Finishing lauan/luan doors?

All,
I recently had some basement remodeling done and the guys put in a couple cheapo luan (sp) doors from Home Depot.
They are unfinished, and not particulary attractive. Very light in color. Grain is rough mahogany-esque, so I'd like to stain and finish them. I'm shooting for something reddish along the lines of mahogany (I know I won't turn lauan into mahogany!).
Have any of you worked with this stuff? Only test I've done so far is try some standard Waterlox. Didn't do anything, I need color. So I'm looking into stains or maybe the colored poly route.
Any experience, ideas, comments, suggestions, would be most appreciated.
Thanks,
Max
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Max wrote:

Not doors - and luan would appear to be a generic term that can describe almost anything these days - but a while back I prototyped a couple of aircraft instrument panels with cheap-o ($7/sheet) 1/4" luan plywood from Menards.
In both cases I used 5 coats of an amberish Minwax poly, sanding to 400 grit between coats. One panel came out medium brown, and the other ended up sort of a medium-dark tan. I don't have any pix handy but can make some when I'm next in the shop.
I also used that same poly on some (really cheap!) 3/4" luan from which I built a TS outfeed table. There're photos of that before and after finishing at the bottom of the page at the link below.
--
Morris Dovey
DeSoto Solar
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I first met this stuff in the 1950s when it was called "Philipine Mahagony". Once upon a time, my house (built about 1968) was full of it. I still have a few doors to replace.
If I remember correctly, most people used a clear varnish to finish it.
Jim
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Max wrote: ...

... "Luan" is, as Morris indicates, a catch-all like "whitewood".
In general, it stains and finishes pretty well; ie, blotching and such are minimal problems. Be sure to sand uniformly as they're often not even texture as is and any scratches will show.
I'd run as fast as possible away from the colored poly's -- they're an abomination to work with, at least those I've tried.
I'd recommend an oil stain followed by whatever level of gloss you wish varnish. It's very open-grained so they _will_ soak it up, so if you don't want them very dark, start lighter color(s) and be somewhat sparing on application until you get a handle on where they're going to come out. In the end, it actually can be reasonably attractive.
--
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A while back I asked about ways to make Home Depot cheapo lauan doors look better. Thanks all who responded.
I was hoping to make the wood more mahogany-esque. While not a silk purse from a sow's ear, I'm quite pleased with the results:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sale_shots/sets/72157608705249312 /
I would call the average between the two close-ups the actual result, but as you can see it really depends on the light.
Here's what I did:
1. Sanded with a random sanding sponge I had laying about, I'm guessing the grit was 150 or so. Seriously! The doors were reasonably sanded already. Removed dust with poly microfiber towel.
2. Sealed with a thin (but not thinned) coat of Waterlox.
-I used Waterlox because in Flexner's book he recommended it on mahogany. It did nothing for the blah color of the lauan, or the grain. Experimenting with putting stain over top of it looked good, so Waterlox went from being the finish to being the sealer.
-Note: Waterlox is strong smelling for a LONG time. I left the doors out in the garage for a couple weeks. Other than the odor, it's a great product.
3. Applied two coats of Minwax red mahogany oil stain per directions on can -- apply decent amount across grain, wipe off with grain.
4. Topped off with two coats General Finishes' Gel Topcoat, a wipe-on varnish/urethane. I used this mainly because I had it on hand. I like it because it can be applied by hand, is low odor, and is a satin finish.
Not a finishing schedule for something you need quickly, but very easy to do and worth the wait.
Regards,
Max
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While I appreciate your effort and think you did a great job, I just don't think rotary cut plywood ever looks good, not matter the species.
In this day and age, we're often left with the formidable task of "polishing a turd" and in your case, you did a good job.
Be sure to wash up. :-)
--

-MIKE-

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Damn fine job of putting lipstick on a pig of a product ... :)
I like it!
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Last update: 10/22/08
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