Oak Veneer Plywood Quality

I have built countless projects from hardwood veneer ply over the years with pretty good success.....until lately. I expect the veneer on ply to stain with a little softer grain definition than solid wood. And I expect big-box ply to appear less crisp, but still stain evenly.
While building our house, I bought higher dollar 3/4" oak veneer plywood from a local lumber yard and the sheets looked first-rate off of the truck. Very smooth surface, no corner dings, well matched veneer edges and even the back side looked very crisp. We built two matching cabinets for our master closet and the first stained blotchy. Almost reminded me of staining pine without conditioning. We wiped the second down with pre-stain conditioner (which I have never had to do before) and it was.... well, less blotchy. In addition to blotch, the grain crispness was pretty much on par with what I expect from 1/4" luan-based ply that is sometimes used in cabinet backs. In other words, soft looking and absent of any sharp grain appearance.
Anyone else have similar experience with veneer plywood lately? Also, any cures? I am getting ready to start a fireplace surround that will be of panel construction with several oak ply panels. I would like to do better this time.
RonB
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A few things to remember/consider.
Plywood veneer is considerably thinner than it used to be. This will affect absorbtion. There are several type veneer cuts to choose from, rotary, rift, 1/4 sawn etc. Each will take stain differently. I try to remember to always take sheets from other than the bottom or top. Always sand the plwood veneer.
Stain with a liberal amount so that you get uniform coverage. Oak tends to be very thirsty.
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Well of course testing the best methods with some cutoff or on an extra sheet can help you dial in a working process.
First step I always take when working with veneer ply is to sand the face myself, regradless of what it looks like. This is typically to make sure I get similar stain absorbtion as the solid stock usually included somewhere in the piece by sanding the solid stock with the same steps, 120, 150, 220, etc. However, I think this can also help with making the color lay down be a little more consistent.
With Red Oak I usually use a multi-step process. First step is to use a base color a little lighter than I want to finish. I use typical oil stain Minwax, etc. After it dries I apply a thin coat of shellac. After that dries I use a super dark gel stain and grind it into the grain to really make the grain lines dark. I really flood the surface and then when I start to do the wipe down I use a ringed out rag wetted with mineral oil and leave behind as much of the darker color as I want sort of filmed over the top. If it starts to llok crappy, you can start completly over as long as it hasn't dried out. I usually leave it thicker in the corners and crevices for an antiquing effect but you don't need to do that. I can usually hide or blend out blotchyness from the first color by doing this over;lay color.

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I totally gave up on pre-veneered anything. Being either on PB or plywood. Even top-dollar stuff has been sucking huge for a few years now. I now buy the veneer-on-paperback and lay it up myself. I spray contact cement and lay it up like laminate. I get much better and thicker veneer that way and the overall cost increase is definitely worth it. The last couple of tables came out great and the transition between the veneer top and the oak edges was virtually seamless. I learned that NGR stains work best with that type of veneer.
YMMV
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