View Full Version : Minimizing grain in Red Oak ply

Peter Engelmann
02-08-2005, 8:31 AM
Good Morning,

I'm putting together an entertainment center and using Red Oak ply for the shelves. What's the best procedure to reduce the tiger stripe/barber pole effect that occurs when staining?

I'll be doing a tack trunk out of cherry soon and and need to address the botching issue with that as well..


Jeff Sudmeier
02-08-2005, 8:46 AM
Peter, that will be a hard one. The grain of Oak is what it is famous for!

A question to better understand what you are trying to do....
Why do you want the grain minimized and what are the rest of the woods in the entertainment center?

Bobby Nicks
02-08-2005, 9:02 AM
On the Oak plywood, it sounds like you are using rotary cut plywood which will give you the barber pole effect, no way around it. Try getting plain sliced plywood next time, it will cost a few dollars more, but looks a thousand times better.

Rotary cut is just what it saids, the plywood was made by rotating the log and slicing off the top of the log as it rotates.

Pain sliced was made by cutting the log into thin planks (.040 or so) and then gluing this together to form the face of the plywood.

Know my explanation isn't very clear, perhaps someone that is better at writing can clear it up.


Byron Trantham
02-08-2005, 9:10 AM
Jeff is right. Short of painting the project, you won't be able to effectively hide the grain.

As for the cherry, I just finished a large wall unit in cherry. I took the advice of one of the creekers, Todd Birch, and used BLO. Depending on the top coat you choose, thinners based poly or nitrocellulose lacquer, you can apply it directly over the BLO. If you are going to use a WB top coat then you will have to isolate the BLO by using shellac. You apply the BLO with a rag. You need to apply three coats. His advice, and it worked well, was to apply the first coat and by the time you finish it, you can go back and start over - two more times. Let the BLO dry overnight. You may need to lightly sand it with 320 grit. Now you can apply your top coat or shellac depending on your final finish. Hope this helps. BTW, I did not experience any blotching using BLO.

Peter Engelmann
02-08-2005, 9:13 AM
The rest of the center will also be Red Oak and I'm more than happy for that grain to show, even stand out. But it's those wide stripes in the rotary cut ply that are annoying. I'll use plain sliced in the future, but it's too late for this project.

Jeff Sudmeier
02-08-2005, 9:24 AM
Peter, Will the stripes really show a lot? I know that my entertainment center is FULL and you can't see much of the grain at all of the shelves. If you think that it will... is there a possiblity of you buying some flat sawn 1/4 inch plywood and laminating it to the ply that you are using for the shelves? you would end up with a thicker shelf, which may or may not be to your choosing...

Jim Becker
02-08-2005, 10:19 AM
Red oak is just the species. As Bobby pointed out, how the veneers are cut greatly affects the look of the sheet goods. Virtually all "inexpensive" oak plywood seems to be rotary cut. (Inexpensive it relative since none of it is really inexpensive...) You'll want to buy plywood from a plywood supplier that can give you veneers that are appropriate for your project. Rotary cut is the least desirable for furniture projects for most folks as it is the least like normal lumber.

Jamie Buxton
02-08-2005, 10:51 AM
Don't stain it!!! Use dye instead.

The stuff generally sold as "stain" is kinda like thin paint. It has fairly large pigment particles. In woods with large pores like oak, those particles collect in the pores, and darken that part of the wood more than the parts without pores.

Dye, in contrast, has much much smaller pigment particles, or even chemically changes the wood itself. This leads to much more even coloring of the entire surface. Look into anilyne dyes. Me, I use water-borne dye, and apply it with an HVLP sprayer. Below is a pic of a TV cabinet I just delivered. It is red oak with a sprayed-on dye covered with a sprayed-on waterborne varnish. Notice the lack of stripes.

Todd Burch
02-08-2005, 2:41 PM
If you close the pores by filling them up with something else, the pigments from a pigment based stain won't congregate there and cause the pores to be darker than the surrounding grain.

A pore/wood filler, a putty, a clear or tinted finish, tinted epoxy, plaster of paris, bondo, spackle, and too many other things to mention, can be used to fill pores.