Hints and Tips

How do you fix Decorative Wood Onlays and Wooden Appliques


Decorative solid wood onlays are best fixed in position with a spot of adhesive - its as easy as that, no bother no fuss.

A small number of our more fragile carvings have been supplied with reinforcement struts to safeguard them during transportation. These can be carefully removed with a fine toothed fret saw or alternatively left in situ as an intrinsic part of the design.

Hand carved decorative wood carvings can be fixed with correct use of the appropriate adhesive to any surface such as wood, wood composite, cement, masonry, plastic & metal.
Larger items of carved wooden architectural features and decoratives can be incorporated as components into your prestige millwork or joinery project using proprietary adhesive or light screw fixings.

 Although easy to fix, these solid wood carvings will last forever, maturing with age to be treasured as an item of beauty and elegance by future generations. 

Taking care of your carving

Your carving is a work of art that has been hand carved by our master craftsmen. We trust that you receive it in as good a condition as when we dispatch it to you. Our packaging department ensures maximum safety of goods in transit, using recycled materials wherever possible.

Please inspect your carving as soon as practically possible, keeping them in dry and stable conditions until needed. Should any shortage, defect or damage be apparent, please notify us within 72 hours.

Once unpacked and mounted in situ the carvings should be sealed within two days and not exposed to direct sunlight or extremes of heat or humidity in the meantime. This is advisable in order to protect the natural fiber and grain structure of the wood.

Planning your work

Take time to plan your work in as much detail as possible. In order to assist you with information for your planning needs we offer you a line drawing plan of each of the carvings with specification details in inches and metric as well as a color display picture.

A note on the widths and spans of your timber will help you to choose the right dimension of carving for your job and a diagram to scale in plan and section will ensure that you have considered details of depth and overhang or width and edge where surfaces meet.

Design Balance

Ornamental carvings create a feature of elegance and beauty as well as providing a practical means of assembling a decorative fixture. They can be used to emphasize or delineate variations in the depths of your joinery such as shelving or mantels. We provide a wide range of ornamentals to decorate flat surfaces in a choice of different styles and sizes.

The display of some of our flowers and motifs can be enhanced setting them into the wood. To achieve this first rout out a shaped recess of the correct size for them to lie in. This recess can be oval or circular depending upon the nature of the carving you decide to choose.

Remember to consider the scale of your work and match to it the available size of our hand carved component. Likewise consider the end effect that you wish to recreate and you will find the answer in our comprehensive range of style groupings and sizes.

How do you fix larger items such as Corbels and bigger carvings?

Fitting And Fixing

Before fixing you should take the opportunity to test the reaction and continuity of any of the stains or finishes which you may intend to use. Make a neat experiment on the reverse side of a portion of the carving without spoiling the face of the carving or the integrity of adhesion on the back.

Wherever possible, fix your carving using screws from behind. When using pins or glue to fix fragile or delicate carvings, it may be necessary to pre drill the holes so as to avoid splitting.

Tradesman's Tip

This can also be avoided by blunting the point of the panel pin with the sharp, light tap of a hammer. Also, scoring on either side of the intended hole across the grain, will help deflect any splitting along the grain.

Different categories of carving will require different methods of fixing depending upon the nature of the job in hand.

Medium and larger sized carvings can be optionally fixed in one of the following ways:

Step By Step

Step 1

Offer up the carving where required and select a suitable and structurally sound point on the carving at which to screw. Then mark the surface onto which it is to be attached.
fixing and fitting hand carved wood

Step 2

Drill pilot holes through the surface of the work at the marked points

Step 3

Measure the combined depth of the work and your carving. Ensure that the length of the screw is not so long that it is going to protrude through the face.

Select the appropriate drill size for the screw being used and use with either a depth stop in place or by marking the drill, again so as not to drill too deep and come out through the other side of the carving. Pre drill the carving to depth.

Where possible it is best to screw fix from behind. Where this is not possible it may be necessary to employ other options for fixing.

The use of adhesive

Small carvings that will not be subject to any movement of the base structure can be mounted with adhesive only using a clamp or temporary pin to hold the carving whilst adhesive sets. Ensure that the surfaces are clean and free from dust and apply the adhesive of your choice as directed by the manufacturer. Remember to protect the face of your carving from pressure of the clamp with a soft pad or block. - Regular water based PVA adhesives are suitable for fixing carvings indoors. Please take care to remove any excess glue immediately, particularly around fret cut edges.

Should you wish to reinforce the adhesive with a fixing then a narrow gauge fixing pin can be used. Once the carving is in situ, drill a suitable hole for the pin size needed. Spread the adhesive very lightly to adhere to both surfaces and sink your pins below the facial surface of the carving with a fine punch and conceal with filler or stopper.

Fixing through the front face of the carving

When using screws to mount heavier or load bearing carved components from in front, you should drill a secondary hole deep enough to lose the head of the screw, with a drill size matched to the diameter of the dowel/plug intended to conceal the screw head. After fixing, plug the hole with glued dowel or sawdust and then use sandpaper or carve to match the surface contour of your carving.

Using a readily available cabinet fitting

Should you require to fit your carving directly to a wall then the use of a mirror plates of a suitable size are recommended.

To fit these in a concealed manner first pre drill and fix the mirror plate to the back of the carving. Then offer up the work, mark fixing points and set plugs into the solid structure of the wall to take the mirror plate fixings.

Slotted mirror plates can be used to fix the carving 'blind' or concealed behind the caving. In circumstances that will allow, the final wall fixing can be screwed in after the carving is set in position. In this case the plate should be left protruding from the edge. Affix the carving by screwing the mirror plates to the wall with screws of a suitable length. The thickness of the mirror plates can be effectively buried in the plasterwork thus leaving the surrounding wall surface smooth.


Stains And Finishes

Your choices of finish are many and varied yet our carvings will lend themselves to most of them.

We can recommend simple staining, wax polishes, and gilded, painted or lacquered finishes.

Once your carvings are applied to your work and ready for finishing, make sure they are sanded and smoothed to your requirements before proceeding with your chosen effect.

Please remember to take safety precautions when using stains, varnishes and waxes. Protect your hands and eyes especially by wearing gloves and goggles. It is also advisable to wear a mask and ensure adequate ventilation when using solvent based products.


Our carvings are suitably finished by the hands of the wood carver. You may wish however, to bring the final level of smoothness to a standard of your own choice. Before using proprietary finishes, it is advisable to fill any 'end grain' or blemish with wood filler. Follow manufacturers instructions.

Tradesman's Tip

An old fashioned technique is to use a mixture of ordinary wood glue and fine, clean sieved sawdust to make a filler paste that resembles wood grain fiber.

Any sanding you wish to carry out should be applied carefully with fine sand or glass paper.

Tradesman's Tip

In the case of pierced carved detail you can make up 'match stick' files by rolling small strips of sandpaper into a manageable stick for sanding inside edges.

In the case of larger items the overall product can be sanded once in situ with a fine abrasive 'star' or 'flap' wheel attachment.

After a final sanding of the wood grain ensure that the overall surface is clean, dry and dust free before proceeding with the desired finish application. Prior to lacquering or fine polish work it is always advisable to clean up with methylated spirit which will not leave drying marks.

Wax and Polishing

Apply a light or clear colored wax to a well prepared surface. Two or more applications may be required, given the absorbency of the wood. Apply wax lightly with a cloth or brush and once dry, buff to a deep rich shine that will age to a fine patina in the fullness of time.

We would recommend and have used in our brochure photography water based, toluene free products. Ensure adequate ventilation especially when polishing in confined areas.

As referred to in the section on applying stains (above), it is best to avoid use of combination stained waxes due to the possibility of a build up or 'clogging' of a dark wax in the end grain of deeply carved or cross grain areas. It is better to apply stain separately where required.

Painted effects

Painted surfaces should be prepared and primed before any marks or blemishes in the naturally carved wood are filled.

In applying subsequent coats, be careful not to apply an excess of paint so that detail is lost through it collecting at a low point of the relief carving.


It is better to apply a separate stain when working with darker colors on carvings rather than one that is incorporated with a wax or varnish finish as well. This is to avoid a build up of pigmented wax or 'clogging' in the end grain of deep carved sections.

Stain can be applied to effect by brush, spray or soft cloth. In application the stain should be used sparingly and worked quickly. Do not allow the build up of dark stain in deep recesses or end grain. Protect your eyes and skin. Once dry a medium grade wire wool can be used to rub down, denibbing any raised grain. Remove dust ready for your building coats.


After careful preparation and removal of all dust, a clear acrylic varnish can be applied directly to the work in several coats, building to the required finish and always following manufacturers instructions. Should you desire to enrich the natural tones of the wood with stain, then this should be applied separately rather than as combination, 'one coat' stain and varnish (see section on 'staining' above).

The inherent characteristics of a natural product such as wood may cause some variation in color, particularly when treated with some oil based varnishes.

For interior use it is advisable to use an acrylic varnish as these minimize any alteration of wood color due to the effect of the varnish.

For carvings that have been mounted in a site out of doors, ensure that exterior or marine grade varnish, either acrylic, epoxy or oil based, is used.


The end quality of French polishing relies to a large degree upon the level of dust free cleaning achieved in preparation of a smooth surface and the absence of dust in the surrounding atmosphere during drying of the lacquer.

An applicator or 'rubber' should be made from lint free cloth (muslin or ideally chamois leather) wrapped around an absorbent pad of cotton wool. The polish is absorbed by the pad and applied with a steady 'figure of eight' motion.

Lacquer can be optionally mixed with linseed oil and some methylated spirit to ease application. It should not be applied in low temperatures, damp or dusty conditions.

As with any solvent-based product, you should adhere to basic health & safety rules and ensure adequate ventilation.