Trying To Re-stain Birch Plywood


From original questioner:

I have some birch plywood panels for bypass doors that I stained a golden oak thinking that the color was a match as it matched my sample. Used SW interior oil stain and then applied 2 coats of waterborne polyurethane. But then took the doors to the site but the color is too light to match the surrounding area where they are going. So after long deliberation, I stripped the poly off and washed the stain with lacquer thinner and then sanded the panels trying to remove the oil finish. They appear to be quite lighter but still feel as though there is a finish on the wood. So I tried to brush a darker stain on the panels without wiping it but as the stain dried the pigments seemed to separate into streaks. It didn't look good so I washed this finish off with lacquer finish and lightly sanded. I then applied a fruitwood color to one of the , panels, waited a bit to let it dry, and then wiped the excess off but the panel isn't darker but the color of the original golden oak. I can't sand the original stain out completely as I go thru the thin birch veneer. Is there any way I can get a darker stain on these panels without using a colored varnish. Thanks for any thoughts.

From contributor De

Lots of stuff going on in your post.

I am going to start off by saying that using an oil based stain and a water based poly can give you troubles. You need to make sure that you let the stain cure 100% before you coat it with WB or you can have adhesion problems or down the road the oil can migrate into the finish and cause a milky,cloudy or blushy appearance.

I personally would recommend letting everything dry for a few days minimum and then finding a WB stain to use on the doors. The reason being I have found that you can get the stains to bite in and give darker tones than you can generally get from oil based stains. Then you also will have a WB compatible base to work with.

That being said, if the stain you are trying to match is from a house from the 50' or 60's then the problem you are running into is that the wood and the varnish develop a patina over time and that is what is giving the dark color you are seeing. Many times they were either stained a golden oak color or even just varnished natural The patina gives an amber tone that you have to imitate. The problem you can encounter is that you match the stain to the existing color and then over the years the new wood develops it's own patina and thus ends up darker than the original.You can get the look of the patina by using amber trans tint dye or other methods.

Now, back to the fix.

I would recommend taking it to the local SW store along with a piece of the trim you are matching and a piece of birch plywood sanded to 120 grit that matches the birch you are using.

Let them match the stain on a board, take it to the customer and have them put their signature on the sample and then after that, I would add more stripper to the door and make sure you have all of the original finish off and gently sand with 120 grit and then stain and clear with the exact products that SW used to make the sample and you should be good.

From contributor Br

For future reference look up toning or shading in the database or on youtube. This probably would have saved you considerable amounts of time and material. Adding a slight amount of dye or pigment to your 2nd coat or even top coat could have brought you up to the darker shade you were looking for. Remember when toning to use scrap and start out with a very slight tint load and build up to the desired color.

From contributor Ji

I agree with Brian about toning. One thing we do is to spray our toner mix on half of a window pane. Then hold the clear part of the pane over the sample and the sprayed part of the pane over our workpiece. A way to check if we're moving in the right direction before beginning passes on the workpieces.

From contributor Ke

Thanks to all for your suggestions.

Regarding the toning, I don't have any experience with that process so I don't think that will work for me.

Denny J, the problem I have is that the birch panels have already absorbed the first stain application and although I've washed with lacquer thinner and sanded, I still need to sand more to remove the first stain. I have been using 220 grit but using 120 grit is probably better. The 120 is opening up the birch more so if I'm careful (and lucky) to not sand thru the veneer, I think I might be able to sand enough to remove the original stain color.

I'll post my final results whether good or bad.

Thanks again.

From contributor Mi

I went through a similar situation a few years ago, doors came out to dark so I sanded/stripped...long story short I built new doors - luckily it was an easy number, but once a surface is finished, it's not raw again until you remove a considerable amount of material, and there's usually not enough there on veneer plywood so....I don't know how close your match has to be, but you might want to start considering replacing the panels if possible.