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Solstice Wall – Staining Options

December 23, 2023

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

This article was published as an issue of my newsletter Ready for Rain

The rays of the Solstice Wall will be made of Baltic birch plywood, cut into strips. The plies will be visible, so I needed to figure out how to stain and finish them.

Plywood is made from layers of wood that are laminated together with glue. The properties of the wood mean that the plies absorb stain in different ways.

When we built Flattop, we were the painters, and that meant staining over 3,000 square feet of wester red cedar for our ceiling and soffits.

We used a transparent stain that used to go by the name Sikkens. We had a lot left over and I started to experiment with the best ways to apply the stain. I started with the process we used for the cedar: sand and stain, sand and stain. It looked OK, but the stain built up in places and looked dull and a bit too dark.

Next, I tried applying the stain, but wiping it off before it had a chance to soak in. This brought out the plies and created a lighter, cleaner look that I was looking for. This felt like the right direction, so for now, this is our model for how we’ll finish the rays.

Here’s a brief video about this process:

I’m sharing this process on social media. Follow along!

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