How To Harden Soft Wood By Yourself? Completed In 10 Steps

If you ever had to work with soft wood, you know its disadvantages. It can be easily dented, scratched, warped, or rotted. The only way to prevent this is to harden it. 

But exactly how to harden soft wood and make it more durable? To harden softwood, get the surface ready by sanding, then clean it. Choose an appropriate finish like varnish or oil and apply evenly in coats, sanding lightly between each. Let each coat dry completely before applying the next. Apply 2-4 coats. After the final coat, let it cure fully.

Want to learn more about this topic? We’ve explained how to harden softwood in 10 easy steps and everything else that you need to know. Read on! 

7 Different Finishes You Can Use For Hardening Soft Wood 

There are different finishes for hardening softwood. Before you know how to harden the wood, you must get an idea of the different finishes. 

Different Finishes You Can Use For Hardening Soft Wood

Here are some of the most common finishes for softwood hardening:

1. Burnt Finish:

This method involves exposing the surface of softwood to an open flame or a hot metal rod until it chars slightly.

2. Epoxy Resin:

This technique basically mixes two liquid components (resin and hardener) that react chemically and form a solid plastic-like coating over the surface of softwood.

Epoxy Resin

3. Polycryl Fortifier:

In this method, you dilute a liquid polymer (polycryl) with water and apply it over the surface of softwood. You have to utilize a brush or a spray bottle for this. 

4. Oil-based Varnish:

This method requires you to apply a clear or colored liquid (varnish) that contains oil and resin over the surface of the softwood. 

5. Water-based Varnish:

To use this method, you apply a clear or colored liquid (varnish) that contains water and acrylic over the surface of the softwood. 

Water-based Varnish

6. Wax: 

This method involves applying a solid or liquid (wax) that contains beeswax, carnauba wax, or paraffin wax over the surface of softwood.

7. Oil:

Lastly, this process requires you to apply a natural or synthetic (oil) that contains linseed oil, tung oil, mineral oil, or teak oil over the surface of the softwood.

How To Harden Soft Wood in 10 Steps? (Step-by-step Guide) 

How To Harden Soft Wood

You simply have to follow the general steps below to harden your softwood:

Step 1: Choose The Right Finish For Your Wood Project. 

Depending on the kind of wood and the intended use of your project, you can choose from various finishes. These include oil-based varnish, water-based varnish, wax, oil, epoxy resin, or polycryl fortifier.

Pick one from the above section. Each finish has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of protection, durability, and appearance.

Step 2: Get the Wood’s Surface Ready

As instructed by the renowned brand General Finishes, you need to sand your wood before applying any finish. This is necessary to remove any dirt, dust, or stains.

Use fine-grit sandpaper (220-400) and sand in the direction of the grain. Wipe off the dust with a lint-free cloth or a vacuum cleaner.

Step 3: Clean The Surface Of Your Wood.

Depending on the kind of finish you are using, you may need to clean your wood with mineral spirits to remove any residue or grease.  

This will help the finish adhere better and prevent bubbles or blisters from forming.

Step 4: Apply The First Coat Of Finish. 

Follow the instructions on the label of your chosen finish and apply it evenly over the surface of your wood. Utilize a brush or a roller for this. Ensure to cover all areas and avoid drips or runs.

Harden Soft Wood

Step 5: Let The First Coat Dry Completely.

This step depends on the kind of finish and the ambient temperature and humidity. This may take from a few hours to a few days.

Step 6: Sand Lightly Between Coats.

After the first coat has dried, smooth out any bumps or ridges with fine-grit sandpaper (between 320 and 400). Wipe off the dust with a lint-free cloth or a vacuum cleaner.

Step 7: Apply Additional Coats Of Finish.

Repeat steps 4 to 6 until you achieve the desired level of hardness and glossiness. Usually, 2 to 4 coats are enough for most projects.

Step 8: Let The Final Coat Cure Completely.

After applying the last coat of finish, let it cure for at least 24 hours before using or handling your wooden project.

Some finishes may require longer curing times. So, be patient in this step.

Step 9: Buff Or Polish Your Project If Desired

If you want to enhance the shine or smoothness of your project, you can buff or polish it. Do this with a soft cloth or a buffing pad after it is fully cured.

10. Enjoy Your Hardened Soft Wood Project.

You’re finished hardening your wood. Enjoy! 

Here’s a quick video on wood hardening for your convenience.

How To Choose The Right Finish for Wood Hardening According to Your Needs?

There is no one-size-fits-all method of hardening softwood. Follow the below tips to choose the right method of softwood hardening for your needs:

1. Consider The Kind Of Wood You’re Handling: 

Different types of softwood have different characteristics, such as grain, color, density, and moisture content. Some methods may work better for certain types of wood than others.

For example, burning may not be suitable for light-colored woods. According to a 2011 peer-reviewed study, it may reduce the glossiness.

Oil-based varnish is not effective for oily woods, as it may not adhere well. Polycryl fortifiers may not be ideal for very porous woods. It may require multiple applications.

How To Choose The Right Finish for Wood Hardening

2. Consider The Desired Outcome:

Think about what you want to achieve by hardening softwood. Different methods may have different effects on the wood’s properties and aesthetics. 

For example, as supported by a 2011 study, synthetic varnish (like epoxy resin) may make softwood very glossy. But it may also permanently alter its color and texture.

Wax may give soft wood a smooth and shiny finish. But it can also make it more prone to scratches.

3. Consider The Time: 

The time required to harden soft wood also differs depending on the method, the size, and the shape of the wood. 

For example, burning is a quick and easy way to harden softwood. According to many users’ verdicts in different forums, such as StackExchange, the water-based varnish will dry faster than oil-based varnish.


Let’s see the answer to some vital questions about hardening softwood. 

1. How long does it take to harden softwood? 

Burning, Polycryl Fortifier and waxing methods only take less than a half hour. Other methods, like water-based Varnish and oil-based varnish, can take a few hours. The rest of the methods take more than one day.

2. How long does hardened soft wood last after hardening? 

Generally, hardened soft wood lasts from a few years to several decades if properly protected and preserved.

3. What types of softwood can be hardened? 

Most types of softwood can be hardened with one or more methods of hardening. 

Some common types of soft wood that can be hardened are pine, fir, spruce, cedar, redwood, poplar, aspen, basswood, balsa, and willow.

Final Words

So, how to harden soft wood? First, sand the wood thoroughly to smooth it, then clean it off. Choose a protective finish like varnish, oil, or wax based on the wood type and project. Brush on finish coats evenly, letting each dry completely before adding the next. Apply 2-4 total coats.

That’s how you do it. To further enhance the hardening, you can choose from different methods of hardening softwood. The method you use will depend on your needs and preferences.