How to Finish Wood Boxes

By Virgil Dudley ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Wood box
  • Sandpaper
  • Cotton rag
  • Wood stain or oil
  • Paint

Wood boxes are a wonderful storage container and can be finished in a variety of ways to match the decor of the room in which you place them. Determining the appropriate method for finishing the wood boxes should be based on the finished look desired. A painted wood box will have a much different look than a stained or oil finish. The type of wood used to make the box should have a bearing on your final decision: oil or stain a nicer wood, like walnut; paint cheaper wood, such as pine.

Stain or Oil finish

Sand the wood using a high-grit sandpaper to prepare the wood for the finish. If the wood is quite rough, use a low-grit sandpaper, move to a medium-grit paper then finish with a high-grit sandpaper, making sure to smooth any rough edges. Sand the wood in circular motions.

Clean the wood with a damp cloth. Be sure to remove any dust created from the sanding. Let the wood dry thoroughly before moving to the next step.

Apply a coat of stain or oil onto the surface of the wood using circular motions with a clean cloth. If doing all four sides of the box, stain or oil one side at a time, making sure not to get stain or oil on the other sides during this process. Allow the stain to sink into the wood for 10 minutes. For a darker stain, extend the time as desired.

Wipe the stain or oil from the surface of the wood with a clean cotton rag. Be sure to remove the excess stain or oil completely so you do not leave streaks or color variations on the wood box.

Allow the stain to dry completely before proceeding to the next side. Continue until all sides have been completed.

Paint finish

Sand the wood to prepare it for the finish. If the wood is quite rough, start with a low- or medium-grit sandpaper at first. Wipe away the dust and finish with a high-grit sandpaper, making sure to smooth any rough edges. Sand the wood in circular motions.

Clean the wood with a damp cloth. Make sure to remove any dust created from the sanding. Let the wood dry thoroughly before moving to the next step.

Paint the box with acrylic paint formulated for wood, beginning on one side and moving to the next as each side dries. Apply two coats, making sure the paint dries between each layer.

If painting a design on the box, apply a contrasting paint on top of the base coat for the desired design.

About the Author

Virgil Dudley is an artist, designer, and urban theorist who has written, researched and designed projects in the fields of art, architecture, fashion, and design since 2001. She has written for websites such as eHow. She holds a B.F.A. in ceramics and art history and a M.Sc. in architectural history and theory and is co-owner of an environmentally responsible clothing line.