Apprentice Visitor
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎08-26-2011

Staining birch panneling a cherry color

Hello there-

I have wrapped my kitchen counter (bar area) with birch paneling.
I ordered special stain from the manufacturer of our cabinets to make sure that
it will match. It is a cherry color. I have been reading on the internet about
staining birch and to be honest I do not like what I am reading. Comments
generally say that it is very difficult, that birch blotches and is generally
hard to work with. I have never stained anything before. I really need some
expert advise pleeeease (: Here are my questions to all of your wood experts
out there:

1. Best way to prep the wood (it’s about a 3 foot by 10 foot

2. How to apply it (it is a vertical application since it is
already on the bar wall). Remember I have to use the stain that I ordered from
the cabinet manufacturer as it matches. Please be very detailed in this as I am
a wood working virgin (:

3. I also have a top coat to put over it (clear I assume) that I
ordered with it. How long before I apply the top coat after the stain?

Thank you in advance for all of your help.


Honored Advisor
Posts: 1,567
Registered: ‎10-21-2009

Re: Staining birch panneling a cherry color



…to the WOOD Magazine Forums, particularly to the Finishing & Refinishing Forum. I hope you will visit often. You will find a number of accomplished woodworkers and finishers here who stand ready to assist you with your finishing and refinishing questions.


In all probability the manufacturer of your cabinets did not use the stain that you purchased from them to color your cabinets.  Manufacturers are also fully aware of the difficulty involved in applying pigment stain to diffuse porous hardwoods like birch.  More and more, in response to these problems, the color is applied in the finish after the surface has been “sealed”.  The finishes today are usually pre-catalyzed lacquer or conversion varnish and the sealer in question is a vinyl sealer.  Once the sealer coat has been applied the tinted topcoat(s) can no longer come in contact with the bare wood so spotty and irregular color problems are eliminated.


Now, that having been said, there is a particular type of stain still in widespread use in many shops.  It is generally referred to as “wiping stain”.  Wiping stains virtually always employ a lacquer binder and contain only pigment (no dye).  The pigment is also more finely milled than that found in OTC, DIY stains.  As a result they are more expensive than the stuff you pick-up at your local big-box.  Wiping stains are usually sprayed on the surface and then immediately wiped off (actually manipulated by “wiping”, hence the name) until the desired color intensity and uniformity are achieved.  If the manufacturer has sent you “wiping stain” your chance of staining success are improved.  The easiest way to identify a wiping stain (other than the label) is by its odor; it smells like lacquer thinner.  The next test is drying time.  Spread a bit on a test panel and see how long it takes to dry.  Fifteen-minutes or less, it’s probably lacquer; more than 15-minutes and it probably uses a varnish binder.


If the stain is wiping stain get some application help.  Assuming you don’t have the ability to spray, have someone apply the stain ahead of you with a brush or rag.  Apply the stain liberally.  You can then follow immediately armed with a good supply of absorbent rags or paper shop towels to wipe off the excess and manipulate the stain until you get desired coverage and uniformity.  (Note: True wiping stains are more expensive; but, they perform far better in most staining applications than the DIY stuff most of us use.)


If the stain isn’t wiping stain then your chances of success will increase if you first seal the wood and then apply the stain as a glaze.  Thin gloss varnish (oil-based) with paint thinner/mineral spirits in a ratio of one-part varnish to three-part thinner.  Any varnish will do, even an inexpensive polyoneverythane.  Then, wipe on a thin, uniform coat on the surfaces to be stained.  Uniformity of application is very important.  (Note: I frequently recommend shellac as the sealer coat but in this application the varnish sealer will be easier to apply.)  After the varnish sealer has cured (6 to 8 hours) apply your stain.  You will again wipe off the excess to achieve a uniform look.


Tell us more about the topcoat you ordered from the manufacturer.  We really need to know with you have to make a recommendation; perhaps not to use it and get something locally that will be easier to apply.



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