had been growing in my neighbour's garden (and probably underneath my house), and I kept a section of it to use to make a front door sign.

My current plan is to create a stencil of the house number, mark it on, and then carve out the number using my Dremel.

My question is: once this is done, what's the best way to finish the wood so that I can keep it outside?

Edit: for context, this will be essentially fully exposed to the elements. The idea is to put it next to my doorstep. I'm not too fussed about the colour from light brown to dark brown, so long as it's recognisable as wood.

Second edit: thanks for all the great comments so far, which are suggesting dealing with the drying problem first. However, assuming that I dry it out, what is the best way to finish it for outside?

The section of log

Thanks in advance

  • 3
    Welcome to WSE. I would hold off on doing serious carving on the piece until it is full dried. Odds are that your trunk cross section will develop one or more large cracks from the perimeter to the center as the wood dries. There is no way to stop the shrinking process as the piece dries over the next year or so (The rule of thumb is 1 year curing for each inch of thickness).
    – Ashlar
    Sep 7, 2018 at 15:37
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    @Ashlar I'm not sure if the "1 year per inch" rule applies to cookies. Water should be much more mobile since there is so much endgrain... Sep 7, 2018 at 15:50
  • 1
    Just to echo what @Ashlar has said, successfully drying cross-sections of log, either thicker chunks like this or slices/cookies/disks, is very much hit and miss and the majority will crack badly. If you ever get this chance in the future it's much better to get a plank or slab of the tree and then let it dry as slowly as poss, see tips on drying in this Answer.
    – Graphus
    Sep 7, 2018 at 17:12
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    "what's the best way to finish the wood so that I can keep it outside?" There's rarely one best way to do anything. Apart from having to pick between various options in terms of looks, many add significant colour that you may find unattractive. You also need to provide more details about the setting — in the open fully exposed to the weather and just outdoors but under cover are different enough to warrant completely different choices.
    – Graphus
    Sep 7, 2018 at 17:18
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    If it's 25cm thick then you could always carve a number in it now (assuming it's not overly deeply carved) and then if it splits/warps the number in the future and you don't like it - slice off the face of the piece and carve it again after the wood has settled.
    – Wex
    Sep 9, 2018 at 8:13

1 Answer 1


As I may have a similar project soon I've put a bit of research into this, and it appears the answer is a Polyurethane seal as mentioned on this site.

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