6

First of all, can it be done?

If so, how does one mix and match stains to achieve the right color? Is it highly unlikely that I'll get it right?

3
  • Might be a good idea to include a picture of your sapele. According to the wood database Heartwood is a golden to dark reddish brown. Color tends to darken with age. Advice could be dependent on that. It is also possible that the wood it not sapele in which case matching to a picture would still help.
    – Matt
    May 9 '15 at 23:32
  • 1
    Also note that plywood often doesn't stain as evenly, often resulting in blotches. Birch plywood is quite affected by this.
    – Eli Iser
    May 10 '15 at 5:06
  • 1
    You are probably better off getting Sapele veneer and putting it over a plywood substrate than you are trying to stain Birch to match.
    – coreyward
    May 10 '15 at 18:51
9

First of all, can it be done?

Broadly speaking yes, any darker wood can be matched by any lighter wood (in terms of colour, grain pattern is another story).

how does one mix and match stains to achieve the right color?

This is the hard part. Without specific products lined up and samples of the same woods you're using it's essentially impossible for someone to give you a sure-fire recommendation that'll give a match. It may get you close, but your standards for a match may need better than someone else's "close enough".

The usual recommendation with this sort of thing is to experiment for yourself using scraps of the wood you're using. Unfortunately this can mean buying one or more products you don't end up using, but that's unavoidable unless you get lucky with the very first thing you buy to test out.

One important aspect to bear in mind: say there is something that gives just the right colouring (doesn't matter if it's something you mixed or an off-the-shelf product). That perfect match is completely dependent on coat thickness: too thin and it'll end up too light, too thick and it'll be too dark.

6

It is possible.

The first thing of course is you are going to need test pieces of the plywood you are planning to use. I would think 4-6" square would be good sizes, anything smaller and optical illusions can make pieces look darker or lighter than they really are as well as give you a big enough piece to see possible splotching.

Birch has a splotching problem in general, so you are likely going to want to 'condition' the plywood both before testing and before final staining of your finished piece.

Stain gets darker the more coats you put on it so, ideally you'll want to get your stain to work with one or two coats and then use a clear finish to seal. Having a picture of your target piece might give us a chance to point you in the right direction of color mixing, but you are still going to have a bit of work ahead of you depending on luck and how close you are looking to get them.

One final thought, is that if this piece sits in sunlight, wood tends to darken a little faster, and the stains might breakdown and get lighter, so also take that into consideration.

2
  • You gave me too much credit, I didn't mention a potential blotching issue with the birch :-)
    – Graphus
    May 10 '15 at 17:03
  • @Graphus Ha! I guess I need to pay more attention early in the morning!
    – bowlturner
    May 10 '15 at 22:59

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