Kitchen cabinet - Stain cheap wood

I live on a tight budget. The kitchen cabinets are old, rotten and I'm about to have a set of cabinet built by my amateur brother. He said he can do it.
I like the cabinet to be stained, perhaps in cherry color (don't know yet). The box will be 3/4 plywood. The front will be poplar or birch or pine. Can I stain that type of wood? What steps do I need to do so the color doesn't look too tacky?
My co-worker's husband told me, I need to buy the "more expensive" type of wood such as Maple, Cherry, Oak.... but they are too expensive for me.
If it comes to the worst, I can just paint it. But I would like to have a stained cabinet if it's possible.
If you would please kindly give me your advices, opinions, that'd be so helpful.
April
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Arpil wrote:

Yes. You can stain *any* kind of wood.

1. Sand thoroughly and evenly, finishing with at least #180 grit
2. Possibly (especially pine) pre-condition the wood surface so that the stain will penetrate evenly. Most needed with pine as it is a softwood, poplar and birch are hardwoods. Softwood absorption varies considerably within a given piece of wood because of density variation between summer and winter wood. Poplar is often a bilious green, often has black streaks...not a real good wood for staining, good for paint.
3. Decide on stain type (water, alcohol, oil) and read the directions. For you, oil is probably best. Read the directions again.
4. Practice on scrap wood sanded and treated just like the rest.
--

dadiOH
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re: I'm about to have a set of cabinet built by my amateur brother. He said he can do it.
Have you seen any of his work before? I know he's your brother, but I would think that you wouldn't want him to build a whole set of cabinets only to find out that you hate them, or they don't fit, or there's some other issue. Ask him to start small and see how he does.
re: ...poplar or birch or pine. Can I stain that type of wood?
Yes, you can stain all of those types, but the same stain will look different on each because of the color and density of each type.
Pine is the softest, then poplar, then birch, so pine will dent easier than either of the other 2. I'd opt for poplar or birch depending on how much you want to spend.
Go to whatever lumber yard your brother will be buying the wood from and get some samples of each type. Take them home and stain them - don't trust the little chips above the stain display at the home center. Your technique and your wood will make a big difference in the final outcome.
Read up on proper staining techniques. The prep work is very important because you're not going to hide anything like you would with paint.
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On those woods I would not stain without a prestain sealer like Bix, a shellac sealer or it will probably look like crap. Once stained without sealer you really cant get it all out. Those woods look good natural, a few coats of an oil poly and they might be fine and in a kitchen they will darken a few shades in a few years. Learning how to stain, on your kitchen, is not a good idea, learn on other rooms or wood.
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No offense to your amateur brother but unless he is REALLY good at cabinette making you're gonna have gaps , inperfections , ect and with stain you can't use caulk or bondo to fill them...And you are using cheap wood (again no offense) so I say paint them...Look online for ideas for colors , ect......Painted cupboards don't look tacky...You see them ALOT even in high end homes....
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Anytime someone tells you, you need this or that, take it with a grain of salt. There are some very usable woods out there that don't cost much. Red oak, hickory come to mind real quick (TX). If you aren't in a hurry, but I suspect you are, you could find a local sawyer, buy green, air dry a year. But you kinda need a fair shop to process.
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You need to do some reading about wood finishing. I've seen poplar stained to look like cherry and was amazed at the look. It was not stained with the typical can of Minwax from Wal Mart though, it wad dyed with trans-tint dues from a store like Woodcraft that handles things of that sort.
I personally don't have enough information to give you but plenty of books exist with details and photos.
You may also find that you can buy red oak at good prices, but not from Home Depot. You have to go to a hardwood dealer, choose the wood rough cut. If your brother does not have a thickness planer, most will do that step for you at nominal cost.
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Arpil wrote:

What do you mean by "rotten"? Doors are old and dirty? Cabinets are falling apart? Your brother SAID he can build cabinets? Have you seen anything he has built, or are you both newbies? On a tight budget, I'd proceed slowly, as you can waste an awful lot of money. If the cabinets you have are sound, but just ugly, you may be able to refinish face fronts and make or buy new doors.
First of all, read up and shop around to get an idea of woods and colors you like if you want stained wood. Any wood can be stained, but results depend a great deal on hardness of the wood, amount of stain used, method of finishing.
Get a book or two about building cabinets and finishing wood; it will give you a good basis for proceeding. You don't NEED to buy more expensive wood....maple would seem out of the picture for several reasons: it is very, very hard. Maple would take on little stain, because of hardness, and would not likely stain to the depth you say you want, and probably a great deal more difficult to work. Pine is cheap, very soft, takes on a great deal of stain because of softness, but may not be durable enough. Poplar is one good choice; harder than pine, not very distinct grain. Visit a lumber store and see if you can get some bundles of scraps to play with - just to see how they stain. If color is most important to you, that is where you should start.
Plywood for cases is the best choice. There are lots of faux finishes that look like wood grain, and can be very pretty, but may not please a purist...they take practice, but might be a good choice to save money.
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