Staining Birchwood

Staining Birchwood – How to Stain Birch Plywood

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Building with a budget is not the easiest thing to do. There are so many varieties of wood that one could use for affordable home improvements, but they might not necessarily be as versatile as the more expensive options. There are many ways to improve the quality of your less glamorous woods. One fine example is Birchwood, which can be engineered into a versatile plywood that fits most budgets. Staining Birchwood is always a good idea to not only achieve the finish, but also the protection your woodwork project will require. Staining is even more beneficial if you are staining birch plywood. So, can you stain plywood? Well, the short answer is that staining birch plywood is entirely possible and also highly recommended. In this tutorial, we will explain exactly how to stain birch plywood, as well as what the best type of stain for Birchwood is. If birch stain is your game, then keep reading! Because by the end of this tutorial, you will know all there is to know about applying stain to Birchwood.



Birchwood Explained 

Plywood has become one of the most popular building materials, mainly because it is super affordable and very easy to work with. Birch plywood in particular,  is a versatile building material that can be used for many different kinds of applications. This is possible because the plywood is an engineered version of Birchwood where its strength and color can be determined during manufacturing. You can make lighter shades of birch plywood, or darker ones. But what if you purchased the wrong shade of birch ply? Can you stain plywood? Of course! Staining birch plywood is not only possible necessary if you want to change the color, stain will also add a layer of protection to its surface.

Birchwood Plywood Availability

But, the question remains, why is this type of plywood so sought after? What makes it so popular as a building material? The thing that makes Birchwood so popular is that it comes in so many different colors. This means that it is possible to mix them up to make a combo of colors that will suit most requirements. This means they will work with many different style designs because you can change it up by learning how to stain birch plywood. Whether you are a weekend DIYer, a hobbyist who builds detailed models, or a professional in the industrial field, birch plywood is going to come in handy one way or another.

Using Birch Plywood for Craft

Birch plywood is extremely affordable, so if you are working with a budget, or maybe you live in a zone that gets tornadoes and you frequently need to make repairs or even rebuild, then plywood will be a wise option. It will not break the bank each time you make repairs or re-build, or when you need a quick shelf for your kitchen or office because your work areas are becoming too cluttered.

Using Plywood in Construction

Birchwood plywood is popular because out of all the plywood counterparts and variations produced from other tree types, birch plywood is known and celebrated as being the strongest plywood. That being said, many professionals will still advise that plywood cannot carry the same structural load as hardwood.



What Are the Characteristics of Birchwood?

Now that you are all clued up on birch plywood, what makes it so popular. Regardless of how affordable it is and how easy it is to work with, there are certain characteristics that one must look out for in Birchwood before they go and buy just any old birch plywood. Join us by reading on while we discuss some of those key characteristics.

Raw Birchwood Lumber


Where Does Birchwood Come From?

It is a common misconception that the birch tree is native to the United States, but this is not true. The birch tree is indigenous to Asia and Europe. But the wide availability of birch plywood is why it is so easy to believe that it is a Northern American species. Consequently, while raw Birchwood is hard to find, as an engineered wood, birch ply is far easier to come by.

Birchwood in North America

When it comes to the farming of Birchwood, the species known as yellow birch is commercially grown in controlled environments. The wood from these trees is exported all over the world, and not just to the United States.


What Are Birchwood’s Key Characteristics?

Technically speaking, Birchwood is classified as a hardwood tree. However, birch is definitely on the softer side when compared to the other trees on the same spectrum. Pine trees and Redwood trees produce a far denser grain, which is what makes them so much stronger. Birch trees are not as dense so they are a bit softer (even if they are classified as hardwood trees). In reality, birch plywood is of medium density, so it is very easy to work with. You can do with it what you wish (just be sure to check the loadbearing capacity with any structural application of birch).

Selection of Birchwood Plywood

Essentially, Birchwood can be turned, cut, shaped, and manipulated to fit a multitude of needs, no matter how they vary. This should not surprise you at all, since you will find it as sawn timber, peeled wood, veneer, or made into various furnishings or adornments. If it is reinforced and treated appropriately, Birchwood can withstand everyday stresses really well. However, it is not particularly durable, and is not ideal for weightbearing purposes. So, a quaint little garden bench, or possibly a decorative arch that makes the entrance to your home, are examples of what Birchwood can manage. When it comes to crafting, Birchwood is quite a soft wood with an appealing grain, is very easy to shape, and can be worked using a range of tools.

Easy-to-Cut Birch Veneer


How Many Existing Birchwood Species Are There?

Birchwood is popular in both solid (natural) and plywood form. This wood is useful for various applications, and it is easy to work with. But how many different species of the birch tree do you get? Would the different types of birches mean that there are different types of Birchwood? The answer is that they are all unique in their way, and their characteristics will change as well. In total, there are 40 different variations of the birch tree species, each with it own characteristics. 

Birch Tree Species


How Does Staining Birch Plywood and Other Types of Plywood Differ?

Here is a little bit of natural science for you. The less compact a wood grain is, the more absorbent it will be. So typical hardwoods will be far less absorbent than softwoods since the fibers are far more tightly compacted in hardwood trees. In nature, the open grain of a softwood provides the flexibility that allows tree trunks and branches to sway when exposed to extreme winds without breaking or snapping.

Unstained Birchwood Ply

Since birch has a relatively open grain structure, it is quite an absorbent type of wood. This means that staining Birchwood, and in particular – birch plywood –  can be quite challenging. This is because the stain soaks right into the wood’s surface, with hardly any time to spread it around. There are ways that you can prepare both the Birchwood and the stain, so that the process is easier and not as cumbersome.

As a result, it is imperative that when applying your stain to Birchwood, you prepare it to the best of your abilities. After all, why would you want to waste your stain or saturate the wood fibers so much that they are much heavier than when you started.

Uneven Pooling of Stain on Birch


Various Wood Types That Are Best for Staining

Most people just choose whatever they have lying around the house to stain their wood surfaces. This is because they may not have the time to go out and buy the more appropriate version, or they don’t want to spend money if they already have some stain available. This is not usually a problem, provided you are dealing with a wood that takes stain well. It is only really when you are dealing with a wood that is difficult to stain that you will need a specialist product. To give you some idea of which woods are easy of tricky to stain we have provided a useful overview below:

Type Of WoodDoes It Accept Wood Stain Well?
Oak Wood
Cedar Wood
Chestnut Wood
Maple Wood

Although Birchwood is one of the more difficult types of wood to stain, it is by no means the most difficult. If you are willing to put in a little elbow grease, you will find that you are pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Range of Stained Plywood Veneers



Which Types of Stain Work Best on Birchwood?

Now that we have bored you to tears on how challenging it is to stain Birchwood, we will remedy the tricky task before you. The good news is that there are certain brands that have discovered the gap in the market, and have manufactured stains that can stain not only Birchwood, but other types of woods with similar qualities. Learning how to stain Birchwood, you will need to use the best stain for Birchwood, and make sure that it was designed specifically for this purpose.

Stains for Birchwood

For your benefit, and the benefit of your Birchwood, we have made a list of the best stains for Birchwood products, and this means that they are created for an easy application on a not-so-easy-to-stain type of wood. They are the following:


Oil-Based Stain

As it turns out, oil-based stains can be used on Birchwood, but you might experience some difficulties when applying this type of stain, compared to applying it to other types of wood. Why? Oil-based stains tend to have a slightly thicker consistency, which can make it tricky to spread evenly before it is absorbed into the wood. It may be worth the hassle though, given the vivid colors and protective coat that a good oil-based stain provides not only to the surface of the wood, but to the internal fibers as well.

Oil-Based Stain for Birch

If you are willing to put in the effort and have patience, you can end up with a beautiful workpiece that stands out from other workpieces when you are using oil-based birch stains.


Gel-Based Stain

Many professionals will agree that a gel-based stain is the easiest to work with, thanks to its consistency. Gels are a relatively new invention when it comes to wood stains. However, this has not stopped craftsmen from adoring this type of stain and praising it for its effectiveness. Although the gel type of stain is preferred by most people, it is not preferred by Birchwood. You will find yourself facing the same problems posed by oil-based stains. The surface of your Birchwood board will need to be prepared with a primer before you can apply the stain, this will ensure it adheres appropriately.

Gel-Based Stain for Birch Plywood

Having said that, the use of gel-based stain on Birch is not entirely an impossibility, and if that is all you have on hand at the moment, and you have a deadline that is speeding in, we recommend simply having patience with your workpiece and putting in some elbow grease.


Water-Based Stain

Now for the water-based stain. This is by far the most well-suited stain when you are staining Birchwood. The composition of water-based stain is able to seep into the grain of birch in exactly the right way, not too much, or too little. The viscosity of this stain is ideal for the porosity of the Birchwood fibers.

Staining Birch with Water-Based Stain

You can forget about long and laborious preparations for the wood’s surface if you are applying a water-based stain to Birchwood, which is why it is preferred by so many woodworkers, not to mention the fact that it is so much more affordable.

Type Of Wood StainDoes It Work Well on Birchwood?
Oil-Based Stain
Gel-Based Stain
Water-Based Stain
Water Soluble Dye Stain
Wood Varnish



How to Stain Birch Plywood

If you are using a gel stain or an oil-based stain, you will have to prepare the Birchwood’s surface before the stain so that it will adhere properly. Even if you are staining birch plywood or a normal board with a water-based stain, there are a few steps you should take to ensure proper stain adhesion. Keep reading for a detailed description of the process.

How to Stain Birch Ply


Workspace Preparation

Prep, prep, and more prep! This might be a boring thing to realize, but this is ultimately what will give your plywood that professional feel. Not only that, but if you want a long-lasting structure built from plywood, then the preparation is even more important. Climate and other destructive elements will play a big role in the deterioration of your plywood, and the stain will prevent the humidity, rain, intense heat, and other conditions from making a big impact.

Work Area for Staining Birchwood

Laying down a tarp will be the best move you have made in 2022 as of yet. This will protect the floor on which you are working, and it will take away a lot of the clean-up time because all you will need to do is roll up a tarp and the stain that has dried on it, and you are done!

Preparation for Staining Birchwood

Your tools are next on the preparation list. Gather everything you will need and neatly lay them out at an arm’s reach so that you do not have to stop what you are doing halfway to run and fetch something. Running to fetch your forgotten tools will take up a lot of precious time, not to mention threatening the professional feel of the stain job. The equipment and tools you’ll need are as follows:

  • An old rag
  • Brushes to apply the stain
  • Plastic tarp
  • Sand-paper
  • Pre-stain or primer
  • Sealer to complete the process

Equipment for Staining Birchwood

The last preparation task is all for you. Your protection should be your priority, so we strongly advise getting some appropriate gear. This will include a pair of gloves to prevent staining your hands, as well as a respirator mask for your face so that you are not breathing in the fumes from the stains.


Sand Your Workpiece

If you are learning how to stain Birchwood, sanding is necessary, regardless of whether you are working with a solid board or a veneer. Both need sanding, but one needs it even more than the other. Plywood or veneer does not need heavy sanding, and if you were to sand too rigorously, the surface of the wood might get damaged from over sanding. You can just use the normal sandpaper that comes in sheets that you cut out, and you manually rub the sandpaper over the surface.

Hand Sanding Birch for Staining

The birch solid wood will need a bit more sanding in comparison to the plywood or veneer. You can still opt for sheets of sandpaper, but that might take too long. If the surface of the solid wood is large enough, you could even get out your favorite power sander.

Orbital Sander for Staining Birchwood

If you find yourself working with a rather fussy piece of Birchwood that is not as easy to work with as the typical Birchwood, we have a suggestion for you that might make the sanding a bit easier. Before you start, wet the wood’s surface ever so slightly. This will make the sanding much easier. The moisture causes the grain to expand very slightly, meaning that the same grain that would have expanded and ruined your perfectly smooth finish when exposed to stain will already have been sanded.


Pre-Stain Your Workpiece

Learning how to stain birch plywood or even solid wood for that matter includes learning how to apply a pre-stain conditioner to the surface of the wood. Can you stain plywood without pre-staining? You most definitely can, but the question should rather be, should you stain plywood without pre-staining? The stain can be applied straight to the surface, but whether or not it looks good and provides the protection that it should provide is in question. The pre-staining makes the actual staining so much easier.

Applying Pre-Stain Conditioner

Application of a pre-stain conditioner to the plywood’s surface is needed because the actual stain is not going to adhere properly without it. It will also keep the stain in good condition for a longer period, so your structure or whatever you are building will last much longer.

Color of Stained Birchwood

You can apply pre-stain using the exact same method and equipment as the actual stain. You can do so with a brush or a roller. The brush is better for the smaller pieces of plywood, and you can use some painter’s tape to keep the pre-stain from areas you do not wish to stain. The bigger areas will need the roller, and you will be grateful for how much quicker and smoother the application will be.


Stain Your Workpiece

Unless you are stubborn, or using stain you already purchased for another project, you most likely opted for the water-based stain option that we spoke about earlier. In this case, get it out and crack open the lid. You might notice that your stain has separated within the container, and you can mix the solution back to its preferred consistency with a stick. The heavier sediments will sink to the bottom and that is why it separates in the first place. The stick will move the bits at the bottom and combine them with the body of the mixture.

Applying Stain to Birch

Staining birch ply, or applying a plywood finish is best done slowly and methodically. The tortoise always wins the race! If you are brushing the stain onto the wood, then dip the bristles into the mixture until just before the ferrule so that the bristles of the brush stay in good condition. Misuse of brushes will result in loss of both shape and bristles. Apply the stain with long strokes going in one direction. This will ensure the finish is smooth and even.

If you notice any stain pools forming on the surface, that means that the wood is uneven to its internal pores. The pores will be denser in some areas and less sense in others. The pools can be easily cleaned up by wiping them with a cloth.


Seal Your Workpiece

Many people do not even think of applying a stain themselves, rather they hire professionals to do it. You might be a budding professional, but you might also just be someone who likes to be able to do things themselves. To make the job look as if it was done by a professional, you can apply a sealer to the surface of the wood to make it look like it was done by a professional.

Spray Sealer on Birch After Staining

In general, finding the right sealer for Birchwood is not that difficult. The most common of these is in the form of a spray can or a container that can be used traditionally. If you want to seal your wood, simply apply the sealer of your choice along the grain of the wood, then allow it to sit for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.



Birchwood, as you are now aware, is not the easiest wood to stain, even though it is by far one of the easiest wood to work with, thanks to its amazing malleability. We hope that after reading this tutorial, you understand how to stain both solid Birchwood and birch plywood. There are few limits to what you can do with Birchwood and learning how to stain it will only improve the quality of what you build.



Frequently Asked Questions


How to Stain Birch?

Staining Birchwood involves a process of pre-staining. Just like you would need to prime certain surfaces before the paint is painted on, staining Birchwood means that you need to provide an even base for the satin by applying a pre-stain. 


What Type of Stain Works Best as a Birch Plywood Finish?

Oil-based stains and gel stains will both need a pre-stain to be applied before the stain can be applied. A water-based stain is best suited for Birchwood because it is easier and less time-consuming.


Can You Stain Plywood?

It might seem a bit absurd if you have not stained plywood before, but it is entirely possible to do so. In its simplest form, plywood is simply a combination of different types of wood that have been layered one on top of the other.

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