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Apprentice Visitor
ffootball081
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎04-04-2010
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Finishing techniques for birch plywood cabinets

 Help is needed! Let me start by saying I am very new to woodworking but thoroughly enjoy it and have already learned a great deal reading your forums. I have read all your postings on how to finish birch plywood but I am still unclear as to what techniques I need to use. I am building cabinets for my home office and will be using birch plywood- already cut to size. After reading your postings, I did not realize how difficult the finishing process would be before I bought the wood. The birch plywood I am using has a very red tint to the wood – heartwood I am guessing – and has a very nice looking grain pattern. I would like to keep the cabinets as natural/clear color as possible. Can someone tell me the best techniques to use to get the natural look – from sanding to stain? Please be as descriptive as possible, or suggest where I may find descriptive instructions. I apologize ahead of time if I am not asking the right questions or describing what I am looking for – very new to this. Thank you in advance and I am looking forward to your suggestions.

Honored Advisor
Steve Mickley
Posts: 1,567
Registered: ‎10-21-2009
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Before we get to the cabinet finish…

 

Gregg;

 

…let me welcome you to both woodworking and to the WOOD Magazine Finishing and Refinishing Forum.  I hope you will visit often. 

 

If you like the look of the plywood and you are happy with the color provided by the heartwood then the easiest (and arguably best) approach is to simply apply a clear coat finish and be done with it.  You can add a bit of warmth to the color by applying a coat of shellac ahead of your finish.  Whatever you do, however, I suggest that you completely avoid the application of stain.  Stain will almost certainly introduce you to the frustration of “blotching” and in the process the pigment film will diminish some of the subtle grain details.  If more (or different) color is desirable, then water-soluble dye will yield better results.  I would also suggest that you avoid sanding your plywood until after the first coat of finish has been applied.  It is very easy to sand through the thin veneer on plywood exposing the core beneath.  When that happens there is very little you can do to salvage the damaged panel.  It might be useful to know that plywood comes to you pre-sanded, typically through 180-grit.  “Dirt” can be removed from plywood with mineral spirits/paint thinner, denatured alcohol, or an art-gum eraser.

 

Based on the above permit me to offer the following finish schedule for your consideration; no added color, just a “natural finish”.

 

Begin with a coat of Zinsser SealCoat® shellac applied simply with a soft, natural bristle brush.  Work quickly with as little overlap at the wet edge as possible and avoid “back brushing” since the alcohol solvent will evaporate quickly and excessive manipulation will increase the sanding required to smooth the finish.  Keep a soft rag dampened with denatured alcohol in your free hand as you brush and use it to pick-up runs and sags as you go.

 

When the shellac is dry (30-minutes or so) lightly sand with 320P open-coat sandpaper using a soft backer block to keep the paper level and in flat contact with the surface.  Sand just enough to smooth the surface and take care not to cut through the shellac.  (This should be the first time you sand the plywood.)

 

Apply a quality alkyd resin varnish using the wipe-on application technique.  My recommendation would be Pratt & Lambert #38 (soya oil/alkyd resin varnish for maximum clarity and little “yellowing” over time).  Sherwin-Williams Fast Dry Varnish (linseed oil/alkyd resin varnish) is an acceptable alternative but it will go on darker and, because it is linseed oil based, it will yellow much more as it ages.  Please consider beginning your woodworking/finishing career by avoiding polyoneverythane for all of your projects.  Poly is indicated when excessive abrasion will be an issue; but, for a host of reasons it is the wrong choice for furniture and cabinetry in the vast majority of applications.

 

I wish you the best on your project and I look forward to hearing from you when the cabinets are completed…

 

Steve

 

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Apprentice Visitor
ffootball081
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎04-04-2010
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Re: Finishing techniques for birch plywood cabinets

Steve,

I thank you for your quick response and expertise. I will try your techniques outlined below and let you know how they turn out. Thanks again.

Apprentice Contributor
hanguyen001
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎03-04-2011
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Re: Finishing techniques for birch plywood cabinets

hi, just wondering if you have tried this technique? how's the results?

 

question for Steve, is it ok to use more than one application of shellac (2-3) before applying the varnish?

 

i wish to achieve a slightly darker look if possible.

 

thanks

Honored Advisor
ynoT
Posts: 10,474
Registered: ‎10-23-2009
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Re: Finishing techniques for birch plywood cabinets

 


hanguyen001 wrote:

hi, just wondering if you have tried this technique? how's the results?

 

question for Steve, is it ok to use more than one application of shellac (2-3) before applying the varnish?

 

i wish to achieve a slightly darker look if possible.

 

thanks


 

You'd be better off to start new thread with your own questions.

The post you replied to was from 2010. He hasn't replied since and most likely wont.

 

Tony

"Why worry about things you can't control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you."

 

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