Make New Wood Look Rustic With a Torch!

Updated on October 28, 2018
mgeorge1050 profile image

Alan enjoys woodworking and has a special interest in rustic home decor. He has been involved in woodworking for over twenty years.

Easy Method, Bold Look

The method is quite simple: burn the wood with a propane torch, lightly sand it, and then properly seal the wood with a clear coat. What could be easier than that? Starting with a bright shiny new board, three steps later you have a rustic masterpiece.

As you can see from the photos below, this burned finish results in a beautiful, rustic look. The burning creates an interesting and bold look, without the messy problems of stain. Each board is also just slightly different in appearance, due to the grain of the wood. The results will knock your socks off!

Burned wood finish with tin accent walls.
Burned wood finish with tin accent walls. | Source

The burning creates an interesting and bold look, without the messy problems of stain.

Fire It Up

You will begin by using a propane torch to lightly burn the board of your choice. I recommend a soft wood, like pine or poplar, for best results. Keep the torch moving so as not to burn a big spot on the wood. You will see portions of the grain begin to turn brown. Try to keep the browning as even as possible, although this isn't too important.

The most important part of this step, aside from obviously being very safe with the torch, is to not burn any large spots anywhere. If you have one thing on your mind during this step, it should be to keep the flame moving!

Lightly burn the entire board, and don't forget the edges. Take a look at the entire board once you're finished burning, and look for light spots. If you notice any, burn back over that area a bit, to help match it up to the rest. Be sure and let the board cool off a bit before moving on to the next step.

The flame of a propane torch.
The flame of a propane torch. | Source
Burning a board with a propane torch.
Burning a board with a propane torch. | Source

If you have one thing on your mind during this step, it should be to keep the flame moving!

Now Let's Smooth Things Out

After burning the entire surface of the board, you must lightly sand the wood. Using a fine grit sandpaper, sand over the all the burned areas. This will help to even out the burned areas a little, and the resulting finish will be more appealing.

If you are only working on a small project, sanding by hand, maybe with a sanding block, should be fine. On larger projects, however, you may want to think about using a power sander. They can make short work of any sanding project, and save you some sore muscles in the process.

After sanding the board, use a damp cloth to remove the dust that will be stuck to the finish. This dust will be black, from the soot coming off during sanding. Make sure the board is not getting very wet, and is completely dry before you proceed.

You may notice some soot spreading onto lighter areas, and this is fine. It will help improve the final look, and will be sealed into the finish in the last step.

Sanding before sealing is an important step towards getting a stellar finish. Be sure you don't skip over this crucial step.

Sand a burnt wood finish with fine sandpaper.
Sand a burnt wood finish with fine sandpaper. | Source

Sanding before sealing is an important step towards getting a stellar finish.

Keep the End in Mind Now

A little extra step you should consider at this point is your cut ends. What will you be creating with your board or boards once the finish is complete? You may plan to cut them in the process, or put a routed edge on them. If so, you may want to complete those steps now.

Before you start with the clear coat step, making your cuts and burning those ends is a wise decision. You don't want to start assembling your project, only to realize that your finish work is not yet finished.

Take a look at the photo below, the board with the routed edge. On this rustic key holder, the router work was done before any of the finishing process. Not a real drastic thing, as it could be fixed later if necessary. But definitely something to keep in mind.

Rustic key holder with burned finish.
Rustic key holder with burned finish. | Source

What is your upcoming project?

What size is your next project?

See results

Protect Your Work With a Beautiful Clear Coat

The last step in this easy process is the clear coat. I prefer a water based polycrylic applied with a sponge applicator. The cleanup is easy with a water based product. Just a little soap and water, no eye burning mineral spirits or anything like that to contend with.

Coat all the surfaces of the wood with poly, making sure not to use long, light strokes. Most of the time, two coats will do the trick. Just use your best judgement on the final finish. If you want it bright and shiny, use a high gloss poly and several coats. If you want it super rustic, use a flat poly and two coats.

Once the polycrylic is dry, your board is ready to craft your next masterpiece. This is a really great look if you are crafting rustic home decor. A great choice for projects large and small, this torch burned look is a winner!

Clear Coat Options

Clear Coat Type
Easy cleanup, low odor
Slightly less durable
Durable and long lasting
Difficult clean up
Oils (linseed, etc)
Penetrates the wood better
Messy, difficult clean up
No Finish
Not practical
Water based clear coat for burned wood finish.
Water based clear coat for burned wood finish. | Source
Window trimmed with torch burned pine boards.
Window trimmed with torch burned pine boards. | Source

Questions & Answers

  • I have a tv stand that is already built that I was hoping to try this on. My problem is I can't do it outside other than on my screened 3rd floor balcony of my apartment. Can this be done safely that way or is there a torch that would be safer to use or to use indoors without setting off smoke alarms?

    Doing the work inside is a no go, as it creates a ton of smoke. I would recommend finding an outdoor location where you can safely do the work without the risk of a structure fire. While your plan is to only slightly burn the wood without setting it on fire, accidents can happen. Safety first, having a fire extinguisher around would be a good idea also. Let me know how it turns out.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • jbosh1972 profile image


      18 months ago from Indianapolis, IN. USA

      I’m going to do a reindeer bust for my daughter. It will be from scrap pine. I tend to prefer oil based polyurethane. I clean up brushes outside. In winter, I will run heater is storage shed and apply finish there. Nobody gets fumes and it dries nicely.

      You do not mention virtues of clear lacquer. It dries fast and comes in Matt, satin and gloss and is optically clear.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)