1 (800) 822-1939   USA toll free
+1 (512) 322-0278   outside the US

All Things Ampersand

Top Ten Ideas for Finishing Cradled Edges

Thinking both about the versatility of wood and the creativity of art materials, here are the top ten ways to finish the cradled edges of our panels.  Some of these techniques can be applied before painting and some should be applied after, depending on the rest of the work and mediums used.

Blocking off edges pre-painting; Staining edges after completed painting

Consider taping off the edges before completing the painting to keep the cradles clear of paint.  Painters’ tape works very well.  After completing the painting, remove the tape and apply a finish to the cradle.

If you have some other ideas or techniques, please share them with us in the comments below.

1.  Stain:  Wood stain shows the beauty of the natural wood grain through brilliant, lasting color.  Stains are available in opaque and transparent ranges with a huge variety of application styles, hues and outcome.  Consider finishing on top with a shellac or polyurethane to protect the integrity of the wood and prevent moisture damage.

2.  Texture gels:  Acrylic gels come in many viscosities and are extremely versatile; color via acrylic paint can also be added.  For collage or mixed media works, applying texture gels like a glass bead gel or molding paste will add a sculptural touch to a piece.

3.  Ink:  For brilliant color and staying power, ink can be applied to the natural wood before or after sealing with a polyurethane.  Inks can be acrylic or shellac based in a range of hues.  Shellac can also be colored with universal tints or aniline dye.

4.  Cold Wax:  Cold wax is an oil painting medium used to make oil paints thicker and more matte.  It can be applied with oil paint as a colorant, or used alone as a matte varnish.

5.  Polyurethane:  It is recommended to seal cradled edges to prevent minimum moisture damage over time for a completely archival piece of artwork.  However, polyurethane whether water or oil based may be tinted with colorant.  It can also be used in a satin, semi-gloss or gloss finish to get a range of effects.  Paint over a polyurethane to achieve a different finish or hue. 

Airbrush acrylic applied before sealing the cradled edges
Ultramarine blue and Transparent Brown Oxide GAC

6.  Acrylic paint:  Acrylic might be the single most versatile medium to apply to cradles.  A soft bodied or fluid acrylic can cover opaquely, finishing the edges in a solid color.  However, an airbrush paint covers with a translucent effect, showing the natural wood grain and giving brilliant color.  Sealing with a polyurethane can occur before or after using acrylics, depending on the desired effect.

7.  Furniture wax:  Since the cradled edges are high quality wood with a beautiful grain, they can be finished with a high grade furniture wax, either over stain or polyurethane or on bare wood.  Wax takes time to apply, but leaves a silky smooth finish that is easy to clean and protects the wood beautifully.

8.  Gilding:  Gilding is sensitive work, but stunning in effect as the metallic edges of a panel reflects the appearance of a traditional frame.  Take time to practice with metallic leaf on a flat surface before attempting a cradled edge, and be sure to seal the surface after gilding.  

9.  Danish Oil:  Danish oil is easy to apply, as beautiful as stain, and there is no need to seal.  Danish oil penetrates wood beautifully and comes in a range of hues or natural.  Since it is a mineral spirits base, it is vital to protect the surface of the work before applying.

Edges wrapped and collaged with old encyclopedia pages

10.  Collage:  The beauty of the cradled edge is that the artwork can be wrapped around the edge of the painting, treating the piece as three dimensional artwork.  Collage works well for this type of treatment and is intriguing from the side view.  

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

7 comments on “Top Ten Ideas for Finishing Cradled Edges”

  1. Great ideas! Thank you!

  2. Avatar vicki says:

    Can you show some pictures of finished examples with these edges? Thanks

  3. Avatar Kendra says:

    Great ideas, would love to see some photos!

  4. There is not need to frame cradled panels with these great ideas. Thanks to you Karyn!

  5. Avatar Crish says:

    I sometimes collage the sides with "splash ink" (or marbled) mulberry paper colored with watercolor and/or sumi ink. Cut the paper a little longer than a side, and glue down with Golden Soft Gel Gloss; this will make the paper semi-transparent, showing the wood grain underneath. When dry, trim the edge and do the next side.

    I also really like finishing the bare wood sides using Polyvine Wax Finish Varnish Satin (Clear), available on Amazon. It's also known as "acrylic wax" and it brushes on just like acrylic, and dries fast. The White tinted version gives a lovely "whitewash" effect, although you could probably add a little white fluid acrylic to the Clear for the same effect, or even any other color for a light tint.

  6. Wonderful input Crish, thank you!

  7. Images and finishing videos to come!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.