Staining Birch Plywood – 6 Effective Ways to Get a Glorious Finish

Birch plywood is an affordable yet durable option for building DIY home projects. This lighter-colored plywood has uniform grains that take on a beautiful look when stained. Are you looking to stain furniture made with birch plywood? Then, you must follow the proper steps of staining birch plywood. Otherwise, the stain will end up looking blotchy and uneven.

Don’t worry. To make your staining process successful, we’ve explained the methods of staining birch in a step-by-step manner. Moreover, you’ll get to know how to stain other plywoods too.

So, read on to find the staining methods suitable for your project.

6 Ways to Staining Birch Plywood [without Blotching]

Even though staining birch plywood can be tricky, it’s not impossible. You can get the classic stained look by following the proper steps. 

We have discussed six methods of staining birch plywood in detail. Follow them to achieve an elegant finish on your project.

01. Prepare the Plywood

Preparing the plywood is an essential step of staining birch plywood evenly. Sanding takes off manufacturing marks and uneven parts from the birch plywood surface. This process will also close the pores of the plywood. As a result, it will receive the stain uniformly.

A. Sanding

          Step-1: Remove dirt or dust from the birch with a soft-bristled brush.

          Step-2: Wet the plywood lightly. This will swell and loosen the wood fibers for ensuring a smoother finish. 

          Step-3: Now use 180-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the birch plywood. 

          Step-4: Wipe the plywood surface with a tack cloth to remove the sanding residue.

B. Caution:

           1. Always sand in a well-ventilated area. 

           2. Wear eye protection while sanding.

           3. As birch plywood is weaker than wood, be careful not to over-sand.

02. Test a Sample

You can never know how a stain would look on the birch plywood without applying it. So, apply the stain on a scrap piece to see how dark it is. 

To decide how many coats you’ll need to get the desired finish, apply one coat of stain on the scrap piece of birch. Then, take two other pieces of birch plywood and apply two on one & three coats on the other.

Wait for the stain to dry and decide which one you like best. 

03. Apply a Pre-Stain Conditioner [To Avoid Blotching]

This is the most effective method for avoiding blotched stains on the birch plywood. Birch is known for absorbing stains more quickly. And this results in blotched pigments.

The pre-stain conditioner gets absorbed into the plywood and inhibits some of the absorbing capacity. So, when you apply the actual stain, it gets absorbed evenly without any blotches.

Apply a thin layer of the conditioner using a poly brush. Allow it to dry for as long as the manufacturer recommends.

04. Using a Water-Based Stain

Water-based stains provide better results on birch plywood. This type of stain is non-toxic and easier to control. However, you will need to put on multiple coats to get a dark shade.

There are two ways of applying water-based stains on the birch. 

     a) Apply Staining Color

Identify the natural direction of the plywood. Then use a paintbrush to apply the stain on the birch along the direction of the grain. Try to blend the stain to avoid uneven strokes. After that Wipe away excess stain with an old rag.

     b) Ragging the stain:

If you don’t want brush strokes on the birch, use a rag to apply the stain. Simply take some stain on the rag and apply it along the grain. Wipe the surface after each run to get a uniform finish.

     c) Use a Gel Stain – To make it Dark:

No matter how careful you are while staining the birch plywood, you can end up getting blotchy results. Gel stains are oil-based and they provide a darker shade in fewer coats.

Another benefit of using gel stains is that they are thicker than water-based stains. The thickness prevents the stain from getting absorbed quickly. So, you can blend it properly.

05. Use Toner to Fix Splotchy Areas

If you end up having blotchy areas, use a wood toner to fix them. Wood toners allow you to fix uneven spots on the birch plywood. It can blend the blotchy areas and provide a more even look.

06. Finish It in the Professional Way

Now, let the stain and toner dry for the recommended time. To get a professional finish, you can use a sealant to lock in the stain. 

A stain sealant will prevent moisture from reaching the plywood. As a result, the stain will stay fresh for a long time.

How to Stain Plywood

Staining plywood is necessary to make affordable furniture. Follow these steps to stain any type of plywood successfully. 

Step 1: Carefully Sand the Plywood

Before applying stain you need to make the plywood surface smooth. Use sandpaper with 120 to 180 grit. 

Be careful while sanding because over sanding can bring out raw plywood. And the raw plywood won’t absorb the stain the same way.

Step 2: Wipe Down the Plywood

Now use a cloth to wipe away the residual wood grains. A tack cloth or microfiber towel will remove all the wood grains. And you’ll get a smooth staining surface.

Step 3: Apply the Stain on the Plywood

You can use oil-based, water-based, or gel-based stains for plywood. As gel and oil-based stains are thicker, use a bristle brush to apply them. For water-based stain, use a rag or foam brush to apply even layers on the wood grain. 

Step 4: Wipe Away Excess Stain

Excess stains won’t dry on the plywood. They will clump and make a mess. So, wipe away the excess stain after placing a coat of stain.

Step 5: Allow Stain to Dry

Drying time also depends on the type of stain you use. Oil-based stains require four to six hours to dry between coats. And water-based stains take about three hours. But all stains need 24 hours to completely cure.

Staining Edge Banding

Staining the sides of your birch plywood is another struggle. Because raw plywood does not absorb stain the same way as the rest of the plywood. To properly stain the edges you can use edge banding.

The trick is to match the edge banding to your plywood type. In this case, you’ll need to use birch edge banding. Apply the edge banding and let the adhesive cool down. Then apply the stain the same way you did before.

Final Thoughts

Birch is popular plywood for making furniture at home and in workshops. However, getting the desired result by staining it can be a difficult task for amateurs. 

The reason behind this is birch plywood does not receive stains as uniformly as other ones. It requires quite a bit of preparation to get the classic stained look. 

If you are frustrated with blotchy stains on your birch plywood, this article will definitely help you. Go through the birch plywood staining methods we described and follow them properly to get your desired result.

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