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
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
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.
A few things to remember/consider.
Plywood veneer is considerably thinner than it used to be. This will affect
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.
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.
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
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.
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