How to make non-Proofgrade Basswood look like Proofgrade Basswood

I made an engraved keychain on the Proofgrade Basswood. I then made the same keychain on non-Proofgrade Basswood. The woods look completely different. I noticed there is already a finish to the Proofgrade and I think that makes the difference. My husband said my keychains look like the difference of “Made in USA” vs “Made in China”.

Anyone know HOW the Proofgrade wood is finished? Or any advice on how to make non-Proofgrade look like Proofgrade? TIA - Erin

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Welcome to the forum.
Your husband is probably on to something with his comment although both items may have been made in America. The Proofgrade (Glowforge trademarked name) is produced to their specifications so that it can be guaranteed to work with Glowforge settings. It has a finish on it when you receive it. For your basswood, you could try a clear coat finish of some sort or a varnish or stain to see if you could come up with something you like. You could also try staining or sealing your keychain after you engrave for a different look. In any case, using Proofgrade material eliminates one step as it is prefinished.


I am currently waiting for a coat of poly to dry to sand and apply another coat to see if that helps. I am also testing a piece of non-proofgrade by applying poly first, then mask, then cut to see if that provides a better finish.

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There are lots of threads on here about this, just search for “wood finishing”, and you’ll have so many ideas.

I personally like wipe on satin polyurethane. Easy to apply, dries very quickly, and quite pretty.


Thanks, I’ve been looking through but haven’t searched yet!

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There’s a mountain of content, man it can take forever to sift through it.

You might like this roundup of things that are handy to know:


Proofgrade is finished with shellac.


I used to think Proofgrade was expensive, until I tried to make something not-proofgrade look like proofgrade! =P It was a lot of work :smiley:

I’m now of the opinion, if your project needs wood finished on both sides… Proofgrade is well worth the cost.


It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare untreated material - several coats, with sanding in-between, to get that level of finish. Then masking, in most cases. I can only do it at certain times of year because of temps and humidity. TL;DR: PG materials are a bargain if your time is worth anything.

I use sanded BB (Rockler) or PureBond Maple Ply (THD) for unfinished or painted projects, PG for everything else. PureBond actually works nicely for most things, for me.


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