Tips for Staining Birch Plywood

Someone staining wood with a brush

There are a variety of projects in which the best-looking material for the job is birch plywood. Birch has many advantages and an easily recognizable appearance that makes it a popular type of plywood. However, birch is difficult to stain and can even give experienced woodworkers trouble if they are not prepared. Fortunately, it is easy to learn how to stain birch, as getting a good result only differs from the standard methods of staining wood in a few ways.

With these tips on your side, your woodworking project should become much easier to complete, even if you are determined to use a type of plywood that is difficult to stain.

Prepare the Plywood

Many techniques that are helpful in staining all types of wood can be carried over to birch plywood as well. While birch plywood is famously difficult to work with, ordinary wood staining tips will serve you well.

To begin, you should sand your plywood lightly. You may want to wet the wood before doing this, as it will loosen up the fibers and give you a more even result.

Using a Pre-Stain Conditioner

Birch is a commonly used type of wood, and it is perfectly capable of being stained with excellent results. However, if you have tried staining birch wood on your own without giving it special treatment, you have probably found out that there are plenty of things that can go wrong.

In particular, birch plywood is well known for absorbing pigments unevenly, leading to blurry effects and blotches. Needless to say, this is exactly the opposite of what you want on your custom furniture, floors, and other projects.

The solution to this problem is a product called pre-stain conditioner. Birch is naturally extremely absorbent. While this sounds like a good feature in a type of wood you want to stain, the truth is that birch's extremely absorbent nature causes it to suck in pigment quickly and unevenly, leading to the commonly described problems of blotches of pigment.

Pre-stain conditioners are a product that you can apply before staining to fill up much of birch's capacity to absorb stain, leading to the real stain being absorbed more evenly as it would be by other woods. As pre-stain conditioners have no color of their own they will not affect the appearance of your plywood in the least.

Using a Water Based Stain

Water-based stains for birch plywood can give you some of the best results possible, particularly when used in combination with a pre-stain conditioner designed to be used with it.

Use a brush to apply stain with the grain of the wood in even strokes. As you are doing this, use a soft cloth to wipe up any stain that pools up on the wood. Additionally, you should do your best to blend together any irregularities as you work with the stain.

After letting your birch plywood dry, examine your results. While you may be satisfied with them, it is also possible that the stain is not perfect. If you feel that this is the case, you should apply a layer of toner to your birch.