Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Office build-along, pt. 4

I started my office build-along project here, ago, and last week I gave an update on my progress. It's been a while, because all this rain we've been getting makes it hard to work when I've got to spread out and let stains/stealers dry.

Last week I had a few clear days so embarked on the next phase of my project. The walls of my office are textured drywall, not suitable for the backing of my bookshelves. At the old house, I was closing off a large interior window, so I used 3/4 inch finished plywood to do the job and that worked well. Here, such thickness would be a liability, so I needed something thin. Unfortunately, most interior "paneling" is very 70s-ish and cheesy. Plus, it's all pre-finished and nothing really matched the walnut look I'm going with. Not what I wanted. And you'd be surprised how difficult it is to find unfinished paneling. Finally, after much frustration, I found some think sheets of lauan at McCoys. I'd never heard of it before. Apparently, it was more common in the 50s and 60s than it is today. It's euphemistically referred to as "Philippine mahogany," which is funny because nobody is going to confuse it with mahogany. Plus, it's cheap.

It's a light wood, but it has nice whorls of contrasting grain, so my hope was that it'd approximate the rich walnut contrast I got with the oak cabinets, rather than the blotchy indifference of the birch cabinet. The Minwax Special Walnut stain brushed on nice and dark, which was encouraging. Application went on fairly evenly and quickly. This was good, because I had five of these panels to do.

You're supposed to let the Minwax soak in for 5-15 minutes, depending on how deep a stain is desired. Since it took me about 20 minutes to apply the stain to the entire sheet of paneling, I picked up a rag as soon as I set the brush down and began to wipe it down to pick up any surplus stain from the wood. I did about three quarters of the sheet, then let the final quarter--the last section I applied--a few extra minutes of set time so it'd more closely match the tone of the other wood. I don't think I needed to have bothered. The lauan soaked up the stain readily, and there was very little the rag wiped up. And--yay!--the grain differentiated itself very nicely. This was good.

What's not so good is that the cheap nature of this paneling started showing its true nature. One side's finished, which means it's sanded smooth and, apparently, a filler is applied to even out grooves, divots and other blemishes in the wood. That's fine, as most higher-quality plywoods are treated like this. Sand, stain and be done with it. No big deal. Not so here. Whatever kind of filler used on the lauan, it's orange. And what's worse, it doesn't appear to take stain. At all. And it's all over the wood. Look at the examples below to see what I mean:

It's pretty hideous, right? Fortunately, it's not obvious from a few feet away. Looking at the image of a finished panel below, you'd think it looks pretty good. And it's mostly going to be hidden behind books anyway, so I can live with the imperfections. And the more I thought about how the paneling's going to be hidden behind books, the more inclined I was to make a decision I normally wouldn't. I'm cutting a corner by not applying the second coat of dark walnut stain to the paneling. Would it make the wood look better? Probably. Better enough to be worth the extra day of effort? Not really. And would it hide the orange filler? Doubtful. I believe my next step will be to get some sanding sealer and apply it to the paneling to get a nice, smooth surface. Sanding sealer is easier to work with than polyurethane, and while it's not as durable, it's only going to serve as backing and won't suffer the wear and tear the shelf surfaces will. I think it'll be fine that way.

Now Playing: Various artists The Very Best of Burlesque
Chicken Ranch Central

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