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GibsonGM 02-10-2010 07:15 AM

Finishing plywood built-ins?
Hi guys,

I have a project coming up, and wanted to get some research in before I try to price it.

A customer has had a built-in entertainment unit built (I will see it tomorrow), plywood carcase with wood facing. Let's say the trim is pine for now. I'm a residential painter (all things latex or oil, you know the drill....scrape, sand, oil prime, 2 topcoats), not a furniture refinisher. I've done my share of oil staining w/poly topcoat, windows and the like, and things for myself, but not entire panels such as this.
I'm looking for the heads-up stuff, such as:

- what is going to be the major mistake I'd make here? lol :laughing:
- should I use a conditioner? I will assume it's a quality birch-type ply; I know the carpenter and he does top o' the line work...
- what's the best method for stain application - rag, or brush with rag?
- I'm thinking gloss poly on the outer surfaces, satin poly on the insides, is this typical? The customer likes gloss. I've done a bit with 3-coat, 20% thinned poly and #0000 wool jobs, so that part should go ok.

I'd appreciate hearing anyone's experiences with a similar project, I am sure I could figure it out but having more knowledge can't hurt!
Thanks a lot,

~Mike :thumbsup:

user1007 02-11-2010 07:23 AM

I would check with your paint store or better yet with a store or site that sells products to woodworkers and cabinet makers. I like wiping liquid stains on/off but you might find some of the gel stain products easier to control if you are not sure.

It sounds like you have the basics down so just take your time and remember you can always add more stain, you cannot easily suck it back out of the wood if you put it on too heavy.

As for the surface of the project? If the client likes gloss, why not use that everywhere? It will provide a little more surface protection to the shelves than matte. No big deal if you are putting on multiple coats though.

ARI001 02-11-2010 07:49 AM

The biggest mistake I see made is failure to read and follow the manufacture directions. Those should give you all the information you need to complete the project successfully. As far as the sheen of the finish make sure you ask the customer and don't assume that they would like a high gloss vs. a semi-gloss. Also check with your customer concerning exotic pets and or medical conditions of those living in the house as some of the commercial top coats available may not be an option due to the VOC's.

Remember when finishing the unit that the top coat will only be as smooth as the underlying coats. I usually sand the wood to 220 before applying stains or top coats. Follow the directions from the manufacture from there and you should be O.K.

GibsonGM 02-11-2010 08:10 AM

Thanks, guys. I don't see too many pitfalls; wanted to know if anyone else ran into the "I didn't think of THAT!" stuff on a similar project, lol. This is a repeat customer who is very easy to work with. I want to do a bang-up job for them. Nobody's living in the condo yet, so me and the VOCs have the place to ourselves :ahh, ain't that nice!:
Looks like essentially moving a small furniture finish job up to a larger scale. Some step planning and working methodically will probably get it done well. We're meeting this AM when I'll find out just what they are expecting in terms of sheens and whatnot.
:nice forum, BTW! :

~Mike :thumbsup:

mazzonetv 02-11-2010 12:21 PM

The biggest mistake I come across is contractors/painters/homeowners/whoever not properly stirring the product they are using before and during application. I would say the second biggest mistake I see is not using a wood conditioner on soft woods - like pine - and then complaining about how blotchy the stain has dried. So without knowing more specifics, I would suggest a coat of wood conditioner, most likely two coats of stain - I prefer to brush on then wipe off - then at least two top coats of oil based poly. Now if the customer wants low odor and you would rather work with waterborne products, look for the minwax water based stain, wood coditioner, and then you can use a Waterborne poly on top.

good luck!

wacha 02-11-2010 01:12 PM

It would be a good idea to make a sample board for the customer to make sure you are both on the same page with color and finish. The plywood and pine trim may take the stain differently in which you may want to use a clear conditioner to even out color. We generally spray our stains but sometimes use a lambswool applicator which is fast and helps to even out color. I would also be careful of steelwool because the small fibers can contaminate finish. Also. if you clearcoat with a latex poly, these small fibers can react the latex and rust. Good luck.

cellophane 02-11-2010 02:24 PM

the little bit i know about application is to brush stain on and rag it off, then dispose of rags properly (they can spontaneously combust) IMO - your best bet for advice on this is the Woodworking Forum that is linked at the top of the page. It is also very difficult to stop and come back later once you start staining unless you have a clean edge to stop at (a corner, trim piece) or you will get a very distinct line where you started and stopped.

I would also use a PolyAcrylic instead of a Urethane - the acrylic is self leveling and doesn't yellow like the urethanes do. if you varnish / shellac etc i don't know much about it =p

GibsonGM 02-11-2010 02:37 PM

More great and very true tips!!
After some talking and finding out just what the Mrs. Customer would like....turns out she simply wants white ltx semi paint! But, with a catch: 'can it be as smooth as if it were sprayed?'.

So I am going to start another thread to discuss what if any methods might be available to me, in the hopes that the next guy coming along can find it separately!

mazzonetv 02-12-2010 01:25 PM

a couple of products you can look into are Water based SAtin IMpervo from Ben Moore and Cabinet Coat from INsl-x. A sprayed finish is hard to duplicate, but these products will come as close as you can get..

user1007 02-12-2010 03:19 PM


Originally Posted by GibsonGM (Post 398205)
More great and very true tips!!
After some talking and finding out just what the Mrs. Customer would like....turns out she simply wants white ltx semi paint! But, with a catch: 'can it be as smooth as if it were sprayed?'.

Be sure and use a good primer and of course two coats of nice paint store paint. I think Floetrol is a gift from God when it comes to nearly eliminating brush strokes or roller stipple in latex semi-gloss. The stuff is not expensive. With a nice, new brush (Purdy or Wooster 2.5 or 3" angled sash are my choices), rinsed out if need be as you go, you will achieve close to a sprayed glass like surface.

Is masking things off and spraying it a possibility if the place is empty? Nothing looks more like a sprayed on finish than a sprayed on finish! Floetrol is great for adding in spray apps too.

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