The best finish for maple plywood

By Mego Kimani •  Updated: 04/24/23 •  9 min read

Maple plywood is a popular material for woodworking projects such as furniture and cabinets. Choosing the best finish for maple plywood is crucial for achieving a beautiful and long-lasting result, but with so many options available, it can be overwhelming. This article will explore the best finishes for maple plywood, including oil finishes, stains, and clear finishes, as well as answer common questions about finishing maple plywood. You’ll learn how to prevent yellowing, finish edges, and choose the best finish for your project, resulting in a professional-grade finish.

Best clear coat for maple plywood

When choosing a clear finish for your maple plywood, you have four options: shellac, lacquer, oil-based poly, and water-based poly. Your choice will depend on your preferences, desired look, and required level of protection. Factors such as durability, ease of application, and resistance to yellowing should also be considered. Once you have narrowed down your options, selecting a specific brand is the next step. To make it easier for you, we have compiled a list of the best clear coats for maple plywood.

The best water-based polyurethane for maple plywood

Water-based polyurethane is an excellent option for those seeking a clear finish that won’t yellow as much as oil-based polyurethane. It’s ideal for achieving a natural appearance or sealing already-stained maple plywood. However, it’s essential to note that water-based polyurethane can raise the grain of the wood, which means you may need to sand the surface before the first coat or use a pre-raising grain technique to avoid roughness. But, overall, water-based polyurethane is an excellent choice for achieving a clear finish without the risk of yellowing over time.

Best Overall
Minwax Clear Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish Satin
$69.84 ($0.55 / Fl Oz)

If you're looking for a protective water-based polyurethane finish for your maple plywood, Minwax Polycrylic is an excellent choice. This finish offers exceptional protection against wear and tear, and unlike some other finishes, it will not yellow over time, keeping your maple plywood looking pristine for years to come.

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04/14/2024 12:16 am GMT

When to pick a water-based polycrylic for Maple

Minwax water-based poly on stained maple

Minwax water-based polycrylic is a great choice for finishing maple wood because it provides excellent protection and durability, dries quickly, and resists yellowing over time. Here are a few situations where you might want to consider using Minwax water-based polyurethane for your maple project:

  1. When you want a clear finish: If you want to maintain the natural color and grain of your maple wood, water-based poly is a good choice because it dries clear and won’t darken the wood or yellow over time.
  2. When you want a fast-drying finish: polycrylic dries quickly, so it’s a good option if you want to complete your project quickly. You can typically apply a second coat within 2-4 hours, which can be helpful if you have a tight deadline.
  3. When you want an easily cleanable surface: With water-based products to clean the surface all yo need is a sponge and water and you’re good to go. for items that are prone to get dust and dirt quickly this would be a good option.
  4. When you want a low-odor finish: Unlike oil-based finishes, water-based polycrylic has a low odor, which can make it a good choice if you’re sensitive to fumes or working in a small, poorly ventilated area.

Overall, Minwax water-based polycrylic is a versatile finish that can work well for a variety of maple wood projects.

The best oil-based polyurethane for maple plywood

Oil-based polyurethanes are renowned for their ability to enhance the beautiful grain of maple wood, especially in curly maple. Additionally, oil-based polyurethanes have self-leveling properties and slow drying times, which make them easy to work with, even for inexperienced finishers. They are also very durable, and it is recommended to use them even for outdoor projects. However, one of the downsides of oil-based polyurethane is that they tend to yellow over time when exposed to UV light. This yellowing effect varies by brand, with some brands showing little to no yellowing.

Below, we have listed our top recommendation for the best oil-based polyurethane for your maple project

Best for outdoors
General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat
$42.00

Introducing Arm-R-Seal oil-based polyurethane, the ultimate solution for enhancing and protecting your maple wood surfaces. With its superior formulation, this polyurethane creates a deep, rich finish that brings out the natural beauty of your wood. Whether you're looking to coat indoor furniture or outdoor structures, Arm-R-Seal delivers excellent protection against wear, water, and UV rays, ensuring your wood stays looking great for years to come.

Arm-R-Seal is incredibly easy to apply, and its self-leveling properties mean you'll achieve a smooth, professional finish every time. The polyurethane dries quickly and cleans up easily with mineral spirits, so you can finish your project in no time.

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04/14/2024 12:41 am GMT

When to pick an Oil-Based Topcoat for maple plywood

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat is an excellent choice for finishing maple plywood surfaces. Here are some situations where you may want to consider using Arm-R-Seal:

The best oil for maple plywood

When it comes to oil finishes, you have three options: tung oil, boiled linseed oil, and Danish oil. Considering all factors, Danish oil should be your preferred option as it is the most durable among the three.

Danish oil is a mixture of oil, varnish, and mineral spirits. It is designed to penetrate the wood (the oil part) and provide a protective finish (the varnish part) that enhances the natural beauty of the wood grain. This oil dries relatively quickly (thanks to the mineral spirits) and is very easy to apply, making it a popular choice among woodworkers.

Best Oil Finish
Tried & True Danish Oil
$39.99

One of the standout features of Tried & True Danish Oil is its flexibility to use over or under other finishes. This allows you to use it as a sealer for stain, or as a grain enhancer under a clear coat like poly. Whether you prefer a matte, satin, or glossy finish, Tried & True Danish Oil can deliver the desired results.

Another great benefit of Tried & True Danish Oil is how easy it is to apply. Simply apply the oil to the wood with a brush or cloth, let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe off any excess oil with a clean cloth. The oil will quickly penetrate the wood, leaving behind a protective finish that will last for years to come.

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04/14/2024 01:12 am GMT

When to pick a Danish oil for maple plywood

When it comes to choosing the right finish for maple plywood, Tried & True Danish Oil is a popular option that offers several benefits. Here are some instances when you might want to consider using this product:

The best lacquer for maple plywood

If you’re a fan of the lustrous finish of lacquer but wish it could stand up to wear and tear better, you’ll be delighted to discover pre-catalyzed (pre-cat) lacquer. This innovative coating retains all the best qualities of traditional lacquer, but with a superior level of durability that makes it ideal for high-traffic surfaces.

How does pre-cat lacquer achieve this impressive feat? By incorporating a catalyst that initiates a chemical reaction as the finish dries, much like a two-part epoxy. This process creates a surface that is harder and more resistant to abrasion than traditional lacquer, without sacrificing its signature smoothness and shine.

Best Lacquer
General Finishes Enduro Pre-Cat Lacquer
$86.95

General Finishes Pre-Cat Lacquer delivers a durable and smooth finish that is superior to solvent-based lacquers. However, it does require some skill and care during application. Proper ventilation and avoiding heavy spraying are also key to preventing crazing and achieving a smooth and durable finish. If you find it challenging to handle an airless sprayer, an HVLP can be a great alternative.

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04/14/2024 01:23 am GMT

when to pick a pre-cut lacquer for maple plywood

If you’re wondering when to pick a Pre-Cat Lacquer for maple plywood, consider the following factors:

More on finishing maple

How do you finish the edge of a maple plywood?

There are several ways to finish the edge of a maple plywood using solid maple wood. Here are a few options:

  1. Edge banding: You can use solid maple edge banding to cover the exposed edges of the plywood. This is a thin strip of solid wood that is glued onto the edge of the plywood. The edge banding can be cut to size, glued in place using wood glue, and then sanded and finished along with the rest of the piece.
  2. Veneer: Another option is to use a maple veneer to cover the exposed edges of the plywood. This is a thin sheet of maple wood that is applied to the edge of the plywood using wood glue. The veneer can be trimmed to size, sanded, and finished along with the rest of the piece.

Does maple plywood take stain well?

Yes, maple plywood can take stain well. However, the final outcome of the staining process can depend on factors such as the type of stain used, the application method, and the condition of the plywood. Maple plywood has a relatively uniform grain pattern, which can make it more forgiving when it comes to stain application. It is recommended to test the stain on a small, inconspicuous area of the plywood first to ensure the desired results before applying it to the entire surface. Additionally, using a pre-stain conditioner can help to ensure an even finish.

Finishing a workbench

Summary

the best finish for maple plywood will depend on your project’s requirements and personal preferences. In this article, we explored the best finishes for maple plywood, including oil finishes, stains, and clear finishes. We also discussed the common questions about finishing maple plywood and provided tips to prevent yellowing and finish edges. Remember, when choosing a clear finish, consider factors such as durability, ease of application, and resistance to yellowing. Our top recommendations for clear finishes are the Minwax Clear Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish Satin and General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Oil-Based Topcoat for water-based and oil-based polyurethane, respectively. So, take your time, evaluate your project’s requirements, and choose the best finish for your maple plywood project. Happy woodworking!

Mego Kimani

Hi there, my name is Mego Kimani, and I am the owner of Woodmeter, a website dedicated to wood finishing. At Woodmeter, we offer a comprehensive resource for woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts, providing information on everything from achieving the perfect finish to product recommendations and technique guides. Our goal is to empower our community with the knowledge they need to create beautiful, long-lasting finishes on their projects, no matter their skill level or experience.