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Wood Veneer Finishing Methods - A Short Course

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Hello, I’m Bob Morgan with the Veneer Factory Outlet.com and Bob Morgan Woodworking Supplies.  Today we’re going to talk  about how to apply a stain or a finish to a veneered surface.

Apply A Stain Or Finish To Veneer The Same You Would To Any Wooden Surface

First, remember this:  You apply a stain or a finish to a veneered surface the same way that you apply a stain or a finish to any wooden surface.  There’s no difference.  Veneer is wood and you treat it the same way you would treat any wooden surface. The staining and finishing is usually done before you glue the veneer in place.  However, you can stain and finish the veneer ahead of time if you choose to.

Sanding Wood Veneers

Most of our veneers are pre sanded at our factory, so for most of our veneers, no sanding is necessary.   If sanding is necessary, it’s surprising how much you can sand without sanding through the veneer.  Just proceed with some caution. 

The most common mistake people make when sanding wood veneer is to be overly cautious.  This causes them to use too fine of a sandpaper.

The coarseness of sandpaper is described by a number.  The higher the number, the finer the sandpaper.  The lower the number, the coarser.  A good sandpaper number to start with is 100.

Start with 100 grit.  If you need a heavier grit, switch to an 80 grit.  If you need a finer grit, switch to a 120 grit.

Naturally, the coarser the grit (lower numbers), the faster you will be able to sand.

It is generally best to increase the grit number to higher and higher values during the sanding process.    Do this in 2 or 3 steps, using higher and higher grits as you proceed. 

You can finish sand your work with a 140 grit or above.    If you sand the wood surface with too fine of a grit, the wood surface may become so polished that it will not take a stain correctly.

How To Apply A Stain To A Wood Venner

You can apply a stain to your wood veneer if you want to, but you don’t have to.  If you want to change the color or hue of the wood, staining will be necessary.

Some stains are available as a finish and a stain all in one.  I do not recommend these.

The staining process is  straightforward.  Apply the stain with a rag and then let it sit for a minute or two.  The longer you let the stain sit, the deeper the stain will penetrate and the darker it will stain the veneer.  After a couple of minutes, use a clean rag to wipe off the excess stain. 

If you want to stain your wood darker, you can apply a second coat of stain, wipe it off and look to see if you get the desired results. Allow the stain to cure for about 24 hours before you apply a finish.

That’s it.  It’s that simple.  You can stain and re stain as many times as you want.  Just remember that for most stains it is necessary to apply the stain, let it sit for a minute or two, and wipe it off.

Hint: Generally, pick a stain that looks a little lighter than the shade that you want to end up with.  Stains just generally tend to darken the wood a little more than one might think.

How To Varnish A Wood Veneer

There are so many different types of finishes that it is beyond the scope of this tutorial to talk about all of them.  So, for this tutorial, I will discuss varnish.

The instructions that I give you here for varnish will apply to most of the other kinds of finishes.  Always be sure to read and follow the instructions for whatever finish you choose.

Polyurethane varnish is a good all around choice for most projects.  There are two types of polyurethane varnishes – water based and solvent based.  I like both of them.

The water based varnishes dry quickly, they release almost no fumes, and you use water for cleanup.  Water based polyurethane finishes may cure in as little as 6 hours.

The solvent based  polyurethane finishes give off fumes and you should work in a well ventilated area where there is no fire hazard.  Solvent based polyurethane finishes take about 24 hours to cure.

The solvent based polyurethane varnishes exhibit an amber patina when they dry.  This amber patina is not as prominent in the water based varnishes.  The manufacturers have added the amber patina to the water based varnishes, but with limited success.  Most people prefer the look of the solvent based varnishes.

Some people prefer to apply a wood filler to the wood surface before they apply a finish.  The advantage to using a filler is that it helps to fill up the pores in the surface, making the surface of the wood smoother and a little easier to finish.  

I don’t like fillers because they tend to dull down the luster of the wood.  Wood fillers are easy to use.  If you choose to use a wood filler, just follow the directions on the can.

Varnishes can be brushed or sprayed.  In my opinion, it is only necessary to spray the last coat.  When you spray the last coat, you avoid brush marks and the varnish goes on smoothly and uniformly.

Generally, it will be necessary to apply a minimum of 3 coats of varnish.  Allow each coat to dry thoroughly.   Sand between coats.  Apply the first coat and let it cure.  Then sand with about a 120 or 140 grit or higher if you think it is appropriate.

Apply the second coat and allow it to dry. Then sand again.  Generally speaking, you will use finer and finer sandpaper (higher number grits) for each successive coat of varnish. 

You do the final sanding before you apply the last coat of varnish.

For the final sanding,  use a fine grit such as a 220 grit or above (even up to 600 grit).  After the final sanding, apply the final coat of varnish.  I recommend that you spray the final coat. 

Some people prefer further steps, such as using steel wool, pumice or rottenstone to add further smoothness and luster to the surface.

Hint:  If you don’t like your final results, you can sand the surface again and apply further coats of varnish until you are satisfied.

Here's a link for more info., videos, tutorials, FAQ and Wood Veneer Sheets Savings: 


That’s it for today’s tutorial.  I’m Bob Morgan with Bob Morgan Woodworking Suppies and the Veneer Factory Outlet.com