*Amateur* How do you finish Birch plywood?

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Nedsss

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Hi, I'm currently trying to start my own business selling desks made of birch plywood 18mm. I'm completely new to wood working, hence the title 'amateur', how would I go about finishing this sort of wood from sanding it down to varnishing it?

I'd like to keep the wood the same colour (i'm open to ideas though) and add a waterproofing coat so the wood doesn't get damaged if water or tea gets spilt on the desk. Please give details on what products/brands of oil or varnish you mention.

Feel free to ask any questions!

Thank you.
 

Jameshow

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I'd use a polyurethane varnish thinned down. Tough and durable. I'm more of wood basher so no expert!

Cheers James
 

recipio

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I would think spraying is a must for a professional finish. The trouble is that solvent finishes turn Baltic ply an unattractive ' honey ' colour. You want to retain that blonde appearance at all costs and that means water or acrylic finishes and a good spray booth. At the moment I use the Chestnut range of acrylic spray cans. I heat them in water before use and use one of those spray handles on the can as it will be too hot to hold. For professional use it might be worth investing in spray equipment. If you can find articles in F+C by Kevin Ley he was a strong advocate of 'Hydrocote' a water based varnish.
 

Jones

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I would not use oil on ply particularly birch due to darkening as mentioned above. A good water based finish will keep the colour and be easier to clean up. Another possibility is Rustins plastic coating which is a two pack and gives a great finish. What ever you use roller or spray will give a better finish than a brush. Expensive finishes work better in my experience ,you do get what you pay for.
 

robgul

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I made a kitchen dining table about 18 months ago and wondered about finish - with a specific wish to keep the original pale Birch ply colour (the plywood was the best quality stuff, supplied by Cutlist near High Wycombe)

I used OSMO Top Oil 3068 which is the natural colour version - applied a total of 4 coats of the OSMO stuff to the plywood - first one with a soft paint brush, then the others with a lint-free rag. De-nibbed very gently between each coat with the OSMO recommended very, very fine “Scotchbrite” type pad. The table has been cleaned with another OSMO product.

Table looks good as new, and no fading or yellowing - we obviously use place mats and coasters. The table will probably get another coat or two in the next couple of months just to keep the finish.

table4.JPG
If you're wondering - the top is 18mm with a rail about 150mm wide all round underneath to give the effect of 36mm ply.
 

Jones

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I'd second top oil as well which despite the name looks like a wax suspension.
 

the great waldo

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For preparation light damping of surface with a moist sponge , leave to dry and sand down lightly with 320 - 240 abrasive (good quality)
I would use an acid catalyst laquer satin finish 2 coats 1st thin and rubbed down to give a smooth surface 2nd to give build and protection. Keeping the dust off the final coat is important (you could use a 3rd coat More work). I used to use Morrells . Rustins plastic coating was always very good and I don't remember it yellowing much (It was expensive but one of the toughest finishes I ever used ) a sort of cross between polyester and polyeurethane with very good adhesion. I would enquire with the manufacturers about yellowing of their products.
Cheers
Andrew
Ps Spraying is the way to go HVLP (I use an appolo set up with a Fuji spray gun)
 
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sploo

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Doh - I wrote the below yesterday, and forgot to post it 🤦‍♂️

Osmo TopOil works really well on wood, and their 3068 NATURAL contains a white pigment that does a good job of preserving the original colour of the wood. I've not used it on plywood, but it'd be worth a go. Really easy to apply with a cloth (though does take a while to dry).
 

Nedsss

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I made a kitchen dining table about 18 months ago and wondered about finish - with a specific wish to keep the original pale Birch ply colour (the plywood was the best quality stuff, supplied by Cutlist near High Wycombe)

I used OSMO Top Oil 3068 which is the natural colour version - applied a total of 4 coats of the OSMO stuff to the plywood - first one with a soft paint brush, then the others with a lint-free rag. De-nibbed very gently between each coat with the OSMO recommended very, very fine “Scotchbrite” type pad. The table has been cleaned with another OSMO product.

Table looks good as new, and no fading or yellowing - we obviously use place mats and coasters. The table will probably get another coat or two in the next couple of months just to keep the finish.

View attachment 122415
If you're wondering - the top is 18mm with a rail about 150mm wide all round underneath to give the effect of 36mm ply.
I appreciate the in-depth instructions and the photo! Did you sand the birch plywood before varnishing it? How many tubs of the Osmo top oil do you reckon you got through for the project? And you only used Osmo oil, no other product was involved?
 

robgul

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I appreciate the in-depth instructions and the photo! Did you sand the birch plywood before varnishing it? How many tubs of the Osmo top oil do you reckon you got through for the project? And you only used Osmo oil, no other product was involved?

Very light rub down to start with - with a very fine grit sandpaper (? grit) by hand with minimal pressure. Only used the OSMO top oil, and less than half a 500ml can.

This is the stuff I bought from Wood-Finishes-Direct.com

Osmo Spray Cleaner (8026) 500ml
Osmo Top Oil 500ml, Natural 3068
Woodleys Finishing Pad P180
 

Nedsss

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Definitely water-based polyurethane varnish it’s really easy thin the first coat with 10% water two more coats job done. It’s also really tough and hot drink proof.
It’s possible to add a few drops of dye and have your desks any colour you want!
why water-based? And what sort of texture does polyurethane have when dry?

I appreciate the reply, thank you.
 

petermillard

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For anything commercial I'd agree with a water-based polyurethane; I like to use a flooring lacquer - Junckers Strong is a personal fave, though there are others. Spraying would ge good, but application with a foam roller works well. Build the layers up, de-nibbing between, and finishing with an Abralon foam-backed pad. Brings a satin finish up lovely.
 

eribaMotters

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Oil based will eventually have your nice pale birch ply turning a yellow scandi sauna colour.
I've used about 10 sheets of 18mm birch ply on cabinet work of present bungalow refit and lots of sheets previously on kitchen cupboards, bookcases etc. I give a light sand with 400 grit, and dust.vac surface then a full coat of water based/acrylic satin polyurethane varnish and as soon as dry de-nib with 400 grit and another coat. I use a good quality brush.

Colin
 

Cabinetman

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Oil based will eventually have your nice pale birch ply turning a yellow scandi sauna colour.
I've used about 10 sheets of 18mm birch ply on cabinet work of present bungalow refit and lots of sheets previously on kitchen cupboards, bookcases etc. I give a light sand with 400 grit, and dust.vac surface then a full coat of water based/acrylic satin polyurethane varnish and as soon as dry de-nib with 400 grit and another coat. I use a good quality brush.

Colin
Pretty much what EM said, struggled to find a pic as it unobtrusive, but this is water based Satin finish on Oak.
EBAD9C5D-ABF7-427C-B919-0D575102C8C7.jpeg
 

Sideways

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Would the experienced users here please recommend a good water based PU ?
I know it's the way to go but I tried water based acrylic many years ago and it was so poor I've avoided water based wood finishes ever since.
We have one recommendation from Peter. Are there any others ?
Thanks
 

Cabinetman

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Hi, yes this is the one I’ve always stuck with, completely foolproof results, they also do an even more hardwearing one for floors. Both are excellent. Last time it was about £30 for 2.5ltrs but that will last for a long long time.
93EED85A-BAB8-4D10-8E25-F1A24CF04FC9.jpeg
 

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