Finishing Birch

Ok, finally finished the birch entertainment unit with pocket doors ect. 68 x 46 x 27 Now that I have the easy part done ;-) I'm looking for suggestions for proper finishing of it. It is constructed rail/stile panels of hardwood with 1/4 birch ply panels. Drawers 43 x 7.5" and face frame is all hardwood. Do i need to use a wood conditioner? Tung oil? wipe on poly with light amber color? I've worked with birch before and to say the least was dissapointed with my finish because of blotchyness. Any suggestions and product types would be muchly appreciated. thanks
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>Mcgyver wrote:

scrap, do a light wash with shellac (1-2 lb cut), then wait 45 minutes or so, and rub out with a fine synthetic abrasive pad. Then stain, or poly, or whatever. Much appreciated. Tom Someday, it'll all be over....
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DEpends on whether you want to keep the pale birch colour, accentuate grain or go for a more golden tone. I built a smaller project recently. My finish was polish and wax. I used 2-lb cut blonde shellac first which gave the piece an amber tone. I experimented on a scrap piece with dye and shellac to accentuate grain and produce a more golden tone but discarded that idea when the results were substandard. I just went with the shellac and three coats of clear paste wax. It looks very good IMO.
You will have to look at the speed and ease of applying the finish to your project because it is much larger than mine. Oil will be easy to apply but still might produce blotchy results. I've found through experimentation and reading that laquer or shellac will reduce birch's uneven absorption tendencies. To get even finish absorption, you'll have to first use laquer or clear de-waxed shellac to fill the pores. Then you can apply your oil over that, if that is the finish you desire. Alternatively, a wiping varnish would produce an equivalent yet tougher finish than oil. Both are easy to repair if needed in the future.

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Also depends - more, in my opinion - on what kind of birch you've got. Plywood could be yellow birch veneer, or it could be that Baltic white. Also, rotary peeled will never take finish like flat. The real answer is play with scraps, and make sure they're sanded to the same as your project.
As Paul R used to say, experiment on scrap or you'll be experimenting on your project.

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I use a lot of birch and have found that wiping it down with turpentine (not paint thinner) just prior to staining works about as well as any other technique to keep stain from being absorbed too heavily. The blotches I used to see don't occur now.
RB
Mcgyver wrote:

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It depends on the product and method of application. The turpentine penetration method has worked ok for me with home center quality products, but I prefer a precoat of the same brand of "natural" stain.
For better products, like Behlen's pigment stains, I prefer a shellac seal coat, followed by a wipe-on / dry brushed method of application. Lighter shades of dye also work great under a pigment stain, with shellac to separate the layers.
Birch also looks great with a water base varnish or clear shellac, and no stain at all.
Barry
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