3/4" birch plywood stain question

What stain do you recommend for staining birch? Will it take a cherry or oak stain? I would like to build a cabinet and book case. I was able to buy 4 sheets cheap from a friend of mine. Thanks for your help.
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I use Transtint Dyes mixed with water, sprayed and not wiped. Works well. Cheers, JG

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A gel stain will do a pretty good job, but if you want a dark rich color you should spray on a dye first. The birch doesn't absorb stains very well but will color easily with dye. Spraying it is the best way to get it even.
I recently had good luck getting a light clear cherry finish on birch without spraying by using boiled linseed oil followed by ZAR Cherry gel stain and then 2 coats of wipe-on poly. The best thing you can do is to try your planned finishing technique on about a foot square piece of scrap project wood before applying it to your project. Perform each step exactly the way you plan to finish your project so you get a true sample. Then if you don't like the results you haven't ruined the project and you can look for another finish.
If you decide to dye it you should put a sealer coat over the dye. A de-waxed shellac works great for this and dries quickly. Zinser Seal Coat works great for this. Always lightly sand (or 0000 steel wool) between each coat of finish to give the surface texture for the next coat to bond to (sand the dye layer very lightly or not at all). Then make sure you clean the surface and use a tack cloth to remove all sanding debris and steel wool particles before applying the next coat. Everybody develops their own finishing tricks. What works for them they tend to stay with. Making a test piece is the best (and safest) way to develop your own technique without creating a disaster. I save my test pieces and write down the finishing steps on the back of them so I can refer to them and use them again in the future.
--
Charley

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Charley wrote:
-- Great Stuff --
Couldn't have said it better myself!
Practice, practice, practice...
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Charley wrote:

Are you sure this is needed with shellac? My understanding was that with shellac (and lacquer) the new layers will "melt" into the old layers.
I can see sanding for smoothness, but I don't think its necessary for adhesion.
Chris
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It isn't. It only removes dust nibs to that they don't build in successive coats of finish.
Robert
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I'm a "home center woodworker" which means all my lumber and finishing supplies come from Home Depot or Lowes. :)
So, I have built a lot of different projects using 3/4" birch plywood with poplar trim/face frames (entertainment center, bookshelves, computer desk, wall cabinets, etc.).
I typically sand to 150 grit paper, vacuum the dust with a shopvac brush, then wipe on a coat of Minwax "Pre-conditioner". I follow that with my choice of stain (I used Varethane "Golden Mahogany" for my computer desk) that I wipe on with a rag. I wipe off the excess stain, then let it set overnight before brushing on two or three coats of an oil based polyurethane (letting each coat dry overnight, and sanding lightly with 220 grit paper before applying the next coat).
I used the same technique with our kitchen cabinets, except the face frames were made of pine, and I used a MinWax "windsor oak" gel stain.
I also use 3/4" birch plywood to build cabinets and carts for my garage shop, and I simply apply the poly coats directly to the bare wood after sanding. It's a lighter color, but a lot less work for things that will take a beating in the garage.
In any case, I agree with others, practice your techniques on scraps first. Stains always look different on the wood you are using than they do on the samples at the store. You may end up with a collection of stains before you find the color you like. If you can find a store that sells Varethane stains, they usually have little sample packets that let you try a variety of stains without spending $10 on a full can.
I'm a big believer in the pre-conditioner, especially when trying to stain soft woods like pine. Without it, the stain ends up really splotchy looking and/or the different woods accept stain differently. The conditioner makes for a much more even appearance.
Remember to follow the instructions on the conditioner and stain cans.
Gel stains usually go on more evenly, but lately it seems like the color choices have been limited. But as long as you use the pre-conditioner, you can use pretty much any stain you want.
Finally, I haven't had much luck with the "all-in-one" stain and poly blends. Every attempt I have made at using them ends up streaky and splotchy, no matter how much prep work or care I use applying it.
Anthony
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