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Old 19th December 2004, 02:23 AM   #1
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Default Staining wood, especially birch

Was going to initially paint my whole speakers but now that I think about it, I might end up going with birch veneered 3/4" playwood on the side, with the front baffle covering up the "sandwhich". I decided to run down to Lowes and buy a 2x2 piece of it to play around with. I chose Olympic oil-based red oak stain and bought some spray Olympic interior oil based Polyurethane Gloss Finish, which the Lowes guy recommended over the kind you use with a brush.

Ok...took the birch ply home. Used 220 grit and went over it a few times to make it nice and smooth. Cleaned it well with a tack sheet. Applied a liberal amount of stain with an old t-shirt chopped up and let it sit for 10 minutes. The stain says to let it sit for 5-15, so I picked the middle. I wiped off the excess and it looks nice, BUT there are blotches on it of uneven absorbtion and the grain didn't take in as much of it. I'm sure this is just a characteristic of birch and other soft woods, but was wondering if there's something else I should do? I went to Olympic's site and they say to use their Olympic Wood Conditioner. Here's what they say about it on their site:

For soft woods such as pine, apply a liberal amount of Olympic Wood Conditioner to ensure uniform stain penetration. Wait 5 to 10 minutes and wipe off excess. Stain within 2 hours.
Allows soft wood to absorb stain evenly

Does this stuff work and would it have fixed my problem? I only bought this sheet to test out on. Seeing how light birch is do you think I should have went with a lighter stain? I was hoping to get a deep, rich red color, but it doens't look like that's going to happen.

I just recently applied a second coat, and in one section, I saturated the heck out of it to see if that helps.

Oh well, thanks for reading if you got this far and I'd love to hear some suggestions!



Found this thread about a killer speaker this guy made. Check out the pics on page two of his speaker after the first coat of stain and then after he used some kind of sanding sealer? Any idea what this stuff does?
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Old 19th December 2004, 03:03 AM   #2
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If you want a red toned color I recommend you go with cherry or mahogany veneered ply. I've never felt that birch was suitable for staining although it looks good with a clear finish.

You should visit a hardwood store.
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Old 19th December 2004, 03:09 AM   #3
tiroth is offline tiroth  United States
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Applying some kind of sealer can help prevent blotchiness by causing the stain to be absorbed more slowly and evenly. I'd also recommend wiping the stain on (no puddles or streaks!) and then wiping it off. You can always stain it darker, but you can't go backwards with veneer.

If you want a red oak finish, is there a reason you can't use red oak veneer ply? You can do a lot with stains, but you can't turn birch into mahogany no matter what the can says. If you don't like the color you are getting, other options include getting a few different colors, do test swabs, and then mix some together to get the shade you want.
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Old 19th December 2004, 03:20 AM   #4
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Gah, it won't let you edit a post twice!

Ariel construction

That's the thread I was referring to.

I really don't like the look of oak because of the harsh grain it has. I'm trying to build these speakers on a budget and the birch ply is pretty reasonable. I've been reading up on staining birch for the last few hours and I guess it's a real PITA. Maybe I could try a tung oil or something?

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Old 19th December 2004, 04:27 AM   #5
Mark Kravchenko
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Default Blotchy Birch

You have run into a well known problem with your staining. I've made this post countless times so here it goes again.

A blond shellac or a stain conditioner is what will cure your ills. Let it dry about a half an hour and then stain over it. Brush on the stain across the grain and let it sit a bit. Wipe it off in the direction of the grain and see if you like the colour. If you do fine, if not do it again. When using a pre-stain it is very important to not let it dry to long. Each can has different instructions but they all boil down to not overnight etc.

With the proper treatment you can make birch into a thing of beauty.

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Old 19th December 2004, 04:42 AM   #6
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[B]For soft woods such as pine, apply a liberal amount of Olympic Wood Conditioner to ensure uniform stain penetration. Wait 5 to 10 minutes and wipe off excess. Stain within 2 hours.
Allows soft wood to absorb stain evenly

This is VERY IMPORTANT on most soft woods. Yes, it will prevent the blotch thing. Minwax also has a decent conditioner.
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Old 19th December 2004, 02:56 PM   #7
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Rock on!

I'll be running to Lowes in the next couple of hours and will report back with how well it works.

You state to put the stain on against the grain, not with it like the cans and instructions state? Also, you said 30 minutes to let the conditioner dry for, but the Olympic can says 10 minutes, then wipe off. Just seeing if you know a better way from experience or if you used a different kind.

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Old 19th December 2004, 03:04 PM   #8
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Default Staining birch

either use a gel stain or an analine dye. birch along with a few other woods like poplar, pine, and some others have verying pore sizes and don't take kindly to standard stains. Analine dyes are available from woodcraft and rockler stores, but I would try a gel stain first just becasue you can get it at home depot.
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Old 19th December 2004, 03:45 PM   #9
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I'll try the gel stain as well. The birch ply I got has 2 sides to it and it's only a test piece, so what I'll do is sand the whole thing, put a piece of masking down the middle and then across to form 4 sections. Then I'll use the conditioner on 2 pieces, and the other 2 I won't use any. I'll gel and regular stain a conditioned piece, and then apply them again to the untreated to see how everything compares. I'm sure the conditioned will look much better so maybe I'll just condition the whole thing and do 50/50 gel and oil stain.

As far as sanding, I only have a 220 now. Think I should get a 120 and 180 as well? Also, sand with the grain or is it ok to go against it?

Thanks again and sorry if I'm asking elementary stuff. mwmkravchenko, I'll do a post search by your name to see what I can come up with.
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Old 19th December 2004, 04:54 PM   #10
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Default sounds like a stain "shoot-out"

I like it. I have never bothered to do such an experiment, but I would love to hear about (and maybe see?) how your birch ply looks after using all the different types of stain on them. I have always just used tung oil or very light stain because that matches the cabinets I have around. But my next set of cabinets will have to be dark. Thank you for sharing your results with us.
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