Ideas for finishing cradled edges

Thinking both about the versatility of wood and the creativity of art materials, here is a list of 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.

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


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 shellac or polyurethane to protect the integrity of the wood and prevent moisture damage.


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 artwork, applying texture gels like a glass bead gel or molding paste will add a sculptural touch.


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


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. 


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 giving brilliant color. Sealing with polyurethane can occur before or after using acrylics, depending on the desired effect.


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.


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


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