From Shopbot Wiki

Paint bleeding in soft wood:

Try a clear coat first. Even a rattle can of spray clear polyurethane to seal vs the shellac. Then paint over and surface plane or sander to clean off the top. Be careful if you use your planer for taking off the paint on a regular basis because paint will dull the knives very quickly. Finish up with clear over the top and it will add a very nice gloss(if thats what is desired) to the black paint but less on the raw redwood for some more POP to the sign.

Bleeding also varies with the density and color of the wood. The worst is light flat sawn (both in color and porous) and the best is quarter sawn, dark and heavy. If you're at a Show, try pre-finishing blanks with a couple of heavy coats of spar urethane. Then after carving the sign, airbrush black latex in the fresh carving and simply wipe off the excess from the impervious urethane with a damp paper towel.

Scroll Saw Magazine suggests that for oil based stains, sealing with glue sizing (one part white glue to three parts warm water) will help prevent bleeding. Also try staining the wood first with a stain such as golden oak, applying three coats of water based polyurethane, carving the wood, then staining the carving with a very dark water based stain. The golden oak tends to hide the bleeding.

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