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Thread: Plywood shelving unit

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007

    Plywood shelving unit

    I have a project coming up for my daughter in-law.

    She has a walk in closet and wants large standing shelving units on three of the four walls.
    They don't want fine furniture, just something decent looking to put clothes and shoes on etc.
    I plan on using cabinet grade birch plywood for the whole project.....Uprights and adjustable shelves.

    I know I have several options for edge banding or facing the plywood, but
    was wondering if anyone ever just filled the edge of the ply with a wood filler and tried staining over it?
    I have done this in the past on plywood edges that were to be painted, but never gave it a try with a stain.

    And what would be a good finish for birch plywood. If I would apply tung oil would the oil come off onto
    the clothes stored on the shelves or would it be better to use a poly or shellac type finish.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks... Dave
    Last edited by Dave Trask; 03-03-2008 at 08:20 AM.
    Donít have the best tools, don't use the best woods and projects donít always turnout perfeck.
    I just feel the need to work with wood!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Odessa, Tx
    First, I'll say that I'm not a big "Poly" fan, whereas a lot of folks, (like the other Norm) want to put Poly on everything. I will only use it if it may get some liquid, (like alcohol) on it that would mar other finishes. I still like Laquer on many projects because it is easy to shoot and super easy to repair or renew if necessary. I'm sure others will have other opinions. Anyhow, enjoy the project.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Personally, I like the look of exposed birch ply edges. The times I've gone that way (on shop jigs, for example), I've just sanded and filler seemed necessary. I've even used a roundover bit in the router to ease the edges a bit. I'd make sure you daughter-in-law liked the look before going that route, though.

    For something like a closet fixture that's not going to be seen in good lighting, I'd go more for durability in the finish instead of looks. I'm a lacquer fan, but for this type of project, I'd consider water-based poly. Maybe a floor finish? That'd be durable for sure. I think it'd more odor-free, too.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  4. #4
    I've used Fastcap's edge banding before. I was skeptical of the "peel n stick" stuff, but it works very well. I have some pieces in the laundry room that are 8-9 years old and look as they did day one.

    And don't discount shellac as an option especially since it won't see a lot of water. Shellac is easy to apply and if it gets dinged up, easy to repair.
    Just another option,

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    I like the look of finished BB ply edges, shop grade; not so much. The thin BB plys give things a sort of euro-utility look. I'm a big shellac fan due to ease of use. For shoe storage areas I might be tempted to spray some poly prior to assembly/install. You could forgo the poly if they are going to use some sort of shelf liner to make cleaning easier. Depends where you live and what your shoes go through.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  6. #6
    Norman you get to caught up in your preferances, Each has it own merit. When I has access to a good finish area, I also loved to use Lacquer as you said, "it is easy to shoot and super easy to repair or renew if necessary". that it is and the results are so beautiful but the conditions need be right and the average DYIer has neither the equipment or facility. Utility piecs are better suited for a more durable finish. Livingroom furniture pieces are well suited for a fine Lacquer.

    WES, In the bed room as a utility piece will make me discount Shellac to the front of the list of what not to use OK I'll tell why, Because cosmetics and (usually feminine) prep materials are normaly Alcohol based (so is Shellac) Hair Spray will injure the finish should she stand near and apply as the overspray will drift quite a distance. Should she freshly apply some skin cream and then reach into the wardrobe, this fresh supply of solvant will also attack over time. All these are based on observations of having some bedroom furniture that has a Shellac finish, the pieces are quite old but constructed in the 50s and over time the Shellac finish has deterrated from exposure to such as I discribed, handprints etched into the drawers, etched finish on the mirror where mom would spray her hair, etc. Rings and circles on the bedside tables from placing drinks or bottle of her cosmetics on the dresser, etc. That is why not to use Shellac in an area that is subject to constant wear or attack.

    Poly has a bad rep from some WWers as they feel the "Plastic" effect is beneeth their level of work and must be some exotic formulation to be acceptable, but I for one have had experence with most all the different finishing approaches from exotic oils rubbed and buffed, to catalist required hardening finishes. I prefer Polyurathane (in particular Wipe-on Poly) as the most versitile and all arround used finish. I like to begin with an oilbased sanding sealer for a good sanded base followed by paste wood filler and several coats of a High Gloss Poly. (Okay! you can use Shellac here as a sanding sealer) I prefer High Gloss because you can rub down a gloss finish but you can't polish UP a Semi-gloss finish (semi-gloss uses a chemical suspension within the finish and it builds up with each coat and cannot be polished out).

    As was said, to each his/her own prefferance but this is mine and the reasons I have stated.

    As for the Plywood, I would either go with the banding or glue on a thin strip of suitable material along the edge, Either thin batten strips or a thicker edge biscuited along the edge. Putty will look like amaturish "Git-r-done" approach, sanded and finished exposed ply edge will always look like an UN-finished project. The small effort or expense of the banding will be far less than the final effect and the fact that she will be going in there daily and seeing the work and wish you had .......
    Remember they say " Nothing fancy" now but later??? Got to talk you into it first.

    go with banding.
    Last edited by Bill Simpson; 03-03-2008 at 03:35 PM.

  7. #7
    I would agree with your assessment of the shellac/cosmetics issues. I guess my definition of a walk in closet is a bit more modest. I was focused on clothing storage for which shellac as a finish has served us well.


  8. #8
    Another thought wandered across my humble mind. Quite often the aforementioned "Norm" of TV fame uses Prefinished Plywood for shelving and cabinet carcasses. Might be a bit more expensive but I bet is a dream to work with and the finishing would be touchup to the cuts and any edging. Might consider that.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Austin, Texas
    I am of the school that if you paint or stain a pig, it is still a pig. I no longer stain birch.

    Birch plywood isn't a primo furniture wood. But it is a good paint grade wood. If you want a clear finish, red oak is close to the price of birch (at least in our area). If you want a nice edge, iron on edge banding is relatively easy and good. Naked plywood edges are fine for some people, but not for everyone (who may someday buy your house).

    yes, I am old fashioned. And old.
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Indianola, Ia about 12 miles south of Des Moines
    Not knowing the length of the shelves this may not work for you but I did our closets with prefinished shelving. The longest length is about 4 ft. It has the rounded front edge and is finished. I did put on a couple of coats of ploy to give it some wearability.

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