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Hello All,
I am making a clock out of a piece of oak. I am in the final stages of sanding it down to a smooth surface. I am planning on doing a light stain and then a varnish. My question is, I am going to paint on the numbers for the clock and the words "Go Big Red", when should I paint this on? I am thinking after the stain and before the varnish. Thanks for your help.
 

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You could varnish over the letters but you would need to be sure you used an acrylic coating. Many finishes will give a amber cast and continue to yellow as it ages altering the color of the letters. Most oil base finishes will yellow. If you used a lacquer paint you could use a pre-catalyzed lacquer or a cab acrylic lacquer. If the paint is latex you could use a water based polyurethane. If you wish to use an oil based paint for the letters I would put them on over the varnish.
 

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I have made a few large growth charts out of oak with handpainted #'s and markings. I had to learn the hard way that the deep grain in Oak will distort your markings unless you fill them with grain filler or a quick coat or 2 of sealer, danish oil, wipe on poly, etc.

My process was stain, few coats of wipe on poly, then paint. More coats of poly on top of the paint.
 
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