How to Make Plywood Smooth and Shiny in 6 Ways

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A smooth and shiny surface can be visually appealing and enhance the wood’s natural grain and color, making it more attractive for use in decorative projects.  

If you don’t know how to smoothen plywood, you may need to spend more money and time repeating the steps. But to make your life easier, our pro woodworkers are here to share how to make plywood smooth and shiny.

Making Your Plywood Piece Smooth and Shiny in 6 Ways

Tools and Supplies You’ll Need

Step #1: Know the Quality of Your Plywood

Plywood’s smoothness and gloss are directly proportional to the quality of the plywood. Plywood can be found in many grades, from construction grade plywood and hardwood plywood or from Grades A to D.

buying plywood

Compared to grade A plywood, grade D plywood has knots and is more likely to create a split in the wood veneer.

However, if you choose quality plywood, you won’t have to worry. Simply comply with the procedures outlined below. Also, if you choose high-quality or high-grade plywood, the preparation process will be simpler and faster.

Step #2: Start Sanding

You can eliminate any irregularities or sharp edges by smoothing down the surface with sandpaper. The plywood’s pores are sealed off by the initial sanding.

Sanding plywood lightly creates a smooth surface that is suitable for painting or staining.

How Do You Sand Plywood?

If you want a smooth and shiny finish, you must take your time sanding, just like with any other wood. When you sand properly, you improve the quality of the final result and make the plywood shine.

various types of sandpaper

Step #1:

Remove all the dust and grime from the area by rubbing it down. You can use a moist cloth. Use your gleaming vacuum to channel dust and debris directly into the container.

Step #2:

Use 180-grit sandpaper to softly smooth the plywood. Since 180-grit sandpaper is the coarsest available, be patient and thorough so that you can achieve that smooth surface. 

While working with plywood, it’s essential to be careful and go toward the grain. You shouldn’t sand plywood over three times to get the best results. 

Sanding multiple times using the roughest sandpaper will make the plywood’s grooves show, allowing you to remove its outer layers easily.

Step #3:

To proceed with sanding, switch to 200-grit sandpaper. Sand the plywood, but this time using 200-grit paper. We recommend at least three or four passes over the surface, this time using the 220-grit sandpaper.

sanding block

Using this method, you can eliminate the flaws that the 180-grit sandpaper revealed.

Step #4:

To lightly smooth the plywood, use 220 grit paper this time. When you’re done, use 220 grit sandpaper to smooth the board. Double-check the surface.

Sand #5:

After the plywood has been sanded smoothly, collect the dust accumulated. Vacuuming is the most effective tool for removing visible dust specks sticking. (Check the best small shop vacs here!) 

Alternatively, use a cloth dampened with paint thinner to remove the dust. You can replace your sanding block with an oscillating tool and sanding attachment to make the surface smooth.

Using 40-Grit Sandpaper

Use a sanding accessory like an orbital sander and a hand sander to smooth the plywood. The hardest sanding disk, a 40-grit one, is used to reshape plywood that isn’t in good shape and should be used if the plywood quality is below grade A plywood.
holding belt sander
Choose 220-grit sandpaper or high-grit sandpaper on grade A or higher plywood, and use an orbital or belt sander for sanding the plywood lightly to create a smooth plywood finish.

Using 90-Grit & 220 Grit Sandpaper

You can clean the plywood with a moist cloth and remove the sanding dust with a vacuum. Leave the plywood to dry after that. 

Start by sanding the plywood uniformly with a disk of 90-grit sandpaper. Afterward, sand it again, but this time using 220 grit disks. Remember to sand lightly.

Go Over the Sanded Plywood and Make it Smooth

To make plywood smooth and shiny, you must carefully inspect the plywood again to identify any splits in the wood grain. If there’s a crack in the wood or pocket holes, fix it with a wood grain filler. While using paste wood filler, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Our experts recommend waiting till morning to sand the wood after you apply wood grain filler.

marine grade plywood various thickness

Some tinted pore fillers may stain the surface of the wood, so be aware of that. A sanding sealer is helpful in this situation; sanding down the high wood grain can prevent the surface from taking on an unwelcome hue. 

Once you’ve done that, use sandpaper to smooth the plywood’s surface again.

Step #3: Fill Any Gaps or Holes with a Wood Grain Filler (Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions)

Following the wood grain filler manufacturer’s guidelines is essential. The wood pores are filled in with woodgrain filler. You can use them to patch any imperfection, from holes to gaps. To scrape this off, you’ll need a plastic knife.

To achieve a smooth finish, lightly sand it once the wood grain filler has dried.

Step #4: Paint Your Sanded Plywood

You have to make sure that you are using the best exterior paint for the plywood surface, especially for outdoor projects.

person carrying plywood

How to Choose the Right Paint

You can choose from enamel, latex, oil-based, flat, chalk, satin, chalk, or acrylic paint. Your desired outcome, such as a high-gloss finish, will determine the final product.

Latex is the way to go if you want a satin or semi-glossy look. Doors and cabinets are best painted in a semi-gloss, smooth finish, which is more durable than satin without a topcoat.

To safeguard the wood from scratches, apply a top coat after painting it with a satin or flat wood stain.

You should seal plywood edges and the entire project after painting with chalk or acrylic. If not, the coat’s durability will decrease sooner. Beams, doors, internal walls, and shelves made of wood are best painted with acrylic-based paint.

Rust-Oleum 285140 Ultra Matte Interior Chalked Paint

Meanwhile, oil-based paint is best for beams, cabinets, doors, interior walls, shelves, and storage chests. While you can use enamel paint on tables, beams, floors, doors, shelves, interior walls, and frames.

Start Painting the Proper Way

Step #5: Seal the Plywood Surface

Finish off the plywood by coating it in polyurethane, stain, or paint. This can be accomplished with the use of a paintbrush.

Polyurethane has a wide variety of applications, both indoors and out. It’s the perfect solution for protecting your plywood. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time after applying polyurethane.

Step #6: Apply Stain and Polyurethane

You may sand the finish without worrying about the grain. But don’t go crazy with the sanding. Surfaces become soapy and smooth after being sanded, revealing the polish beneath. 

mixing Minwax Water-Based, Oil-Modified Polyurethane

The plywood should then be wiped down once again and allowed to dry.

High-build urethane is another option for coatings. [1] Instead of using multiple coats of varnish, you can use this and achieve the same effect. This coating has a substantial thickness and can be poured over a flat surface and smeared utilizing a paintbrush.

Ideas and Techniques for Plywood Finishing

Tip #1: Prepare the Plywood Well Before Starting

You must have a plan for finishing the plywood before getting started because various coatings necessitate various approaches and materials. 

As a result, there are a few things you need to get out of the way before you can begin wrapping things up. They’ll slow you down if you don’t get them out of the way, they’ll slow you down.

Tip #2: Use a High-Quality Brush

When painting or staining plywood, using a clean brush to apply the paint or stain uniformly is essential.

paint brush

Tip #3: Use an Epoxy Resin Like Envirotex

Envirotex is an epoxy resin with a relatively short curing period (about 8-10 hours). The beauty of Envirotex is that you can attain its maximum brilliance without any additional polishing. The total hardness is achieved after 48 hours of room temperature use.

The fantastic thing about this item is its application is identical to polyurethanes. You can use Envirotex instead of polyurethane and apply it in the same way you would.

Tip #4: Apply a Water-Repellent Coat

Coatings that are water resistant can be made from a variety of materials, including paint thinners, wax, mineral spirits, and drying oil. 

To use, simply soak a piece of plywood in the concoction. Because the mixture lacks color pigments, this shiny finish can highlight the wood’s inherent beauty.

In addition, black-steel-looking plywood has been a popular trend as of late.

foam brush and Waterlox TB5284 Stain

Tip #5: Don’t Forget to Sand

Given the importance of sanding, the process is time-consuming. You should take your time with the sanding process, or you’ll ruin everything. 

Put in as much time as is necessary on it. More sanding will improve the plywood’s shiny finish. It’s an important step to make the plywood smooth and shiny.

Why Sand Plywood

You must sand plywood lightly and to perfection. Otherwise, the finishing will only be satisfactory. Plus, you won’t be able to hide this towards the end. 

plywood, drill, nails on ground

The entire surface will look rough and rough edges can make the final product look uneven. As a result, sanding and wiping the plywood clean is crucial.

Tip #6: Use the Correct Sandpaper for Plywood

Sand the plywood gently with the grit that is appropriate for the species and thickness of the wood.

When a power tool can’t get to a particular spot, it’s important not to skip over it and move on. 

Shine a low beam of light on the board to double-check your work after you’ve sanded it, so you can locate the rough spots on the entire plywood surface. Sand plywood lightly, especially if using the roughest sandpaper. 

See Also: What Grit of Sandpaper Should You Use Before Painting?

Tip #7: Ensure to Stain Plywood

Applying a stain can alter the plywood’s color and make it look like a different wood species. That’s why wood stains are used as a preparatory step before a final coat of paint or stain. It improves the plywood’s visual appeal and can make plywood smooth.

staining birch plywood

Tip #8: Select the Right Lacquer or Varnish

Like any other type of wood, you must finish the plywood with a protective lacquer or varnish. You can use lacquer and varnish to achieve a transparent sheen. The lacquer will produce a brighter gloss at the expense of the other qualities.

Tip #9: Consider Varnishing

Light coatings of polyurethane varnish applied with a foam brush to the exposed edges are an option. If you want to paint or stain the wood, you should avoid using varnish on the surface.

Tip #10: Take Your Time to Correct Errors

There may be a speck that makes the paint look uneven, but touching it may cause an even greater disaster. Don’t rush to fix mistakes, it could be a fly caught in the finish.

Cleaning Plywood and Other Wooden Pieces the Right Way

Follow these guidelines for a more thorough cleaning of your plywood and furniture:

Baltic birch plywood thickness and layersB


Can you gloss plywood?

Yes, you can gloss plywood. Water resistance results from painting plywood with regular paint, including primer, undercoat, and gloss. A sealer is suitable if your plywood will spend extended periods exposed to water, as it would if it were placed outdoors.

Read NextSteps to Make Polycrylic Slippery


Learning how to make plywood smooth and shiny with our instructions here is a simple task. Just reviewing the fundamentals and putting in some practice will ensure your mastery of this material. 

You may also get some advice from your local hardware shop experts if you’re having a hard time choosing the right tools.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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