Staining plywood to hide puzzle joints?


Starting my WD 12 build - and thinking it might be helpful to stain the bottom hull parts (my top is spelle)  to better hide the puzzle jounts.  Anyone tried this and what was the result? 

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RE: Staining plywood to hide puzzle joints?

Hi Jharr, 

i would suggest breaking this into the following  questions:

  1. how do you make the joints as invisible as possible?
  2. how do you want the boat to look?
  3. is there a relationship between looks and making joints disappear?

on question number 1, the most important thing is to match the color and grain of the two pieces being joined and to have a tight joint.   you don't really typically have the joints 'pop' visually for the kit material that CLC sells.  they tend to be pretty well color matched and the puzzle joints they do for you are quite tight.

question number 2, is something i would think of as seperately....i would really start by asking, what do you envision as the color scheme of the boat that you want? ...and let that be your guide.  i would not change the color scheme becuase i was afraid of some joints possibly showing.

question number 3 can be answered as follow: to the extent that stain improves the color match (which it generally does) and makes the grain less visible (which it can), then staining...particularly dark stains.... make it easier to hide joints.  but dark stains also can make for a hot boat...and not sure it will match what you really want for your 'look'.   you can also paint a hull which can look great....and that makes joints totally disappear.

anyway....i would do some web searching and see the different paint/color/stain schemes people do.....and let that be your guide ....and put the visibility of joints seperately.  most people will never see your boat close-up enough to notice the joints.

hope that is helpful.

h the picture below....can you find the puzzle joints.  if you look very very carefully with the picture might be able to see them


RE: Staining plywood to hide puzzle joints?

If you haven't already ordered your kit, CLC has in the past worked with builders who let them know in advance that they are going for a museum piece and selected pieces of wood where the grain and color are as close to a perfect match as possible. You could call them and see if they still do that.

But as Howard says, matching is really the most effective way to hide the joints. Even with a perfect match you will still get the black line between the 2 pieces. You would literally have to stain your boat black to hide that line. This is true for butt and scarph joints, too, not just puzzles. The only way to completely hide that joint line is with paint.



RE: Staining plywood to hide puzzle joints?

   I've used some areas of stain on all 4 of my CLC boats (Shearwater Sport, Chess 17, NE Dory, Rhode Runner).  I like the results I've achieved, but staining this stitch and glue construction if fraught with difficulty.  Although staining might achieve a bit better match to the large wood panels on either side of the joint, I think it will almost always be true that the joint itself will be MORE visible no matter how carefully you do the staining.

The first and biggest thing to recognize is that if epoxy glue gets anywhere near the wood, that area needs to be sanded clean of all glue-penetrated fibers before staining.  Or, the stain needs to go on before glue gets near the wood, and that creates its own set of challenges. That means you have two options:

1) Stain your panels before joining them, then coat them with epoxy, then join them (being very carefull to keep a nice flat joint) then never sand through the epoxy coating ever again during contruction.  If you do sand through your coating (and thus into the stain) you'll create a spot that you have to touch up, which is extremely hard to color match.  I used this technique on my NE Dory hull panels (interior side), as there would be no way to sand the lapstrake seams down to bare wood to allow staining after construction.  I glued the strake seam themselves and did filets with color-matched epoxy - you can simply add alcohol based stain to the epoxy mix to get the correct color. 

2) You can stain panels after joining them, but only if the whole surface of the panel - all areas surrounding puzzle joints and all panel edges clean to where the piece joins adjacent parts of the boat - can be sanded to clean wood prior to staining.  I stained the decks on my Chess 17 and Rhode Runner after completing assembly of the boat because they could be sanded down to clean surfaces, edge to edge of the entire deck. When staining panels already assebled like this you must be VERY careful as you approach the edge, as stain will bleed into adjacent panels.  I've tried tape, but that seemed only to allow more errors as you couldn't see when bleeding was starting, and the tape seemed to wick stain underneath it - even good edging tape.  Best to just work very carefully up to the edge with it in view (a good strong glue-line helps stop the wicking flow between panels).  And the act of working more slowly/carefully with alcohol stain as you approach the edge causes additional difficulty with keeping a uniform stain color across the entirety of the panel. Technique gets better with practice.  As soon as you have the stain coating down to your satisfaction, you have to coat the piece with an epoxy top-coat and never sand through that ever again.

I know this sounds long and complicated.  Just a lot of words of wisdom.  I think I've created some very nice stain effects on my boats, but it does take a lot of extra work and planning (and practice) to get them to come out right.  And hiding puzzle joints isn't something that staining will effectively accomplish - if anything I think it makes them harder to hide.

RE: Staining plywood to hide puzzle joints?

i just wanted to highlight and second Bubbleahds notes,,,which really highlight the challenges of stains....especially on okoume plywoood.

if i were to simplify my thoughts, i would say don't worry about the puzzle joints (or any other type of joint - butt or scarf) and their impact on the looks for your stitch and glue boat.  done properly, they really disappear and are hard to see unless you are looking for them.  or in other words, staining is really not a solution for making joints disappear.....and in fact, as bbblehead notes, adds a lot of complexity and opportunities to mess up.

if part of your design is to add color or some other effect other than the natural wood, then by all means go ahead.  to that end, paint, in most cases, is much easier than stains, when deciding not to go natural wood color.




RE: Staining plywood to hide puzzle joints?

  Thanks to all for yor replies - super helpful !

I decided to skip the stain and let well enough alone. I tried a bit of the stain (Mohawk - medium brown) on spot and think its going to be too dark. Plus, from woodworking experience,  it seems that if the stain gets into the end grain ( puzzle area) I'll end up with a darker line - and defeat the whole reason for staining and end up with highlighted joints. 

Thanks again 

RE: Staining plywood to hide puzzle joints?





  Thanks for all the replies 

The tale ends without staining. Just decided it could backfire and create more of an issue. 
I have now fiberglassed and very happy with the results- you can see the joints but that's ok as, along with the wire holes, it's just how it is and shows how the boat was made. The only true way to hide the joints and hole marks is to paint it and for me anyway, that sort of defeats the reason for s wooden boat. (No offense to anyone who painted)







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