Unprimed Basswood overview

There is a plethora of raw wood panels on the market these days. In fact, the market has grown so much since Ampersand’s first commercial panel, that many manufacturers, large retailers, and distributors who were not in the panel business have introduced their own raw wood panels. Unfortunately, most of these panels are rough, poorly made, and contain inconsistencies that can ultimately compromise your artwork.

Rick Plasters, Heron, 18x8, pyrography on Unprimed Basswood


At Ampersand, our desire is to design and manufacture high-quality art materials that will inspire and protect an artist’s work for years to come. All of our panels are made with quality materials that have been tested not only for durability, but also for performance with artists' paints.

Prior to introducing Unprimed Basswood, we did a lot of research to understand the opportunities and limitations of raw wood panels in order to provide artists with the best plywood panel option. Most company’s raw wood panels use birch as the painting surface largely because it is inexpensive and widely available. At Ampersand, we choose our materials based on performance, not price. Accordingly, we choose to use basswood.


  • Tight, even grain means a smoother panel and no fiber-raising - requiring less priming, sealing, and sanding
  • Ultra-stable, will not give or flex
  • Sturdy 4mm premium basswood surface supplies superb durability when compared with other plywood panels
  • No seams, distinct knots, or "football patches"


All Brands Are Not the Same

Basswood is a premium, select wood that outperforms the typically used birch plywood in many ways. Because of its tight, even grain, moisture is not easily absorbed, preventing undesirable fiber-raising. It is inherently smoother than birch and is much easier to gesso and paint on. Knots and other defects are almost non-existent. Unlike other plywood panels, you don’t have to worry about fiber-raising or excessive wood grain given the fine, uniform characteristics of basswood that offer a more consistent, even finish and superior stability.

Birch veneers exhibit more fiber raising which requires more sealing and priming,
while basswood has a tighter, more even grain, and requires less sealing.


Beware of plywood with a veneer that appears evenly finished, but is paper-thin.
This type of plywood will inevitably exhibit cracking once you prime the surface, which will compromise your artwork.


Unprimed Basswood is handcrafted using a sturdy, non-flexible 4mm basswood top, sanded perfectly smooth and ready to seal and prime with the ground of your choice. Its minimal wood grain is straight and has a fine, even texture and a moderate natural luster. Basswood’s growth rings tend to be subtle, and its pale white to light brown color is uniform throughout the face of the wood.

Beware of large knots that over time can shrink and dislodge from the panel leaving holes in your artwork.


Never use a panel with a "football patch." This is how some manufacturers cut corners
to reduce costs. Even with repeated gessoing, the patch will show through.


Unprimed Basswood doesn’t have plywood seams, knots, or troublesome patches thus providing the cleaner, more professional look that artists want. Knots in wood can loosen over time and fall out, leaving a hole. Seams can move independently causing cracking and splitting in the finished piece. We inspect and select each panel to assure that it is free from these defects that could compromise your artwork.

Unprimed Basswood is available in a variety of sizes up to 48x72, in three cradled profiles of 7/8", 1.5", and 2.5" that are simple to hang or frame. The support cradles are made with quality solid pine strips that add maximum stability and can be finished with paint or stain. The cradled back allows you to attach hanging hardware and display your artwork easily – without a frame. If you prefer to present your artwork framed, the 7/8" and 1.5" cradle options fit perfectly into Ampersand Floaterframes.

Chris Solari, Everything but the Truth, 24x24, mixed media on Unprimed Basswood


Ampersand’s Unprimed Basswood panel is great for use with encaustics, mixed media, and collage. Also, the tight grain of our basswood panels makes them the preferred choice for wood burning (pyrography) and intricate engraving. Its smooth finish is perfect for mounting other art, prints, or canvas and readily accepts most adhesives.

As a raw wood panel, Unprimed Basswood is wide open to accept any type of ground: traditional powder gesso, acrylic gesso, and oil-based or alkyd primers. You can even use clear gesso to see the wood grain through the sealer and primer. Remember that all raw wood panels should always be sealed before applying your ground coatings to prevent support-induced discoloration.

For further instructions on sealing and priming, visit this article.



Try staining the Unprimed Basswood panel’s surface with ink to bring out the grain or even draw on it with pencils or graphic markers before applying the sealer. Then seal as recommended and collage or paint directly on the sealed layers (or a final application of clear gesso) to integrate Unprimed Basswood’s beautiful surface into your artwork.


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