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I have a his and hers walk-in closet projects coming up and I am planning on using a birch or pine plywood in both and will be painting the hers in white and staining the his with a darker stain. What I would like to get some feedback on is should I paint/stain the wood after I cut but before I drill the pocket holes or after? Or should I get the closet shelves and drawers installed and then paint/stain after it is all installed? Any tips and tricks would be greatly appreciated.

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Hi Anthony.

 The best plan is to paint & stain after all cuts and pocket holes are made.  This allows you to sand any tear out in the pocket hole area (it happens a lot) without messing up all the time you took to make it look nice.

 Get all of your pieces ready to be put together with holes in place (dry fit to make sure everything lines up) and then paint and stain before putting them together. 

  The only time this will not work is if you are using plugs and want them to match as well.  If this is the case assemble the whole piece , plug your holes and sand them flush, then paint & stain.

 Hope this helps.

Hi Anthony,

Ronda is right.  I built a changing table over the weekend and I stained my pieces BEFORE I put the pocket holes in and was very irritated that I had to sand and re-stain because of the tear out I had to sand down.  While my staining time was cut drastically from doing it before, I still had to take some time to re-stain some areas.  All could have been avoided if I had made the pocket holes first then stained (I know next time)

In addition to the above, I would stain/paint before final assembly. Otherwise, you may have difficulties getting into corners or joined edges. If there is any wood movement, the unstained part will show.

After assembly, you can do a final coat of paint or finish.

Agreeing with the majority here - 99% of everything I've built has been prefinished before assembly when it was stain/poly top coat. (I avoid painting stuff like the proverbial plague - paint hates me! ;))

The trick I use with pockethole plugs is to cut about 1/4" off the 'butt end'. That greatly reduces (and mostly eliminates!) the amount of the plug that might stick out above the finished surface.

Then I only have some tidy'ing up sanding which doesn't leave a huge patch of stain to touch-up and brush on some poly to blend in.

I have never regretted doing the finishing first - and can't imagine how I would have dealt with finishing some of my larger projects after they were assembled - like 7'h x4'w x 2'd pantries, 4'w x6'h bookcase, the monster sized sound studio work-station, and loads of kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities to name a few of the biggies  ;)

Thanks for the feedback Ronda. One quick follow-up question; If I am not going to use any plugs do I still need to use something to protect the pocket holes I drilled when I paint and or stain the wood so that it doesn't clig the holes? 

Anthony 
Ronda McElroy said:

Hi Anthony.

 The best plan is to paint & stain after all cuts and pocket holes are made.  This allows you to sand any tear out in the pocket hole area (it happens a lot) without messing up all the time you took to make it look nice.

 Get all of your pieces ready to be put together with holes in place (dry fit to make sure everything lines up) and then paint and stain before putting them together. 

  The only time this will not work is if you are using plugs and want them to match as well.  If this is the case assemble the whole piece , plug your holes and sand them flush, then paint & stain.

 Hope this helps.

I don't think you would have to worry about them getting clogged, but you may want to paint or stain the inside of the holes with a small brush just to make your piece look nicer especially if you are using a darker color.

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