I am putting up some wainscoating and a bench in our mud room that I
intend to construct out of white oak (veneer plywood for the
wainscoating and solid for the bench). The finish will be light stain
and poly for protection.
White oak plywood is available in both "Quarter Sawn" and "Flat Sawn"
with the Quarter Sawn costing 2x as much. I am willing to pay the
extra money if the result is worthwhile but am not sure how noticeable
this is in paneling having never used Quarter Sawn. Any pointers on
the right way to do this?
Quarter-sawn is more stable when exposed to moisture variations, and it
will show a "ray fleck" pattern, while flat-sawn will not. You can
google it to get an idea of what it looks like.
Which type of plywood you use depends on what look you're going for, and
whether you plan on using quarter-sawn for the bench itself.
If you do go with quarter-sawn, you might want to consider a finish that
will do it justice better than just stain and poly.
Based on the input and picture references, I am leaning towards
I am a novice at best in the world of finishing. What would you
recommend that would "do it justice" while also giving it a hard and
durable finish since the veneer is by definition thin and this will be
used in our mudroom where things will get banged around?
(I had only mentioned poly because I figured that with several coats
of satin, I could get it pretty hard but I am open to better solutions)
The basic idea is that the rays don't absorb colour as well as the
regular grain, so most stains will tend to colour the regular grain and
thus accentuate the rays. However, sometimes this makes the rays too
For a more authentic-looking Arts&Crafts finish, "Woodworking" magazine
suggested the following:
1) power sand to 120 grit with a random orbit sander
2) hand sand to 150 grit
3) rag on Olympic Interior "Special Walnut" oil based stain, saturate
4) let sit for 15 minutes, then wipe it off
5) the next day, rag on Watco "Dark Walnut" Danish oil, saturate the surface
6) let sit for 15 minutes, then wipe it off
7) next day, rag on one coat of Zinsser Bulls Eye amber shellac
For protection, you could put poly over top of this.
It does mean more time, effort, and expense, so it's up to you whether
you think the effort is worth it.
Whatever you do, try it out on some scrap first to make sure you like
For QSWO, my current choice: 1 coat of Rockler "Mission Oak" gel stain:
Followed by multiple (your choice regarding number) coats of amber shellac
(Zinser BullsEye, available at most Borgs, is fine).
Shellac is one of the easiest finishes to apply and repair, and multiple
coats can be very durable for the intended use, IME.
Besides "ray flecks" quartersawn oak plywood normally has a straight
grained figure. Like this:
Flat sawn looks more like this:
Both examples are red oak, as Google images found that first. <G> White
oak will be similar, but smoother and a more pronounce ray fleck.
I usually prefer QS or the "rift sawn" (straight lined) sections of flat
sawn oak plywood, when I want the parts to have straight grain. Example
uses might be for trim boards or plywood stiles and rails. I'll
normally use wavy figured flat sawn plywood for simulated floating panels.
I've also built simulated frame and panel walls using QS throughout,
which created a very different look.
The bottom line is that either can be "right", depending on the final
When you say "flat sawn" does that really mean rotary sawn (i.e.
peeled like most plywood veneer)? It makes a big difference in my
opinion. Rotary sawn looks very fake as it appears to be a 4 foot
board. Flat sawn and quarter sawn should "appear" to be a number of
boards edge glued. I would pay more to not have that rotary look. As
to quarter sawn, I would think that would look very nice (I like
quarter sawn white oak) but as someone else has said it might depend
on whether the bench will be made from quarter sawn. The difference
between flat sawn and quarter sawn is quite noticeable - the
difference between either and rotary sawn is even more noticable.
Very noticeable difference in plywood, more so than in "solid" lumber:
The panels of the two bottom doors, plus the two "sides" you can see in the
back through the two top doors (where the glass is eventually going), is all
quartersawn white oak plywood:
If you want less of the typical quarter sawn medullary ray fleck appearance,
but not the wild grain pattern of flatsawn, go with "rift sawn", as you see
in these doors below:
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