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Your best finish on Baltic Birch

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  • Your best finish on Baltic Birch


  • #2
    Hey Stephen,

    My Jedi Mind Trick subwoofers (link in my signature) used baltic birch for the layers of the trans-lam design, so I got as much fancy figuring as I could simply by exposing the end grain everywhere. The closest thing to "finishing" the birch was on the top of those subs, where I used a curved surface to gradually expose the wood plies kinda like a waterfall. I didn't use any stain, so thus I didn't use any stain pre-conditioner. However, I did use several layers of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal semi-gloss wipe-on polyurethane. There's a bit of oil mixed into the finish, so it ambers up the wood a bit while giving a nice protective finish.

    As for the idea of a "deep" finish... I'm not sure I've ever seen a stained birch finish that has lots of depth. Doesn't mean it can't be done. My takeaway from that observation is that it must be easier to achieve good finishes on other styles of wood. For example, I used walnut veneer with a fancy finishing schedule on the front and rear baffles of those subwoofers. I figured birch wasn't going to turn out quite right on those spots.

    Hope you find some good info!
    Voxel Down Firing with Dayton SA70
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    • #3
      You are certainly right about going with a clear coat. Even on expensive birch drum sets, those that are stained, then cleared just look horrid. The non-stained ones look fine with a deep clear coat.

      I built a pair of speakers for a friend who wanted a high gloss finish and I experimented with lacquer because of it's unrestricted recoat times. Sanding, clearing, sanding, clearing, then buffing worked very nice, but was very labor intensive. I eventually went with clear poly. It's tough to do, but finish imperfections can be sanded and buffed out as well, and it develops that deep gloss quickly with just a few coats.

      Be sure to work in warmer temps and low humidity.

      GeeDeeEmm

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      • #4
        A nice clear coat and showing lots of end grain (if BB is good quality) is about as good as Baltic Birch gets. Stain is unpredictable and irreversible.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by stephenmarklay View Post
          There were are a couple of older threads I have read up on and there were some take aways. In no particular order:

          1. Use a pre-stain conditioner, if staining, to reduce blotchiness
          2. Sand by hand to as fine as 320 to remove some of the “stressed” fibers that create the blotchiness
          3. The grain is not going to POP like a hard wood.
          4. Dark colors are harder
          5. If you are not staining but rather using a clear top coat, apply a sanding sealer.

          So with this in my hip pocket I think I will do a clear/amber finish.

          However, I am not an experienced wood worker so my go-to is just minwax rub on oil based poly. It is really easy and comes out nice.
          It does seem that most people that have been around the block talk more about lacquers and shellacs. I have zero experience with either but I am curious why.

          My goal is to have a finish with nice depth. Since the wood is rather bland I will spend time on the finish and try to create a nice rich looking finish.

          Thoughts?
          Gel stains are perfect for use on Baltic birch plywood. Blotchiness is minimized, particularly if the plywood is sanded to 220 or 320 grit. The oil-based gel stain does not raise the grain and can be finished with a variety of oil or water based clear finishes when completely dry (36-48 hours). My favorites are Behlen's Jet Mahogany and Georgian Cherry.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by rkeman View Post

            Gel stains are perfect for use on Baltic birch plywood. Blotchiness is minimized, particularly if the plywood is sanded to 220 or 320 grit. The oil-based gel stain does not raise the grain and can be finished with a variety of oil or water based clear finishes when completely dry (36-48 hours). My favorites are Behlen's Jet Mahogany and Georgian Cherry.
            Interesting
            Do you have any pictures?

            I think I hear a difference - wow, it's amazing!" Ethan Winer: audio myths
            "As God is my witness I'll never be without a good pair of speakers!" Scarlett O'Hara

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            • #7
              Originally posted by rkeman View Post

              Gel stains are perfect for use on Baltic birch plywood. Blotchiness is minimized, particularly if the plywood is sanded to 220 or 320 grit. The oil-based gel stain does not raise the grain and can be finished with a variety of oil or water based clear finishes when completely dry (36-48 hours). My favorites are Behlen's Jet Mahogany and Georgian Cherry.
              Do you use 320 before any finishing? I have never gone beyond 220 on wood but I have finer.

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              • #8
                To get color on woods like Baltic Birch, I like to spray a water-based clear coat tinted with some Transtint dye. I pour out some of the stirred finish into a Mason jar, squirt a few drops of the dye into the finish (it's REALLY concentrated), stir to mix in the color, strain, and spray. I have used General Finishes clear coats that include Polyacrylic (indoor usage) and Exterior 450 for outdoor projects.

                Here's a simple box I made using Baltic Birch for the sides, and white pine for the top and bottom. After wiping on a couple coats of dewaxed shellac (Zinsser Seal Coat), it had a few coats of Exterior 450 sprayed on (it is a UPS-proof shipping box for a telescope mirror re-coating project, so I went with the outdoor finish). The Polyacrylic behaves better and dries faster for indoor projects. More coats builds up darkness of color with both finishes.



                This is what it looked like "in the white"...



                Here's a before and after example of spraying tinted clear onto a pressure-treated Southern Yellow Pine bench ...



                Bill Schneider
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                www.afterness.com/audio

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                • #9

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                  • #10
                    One thing I think gets overlooked with Baltic Birch is that most is rotary cut as opposed to plain slice or quatered veneers to be used for "face" use. Baltic birch is
                    ​hard to get a decent finish on unless you are very skilled and equipped to do so. But you can build with BB and veneer over as you would with other substrates.

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                    • #11
                      The end grain of BB ply can look pretty nice if you have the patience to sand it very smooth. Use dye for different colors.



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                      • #12
                        You always have an over the top example

                        No really that is simply stunning. How exactly is hat made. You have to laminate a lot of sheets together? That would be a very neat thing to be able to do.

                        Is that black accent line painted?

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                        • #13
                          I built 2 pairs of Quarks with Baltic Birch - one pair finished with clear wipe-on poly, and
                          the other pair got about 2 coats of amber shellac, then clear finished. I like both.

                          Click image for larger version

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                          I think I hear a difference - wow, it's amazing!" Ethan Winer: audio myths
                          "As God is my witness I'll never be without a good pair of speakers!" Scarlett O'Hara

                          High value, high quality RS150/TB28-537SH bookshelf - TARGAS NLA!
                          SB13/Vifa BC25SC06 MTM DCR Galeons-SB13-MTM
                          My Voxel min sub Yet-another-Voxel-build

                          Tangband W6-sub

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                          • #14
                            I like the amber hue in these. In person I am not sure which one would be my pick as they both look great. I may try some shellac this go round. I have never used it so I get to try something new.

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                            • #15
                              I use Tung Oil on BB. I never stain or dye it, because no matter how good a job it always looks like BB. If I want a speaker that looks like hardwood I make it out of hardwood if it's bookshelf size, veneer MDF if it's larger.
                              www.billfitzmaurice.com
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