Carved and painted lettering in a sign

How do you keep paint from soaking into the end grain around carved letters?

What's the best way to seal carved letters so that, when painted, the end grain won't soak up the paint? – Kim Wales

Chris Marshall: Softwoods like pine or cedar, as well as softer hardwoods such as poplar, will be more prone to wicking up paint through the end grain than harder species. So the degree to which this will happen with your carved letters will depend on the wood you are using. But in any case, I'd do a couple of things to prevent it from happening. First, as best you are able, sand the end grain areas of the letters up to 220- or even 320-grit to help close the open pores and create a smooth surface. Then, use an appropriate primer for the paint to seal the wood. Once the primer thoroughly dries, give it a light sanding to smooth any raised grain that might have occurred during priming. The primer, acting as a barrier coat, should allow the paint to build to a smooth topcoat. You might need to apply two coats of paint, with a light sanding between coats, to achieve even coverage on both the long grain and end grain areas of the letters, but this combination of steps should do the trick.