My local home center has started stocking baltic birch pre-sanded plywood, great stuff but I cannot seem to finish it. If I try to stain its very blotchy, and if I shellac its too pale for my taste.

The stain was Minwax Gunstock Interior wood stain and the shellac was Zissner clear shellac if it helps.

Any seasoned folks out there have tips for staining this stuff?

  • Can you tell us what stain and shellac you used exactly?
    – Matt
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 12:55
  • Minwax Gunstock Interior wood stain. Zissner clear shellac. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 13:06
  • Thanks. I am asking to make it easier for Graphus to answer your question.
    – Matt
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 13:17
  • What kind of finish are you going for? Bright and shiny, glossy, matte?
    – Ast Pace
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 16:49
  • This is why all that baltic birch furniture out there is usually just clearcoat and ship!
    – user5572
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 14:08

3 Answers 3


If I try to stain [the birch] its very blotchy, and if I shellac its too pale for my taste.

Birch is notorious for its blotchiness. To reduce this, apply a very thin coat of shellac prior to staining to seal the grain a little, and then continue your finishing regimen as normal.

I can't really give you any pointers for how thin the shellac should be (I do it by eye), but dilute it with denatured alcohol until it's almost like water.

As always, use a test piece to get things dialed in correctly. It will probably take some trial and error until you get the process down (I know it did for me).

  • Will definitely give this a try. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:02
  • @RichDominelli, Sounds good, let us know how it works out!
    – grfrazee
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:02
  • @grfrazee I have not used shellac, so I'm no expert, but I thought you thin shellac with denatured alcohol. Will mineral spirits work?
    – Ashlar
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:30
  • @Ashlar, good catch. Yes, it should be denatured alcohol.
    – grfrazee
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:31
  • @RichDominelli, see the edit. Should be using denatured alcohol, not mineral spirits.
    – grfrazee
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:33

My understanding is that baltic birch takes stains in a blotchy manor in general. Since it is not the only wood that does this, they have products for blotch control. One group is called pre-conditioners. They are applied to the wood before you stain and they even out the grains ability to absorb stain.

This will even out the stains absorption and then the blotchyness will be reduced or eliminated depending on the product and your application of it. The link above is an article about using pre-conditioners.

  • Haven't tried the conditioner. Will definitely give that a shot. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:01

I've been using Zinsser Bulls Eye SealCoat for years straight out of the can. I wipe it on, sand lightly with fine sandpaper and then wipe on multiple coats of Minwax Wipe-on Poly, again straight from the can. Works well on Baltic birch plywood as well as preventing/reducing blotching on cherry and pear. Since the shellac dries so quickly I often put a couple of coats on, especially with the birch plywood.

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