Help with Plaque Finish

I have seen some beautiful plaques and signs here in the last few months. I have made a plaque for my daughter and wife. I have attached pictures of the unfinished plaques below. I am looking for advice on how to make the letters pop out as well as the carvings. I would lke to finish these as close to natural and do not want to use stains, dies or paint to do this.

Please give me some ideas how to accomplish this. The more details the better. I did order the following book last night to start learning about new techniques so hopefully that will help but also know many of you here have great advice.



What type of wood?

If you want to stay simple you might want to just use a linseed oil, depending on the wood.

Light one is maple, darker is white oak.

Without staining or painting then you are really relying on the shadows to make the lettering and carving pop out. If that is what I was going for I would just coat them with Boiled Linseed Oil or pure tung oil like was suggested or some kind of varnish blend (natural danish oil, or tung oil finish). Any of these finishes will slightly darken the wood which should help to create shadow or darken the lettering a bit. Neither of my examples have lettering, but you can see that a finish will bring out some detail in the grain/carving. The eagle is just Linseed Oil on Cherry, the deer is tung oil finish on Walnut.

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If you’re really into natural or simple finishes and maintaining wood you should get this book; it’s absolutely amazing and you really only need a drawer full of things to do a lot of projects.

Furniture Bible by Christopher Pourny