How would you replicate the finish we see on Proofgrade maple plywood?

I’m playing with polyurethane finishes on Baltic birch, and so far I am not able to get the same kind of coating that I see on my Proofgrade MMP.

I’ve tried satin “wipe on” polyurethane, and it seems to soak into the wood. Even 3 coats doesn’t produce the thin shell that I think I see on the Proofgrade. It does look nice, though… Just different.

I’m currently a couple of coats in with a spray-on satin poly, and it seems to go on thicker but I can already tell it’ll cost a fortune to use. The spray can feels half-empty after 2 coats on a 12" x 24" piece. (I read that all the spray finishes are thinned a lot to spray properly, so they are much less cost effective. Makes sense.)

I have not yet tried a brush-on satin poly finish. Should I give that a shot or is there something better?

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I think the brush-on Poly will probably be close to the PG finish in my experience. I prefer the look of the wipe-on poly, but it does not get the shell that the brush-on does. I also like spar varnish for woods that will be subject to weathering.


Thanks, I’ll give it a shot.

So far I am only doing interior stuff but I will keep spar varnish in mind!

I would imagine that they are using lacquer for the finish. It dries very fast and leaves a thin hard coat. :thinking:


I use primarily lacquer for finishing wood products and it works very well.

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I’ve been using tung oil on my exotic hardwoods (like purple heart and red heart) it keeps the colors better for me, and wipe on poly for normal stuff.

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Yah I would use spray urethane for anything that needs durability, but I’ve been pretty happy with clear spray lacquer. It dries to the touch in 20 min, and sands pretty well too.
Val spar clear laquer from Lowe’s is around $4.70 a can.

Apparently, Valspars lacquer is Nitrocellulose based, which may yellow in time.

The reason you are not getting that “candy coat” finish is because the BB is thirsty and is “drinking” your poly. Start with a coat of sealer then come back with a water-based poly like polyacrylic or such. I don’t fully understand the chemistry but the water-based polys give more of a candy coat finish than the oil based.


Thanks everyone, I have some new stuff to try.

I’ve used the water-based (brush on) poly-urethane and got pretty good results with a couple coats (and slight sanding between. Of course you could also plane it down to 0.001 and layer a piece of :proofgrade: on top… :crazy_face:

Have you tried shellac, If you get the flakes and make it yourself it’s fresh and you can adjust your pound mix (shellac flakes [pounds] per gallon of denatured alcohol) to get the consistency you want. It’s all available on Amazon. And you can vary your finish color with different colored shellac flakes.