Finishing Sapele Solid Lumber and Plywood

Advice on getting a consistent finish appearance on a piece made with Sapele using both solid wood and plywood. April 15, 2012

I have a client that is having me build a library out of sapele. Itís a combination of plywood boxes and solid face frames. They like the wood sample I showed them that had a clear finish on it. I havenít done any combination sapele ply and solid work before, only solid wood projects out of sapele.

Could someone tell me if I would need to stain these woods to blend the color better between the ply and solid wood, or would a clear on both be sufficient? They really liked the clear, I am just concerned that maybe the solid and ply will look different once there is a finish on them. Thanks for any input on this.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Do a test first. Use the same finishing schedule on both.

From contributor C:
Sometimes the wood takes a finish differently depending on the tree it came from and the way the material was processed. So it could be that even when you use the same species in a product, mixing veneer and solid can end up looking different. Even grain orientation can affect the looks after finishing. As was suggested do a sample mixing your solids and veneers and see if you need to even things out with a dye stain or not.

The pics below are of saple cabinet doors I completed about five years ago and I did not stain or alter them in any way. Remember that saple, like cherry and other woods, changes over time so that if your clientsí want a natural look they sometimes need some patience. Work it out by doing samples and keep them around, see the changes that occur to the woods finished, unfinished and exposed to sunlight etc.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor P:
A bigger issue than matching color with sapele is matching grain. If you're after that ribbon look, make sure you order your plywood and solid wood that way. Sapele takes dye or stain very well, but also looks very nice with just a clear coat.

From contributor G:
I have done a few natural sapele jobs. I find the solid wood retains its color well when clear coated. The plywood has a tendency to get darker, sometimes a lot darker. I have used wood bleach reduced in water to change the color of the plywood so that it matches the solid much better. The mixture of the bleach to water was one part bleach to eight parts water. This was the two part bleach (Sodium Hydroxide and Hydrogen Peroxide) The mixed bleach counted as one part. Then mix eight parts water to it. Of course you will have to try out the mix yourself and adjust it to match the samples you use.