Varnish for birch plywood

I have some 18mm thick birch plywood that I want to use for a kitchen table top. It is already cut to the right size.

I have quite a bit of experience of using birch plywood to make telescopes but no experience of making furniture. My telescopes have been rough and ready, but still worlked well.

I have never used varnish or any other kind of coating. I have read that Johnstones clear quick dry polyurethane
satin varnish is good for birch plywood. Also, that the plywood should be sanded with 220 sand paper.
Does this sound like it would work well?
Also, where is a good place to buy this or another coating? It is expensive, but I would get a 2.5 litre can and use it for future projects as well.

I am going to simply attach the plywood to the existing smaller table. Then when I have some time I will have a go at making some table legs, also out of birch ply, and hopefully be able to get rid of the smaller table.
I want to get better at accurately cutting straight lines in wood and also try to make some joints. This will hopefully also help me to make a better telescope the next time I make one. I have always just used nails, glue and sometimes metal brackets to connect peices of wood.


Ive used Bona traffic silk on my worktops and floor - expensive but amazing stuff!

That quick dry varnish should be fine. Doesn’t sound like you have special requirements, so get what suits the budget. If it’s water based then will be not too smelly and easy to clean up. 220 grit sounds good too. After the first coat, the grain will swell a bit, so you’ll want to give it a light rub down (maybe a slightly higher grit) between coats.

Thanks for the advice.
If I had a lot of wood to varnish or wooden floors to do as well I would try the Bona traffic silk. It looks really good.

But I do not need such large amounts. I have 3 peices of birch plywood and may make another table after this one, but that still should not need so much varnish.
I will go for the Johstone’s Polyurethane, 2.5 litres should last me for a while.
I will be having a go at making the legs for the table out of birch plywood some time in the next few weeks.

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@Stargazer3 - Have you used OSMO Oil before? I’ve used it on sanded floorboards, a pine worktop and a veneer oak furniture. 2-3 coats.

I’ve got two pots (Clear & Amber tint) if you wanted to test the finish.

You might find this a good read:

I used the Bona Mega product on an MDF desk. The company is based in Milton Keynes and the tech support were great to advise the correct version of their product.

I have some left if you want to sample it. It’s goes on nicer with a mohair roller. I did three coats.


I recently used Rustins Quick Dry polyurethane satin light oak on that bizarre oversized plywood shield thing some of you may have seen me working on in the Space. It was not birch ply, lower grade 12mm.

I chose that product because I didn’t want to leave 12-15 hours between coats, requiring me to clutter up the Space for several days. Also because it came in a 250ml size, and that was all I needed.

Overall, results were ok, satisfactory for what I needed, but if it was a project for my own use, next time I would apply with a roller and probably look for a better quality varnish.

There’s broadly 2 kinds of finishes, oil and water based. Within those categories, there’s a lot of options, but do some googling and figure out which one broadly you’d like for this application

I’m looking at finish for birch plywood for that peg board. Beeswax seems it might be a good option. Maybe not suitable for furniture? Any thoughts on using that?

+1 for Osmo. I’ve used their oil for a number of years and always been very happy.

I’ve used beeswax on birch ply for some cabinets. They don’t get the rough treatment which a table or worktop does, so it has lasted fine. I find it nicer to work with than varnish too.

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