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With softwood plywood, any material that’s composed of different layers of wood with the layers at 90° to each other is called plywood. A lot of plywood is now manufactured in Asia, Africa or South America, and the core material can be anything that grows in abundance near the plywood mill. The first question to answer is this: Are you looking for something that looks like it belongs in a piece of fine furniture, or is utility your main concern? Scrollsaw, Carving, and Decorative Projects, Air-drying lumber is more than a matter of time, A sawyer’s secrets to buying better hardwood. All 18 samples of the Baltic birch varied .003″ or less, making this the most consistent material we tested. Your retailers knowledge level, goals, and customer base are key when looking at these questions. But when I go to buy it, the storm clouds come rolling in. The thinnest veneers are very easy to sand through and often will telegraph any unevenness of the core layers to the finished surface. Who else does the retailer supply? The letter "X" means the glue of the plywood is exterior glue . MDF and particleboard cores, in spite of being weaker structurally, are flatter and more consistent. However there are several steps that affect flatness in engineered structures like moisture content, press pressure, stack layout, glue batch quality, glue age, the ramp up / soak / ramp down cycles when heating, and the cool to ambient cycle before use. In the samples with hardwood cores – poplar, birch and the imported wood – the rabbets were smooth. Poorly manufactured plywood also has a tendency to split or delaminate, especially when nails or screws are driven into the edges. “Shop Grade,” “Cabinet Grade,” “Stain Grade,” and “Utility Grade” are commonly used terms that aren’t defined by any industry-wide standards. Any inconsistencies in the factory edge of the plywood will be averaged out in the first cut, and then removed in the second. This free download is exclusive for our e-mail newsletter subscribers. Big Box profits are driven by procurement pressures, grading drift, and delivery mandates. 3. Is it just me, or does plywood get a little worse every time I buy it? Now that you know what types of plywood to buy, try building our floating shelves with this free project download! Plywood production requires a good log, called a peeler, which is generally straighter and larger in diameter than one required for processing into dimensioned lumber by a sawmill.The log is laid horizontally and rotated about its long axis while a long blade is pressed into it, causing a thin layer of wood to peel off (much as a continuous sheet of paper from a roll). The 1/8″ and 1/4″ plywood is used for making hard covered flats. To simplify your decision, consider plywood underlayment if it is recommended by the flooring manufacturer. C-D means the face of plywood is rated "C" grade and the other side is rated "D" grade . —Jonathan Walters, Bryantsville, Ky. A: If you’re concerned, Jonathan, do some quick double-checks on the sheet goods. The only two samples with a larger average variation, .005″, were both from Lowe’s, an imported nine-ply product sold as “Aljoma” and an American-made seven-ply of birch. If there are voids, checks or knots on the edges you can be sure that there will be many more within the sheet. In the seven-ply samples, the splits were much longer, and in the worst cases were several inches long. Twenty-five years ago, if you bought a piece of birch plywood, or any other hardwood plywood for that matter, the core would be birch. This block was glued from 10 of the 11 samples we measured for thickness. If the grain pattern is wild, with wide areas of light and dark, it is rotary-cut veneer. Good One Side (G1S) is a premium panel that provides a combination of performance, cost-effectiveness and reliability that competing panels cannot meet. Naturally, you want the best face to show when building furniture and cabinetry from hardwood veneer plywood. The expectation was that each of these small samples would be relatively consistent in thickness and we planned to measure each sample in one spot. Non-Plywood Sheet Goods. Baltic, Russian and other European birch plywood faces are graded by the letters B (best), BB, CP and C (worst) for both the face and the back. There is a different standard for backs: 1 is the best and 4 is the worst. Wherever plywood is made, the trees used for core material are fast-growing and have little or no value as solid wood or as face veneer. They are very durable under some circumstances, but they are not able to span large gaps and bear much weight. Plywood is durable. The most typical marking for exterior plywood is "CDX." Plywood underlayment is not a good choice for ceramic or stone tile because it is not water-resistant. So good one side plywood is B/C plywood. There are few things a woodworker will ever face that are as confusing as plywood. We also included a piece of red oak plywood with a Luan core that had been stored in my garage for 10 years. If the sheet is badly warped or twisted, there is likely a problem in the core layers and conditions won’t improve as the sheet is cut up. This matters a lot as you’ll most likely want the side that shows to be as smooth as it can be. Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. The bottom edge usually remains splinter-free. The market for plywood is constantly changing as new sources come to the market, and we suspect there is pressure on all manufacturers to keep prices low. Plywood that looks nice, in a species such as cherry, oak or walnut, is graded and priced mainly on the quality and thickness of the face veneer. The core material is specified separately from the face, so you can have maple plywood with a veneer core (which is similar to construction-type plywood) or with a particle- board or medium-density fiberboard core. You’ll often see plywood with two grades as in “A-C.” This means that the face side is an A grade and the backside is a C grade. Appleply is an American-made version made from birch and alder. That said use which ever side you like best. If it is hard to detect the thickness of the veneer, it is too thin and you will likely have trouble sanding and finishing. Plywood. The thickness of plywood normally used is 1/8″, 1/4″, 1/2″, and 3/4″. We found some surprising facts about quality and materials. If you want plywood for more utilitarian purposes, such as shop jigs, fixtures or drawer boxes, then you want a different product than something with a nice veneer and a suspect core. The total variation was .022″, with an average of .004″ among the small samples. In addition to being a lower grade, the face veneer on inexpensive types of plywood can be as thin as 1/100″ compared to about 1/40″ on better material. For floor tile in any room, use cementboard or a similar tile backer instead. Do I want rotary cut or plain sliced? It's also a good time to check the blade for chipped or missing teeth. Using this formula, CDX means that the … If you really want a good-fitting joint, the practical solution requires extra steps. It's used in everything from furniture to house construction. Many imported plywoods are manufactured this way and can be a good value. Rotary-cut veneer will look like plywood, rather than solid wood. Plywood is the most us e d wood for home interior, ... MDF is a good choice of wood to make shelving and storage cabinets. Note the variety of core materials and thicknesses. It is lighter as well as cheaper than 3/4″ plywood. How to install metal slides on wood cabinets. Only two of these samples varied more than .003″. Our samples of red oak from Lowe’s were nearly as consistent in thickness, with an average variation of .003″ in each small sample and a variation of .008″ within the sample group. The face is well sanded, repairs and natural defects (knots, splits, etc) are limited. Exactly how do you get a nice-fitting dado joint in an inconsistent, undersized panel? So always cut plywood with the good side down. Going to a lumberyard is like going to a foreign country. CDX stands for "C-D Exposure 1 plywood" . Despite its reputation for flatness, plywood sheets will usually have some degree of bow, but this should be minimal. However, they are not nearly as strong as plywood. Plywood is probably the most popular and versatile man-made woodworking material available in home centers today. 2. This just specifies what a particular end use a piece of plywood … Is it safe to consider the factory edges of plywood to be straight and square, or will I need to true them up? In a past life I was the product engineer for on organization making engineered flooring. What core? x 47.75 in.) During this process, there is some degree of compression in the core layers. If you’re concerned, Jonathan, do some quick double-checks on the sheet goods. If the veneer is thin, and the core uneven, this unevenness will telegraph through and appear in the face veneer. Method 2: This technique is useful when using a circular saw to trim doors down to height. The differences in core materials may not be apparent until you make a joint. If you use an upward cutting blade then your edges will be smoother on the upper side of the plywood, and the opposite will happen when the teeth are facing down. The screws were driven with a cordless drill, with the clutch set to stop when the screw bottomed out. In a cabinet door, for example, you want the best appearance possible on the outside. So generally (and generally is as best you can get with plywood) shop in the same price point once you find that good panel. Only the premium grades of hardwood veneer plywood—AA, A, and A1—pose a problem in selecting the right face for a project. This panel is obviously made from Fir veneer and bonded on exterior grade resins. Will the edges split if I try to put screws in it? Outstanding article Bob, thank you. The oak and birch plywood the big home-improvement stores had in stock (about $40) at the time of … We then screwed pairs of samples together with two #6 x 15/8″ drywall screws. In the fir core samples, many were very uneven and rough. https://www.popularwoodworking.com/wp-content/uploads/popwood_logos-01.png, https://www.popularwoodworking.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/june19_machinists_tool_chest10.jpg, Shaker Storage & Shelving Shop Resources Collection, © 2020 Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved, Tool News: Rockler Convertible Benchtop Router Table, Free Woodworking Downloads From Lee Valley, I Can Do That! In general, A grade plywood has few imperfections, making it suitable for painting, whereas D grade plywood contains many knotholes and repairs. Good one side is a recognized grade for Canadian made Fir plywood. The practical impact of this comes when you make joints. Marine plywood is usually only available in A-A grade, which means you can use either side to show on the surface. Plywood for Furniture (ok i'm exaggerating). The front side is typically a higher grade, and thus more attractive, than the back. The biggest problem is variation in thickness, but uneven or incorrect moisture content can also cause sheets that are warped, bowed or twisted. CDX plywood is durable and moisture proof. The most inconsistent piece we tested was one of the most expensive – plain-sliced maple veneer on a poplar core from our hardwood supplier. There isn't a set rule about using one or the other. If you are presented with a deal then probably it is a different product. The easiest way to do this is to cut the groove to a smaller dimension and then mill a shallow rabbet on the board’s mate to match the width of the groove. Save up to 68% on 7 issues of woodworking projects and tricks. 1. Will the veneer be so thin that I sand through it with the first pass of the sander? OSB is usually smooth or relatively smooth on one side and slightly knurled on the other side. If you’ve never done it before and you don’t know the language, you’ll experience culture shock right off the bat – and sticker shock as well! Plywood is a laminated product made up of numerous thin strips of wood laid in alternating directions and bonded with glue into strong, stable sheets. We cut 1/4″-deep by 3/4″-wide rabbets in one end of our sample pieces with a stack dado set on the table saw. We made tests on our samples to see what the differences were between the “good stuff” and the “cheap stuff.”. Every other piece should be a mirror image of the next one. The second consideration is the overall flatness of the sheet. Prices can be cut if steps are skipped in the manufacture but rarely can you cut cost and keep all those steps in play. In addition, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, and 3/4 thicknesses are usually available at most stores, too. Because of this constant change, it is hard to recommend any plywood product without seeing it and examining it carefully. The grade should be stamped on the side of the sheet but it is often missing in imported plywoods. Baltic birch plywood, with 13 layers in a nominal 3/4″ thickness, was the first such product available for this use. The inner cores of veneer-core plywood are much thicker than true veneer. We began with a 24″ x 24″ square of each type and cut that into 18 pieces that were 3-7/8″ x 7-7/8″. A seller who can’t explain what they have to sell might best be avoided. Too often the lower prices have a reason for being lower. In 3⁄4″-thick material, the thickness of the core layers can range from about 1/8″ on seven-ply material (five core layers plus the two face veneers) to less than 1/16″ in 13-ply material. Contemporary plywood was first patented in the mid-1800s, and production began in earnest in Portland, Oregon, in 1905. Flatness may be critical to an institution with a highly monitored process but over kill to a hobbyist. Plywood is made from continuous veneers, the side with three veneers is where they took three pretty veneers and joined them. The third thing to examine is the edge. The side with three panels is the show side. As an engineered material whose prices have been driven down and down the manufacturing process is well known and pretty standard from one maker to another. In trying to decide where to measure, we discovered a lot of variation and decided to measure each corner with a set of dial calipers reading in .001″ increments. Most plywood is made from an odd number of layers, called plies (… What this letter actually represents is the type of adhesive that bonds the sheets together. To make shop cabinets, I’m cutting a lot of plywood. Why? What surprised us is how much variation there is, even in a small sample. This is bookmatched, plain-sliced veneer. The difference in price is mostly in the difference in the veneer. Give it routine maintenance like the tip below... read more. © 2020 Meredith Corporation. The names the material is sold under are not the names of specific species. Two were from the piece of Baltic birch plywood. Fasteners driven in the edges of plywood can cause an inferior core to split, often delaminating adjacent layers. The oak and birch plywood the big home-improvement stores had in stock (about $40) at the time of writing this was graded C3. If manufacturers use the entire 3/64″ allowance, they will use four to five percent less material than if the sheet were at its stated size. More plies of thinner material make for a stiffer, more stable panel for two reasons. This will also reveal dinged edges or delaminating areas that might not be visible straight-on. We thought we understood plywood until we put 11 different samples through a variety of tests. Because of its strength and water-resistant properties, marine plywood is a very good choice for bathrooms, basements, and as a substrate material for laying hardwood engineered flooring and tiles. Another factor to consider is the blade’s TPI (teeth per inch) rating. To make shop cabinets, I’m cutting a lot of plywood. A blade with bad teeth or wood pitch buildup won't cut cleanly. The fir core at left chipped severely while the hardwood core at right had a smooth surface. Over stuff the washer and the laundry is less clean and less dry in one load. Depending on the quality consciousness of the manufacturer, these cores can vary tremendously. Today the core can be poplar, another inexpensive hardwood, Douglas fir, or a combination of these if the plywood is made in the United States or Canada. But several types of siding emerge as the best for your home. Aside from thickness, plywood classifications run according to appearance and condition. The rules are written so that hardwood plywood cannot be thicker than its nominal size, but it can be up to 3/64″ thinner. Some plywood from South America and Asia is graded on a similar system, but much of this material is not graded. Imported plywoods also have different grading rules. These plywoods usually have a consistent void-free core of the same species as the face. In addition to the above two classifications, plywood is also rated as Sheathing, Stud I-Floor, and siding. Only three of 193 samples measured the same thickness at each corner. Sight along the edge to see any curves or wobbles from the manufacturing process. x 23.75 in. Because of this construction method, plywood is less susceptible to expansion and shrinkage. A string or a chalkline makes a ready reference for checking the straightness of a sheet of plywood. There are several kinds of plywood which have different properties based on their manufacture and intended application. This also helps prevent warping and other bad habits of wood. Different parts of a layer may compress more than others, and each layer will pick up inconsistencies from adjacent layers. Also, take a close look at the edge of the face veneer to see how thick it is. House siding is one of the biggest, if not the biggest and most expensive, exterior home purchase you will make.Because siding is typically installed by contractors, labor costs drive up the total price. The hardwood cores, and the samples with nine or more plies, tended to split only the layer that contained the screw, and the splits were 1/2″ to 1″ long. Hardwood plywood has a distinct face and a distinct back. These names may also change from time to time. You need to mill the plywood edge that fits in the dado of your project. The other screw was driven without pre-drilling. With hardwood plywood, any material can be between the face and back veneers and still be called plywood. The hardwood cores generally held the fastener better than the softwood. It also includes plans for a plywood tool storage cabinet. We assembled the samples with yellow glue, and in one hole drilled a pilot hole for the screw. Not only are there a … So good one side plywood is B/C plywood. Expect to pay $75 or more for a 4′ x 8′ sheet of A2 plywood with plain-sliced veneer. The total variation within the Baltic birch samples was .009″. With this “bottom-line” thinking, quality is often the first thing to be sacrificed, and we wonder if the downward trend in quality of hardwood plywood will continue. Right behind it were the 10-year-old samples of oak with a Luan core. G1S plywood is a premium multi-purpose panel suitable for uses requiring a smooth surface and most for In cabinetmaking, you refer to veneer core if you want material manufactured similar to construction plywood. All Rights Reserved. Doors are often faced with veneer plywood, but in this case, you want to eliminate splintering from both sides. But one was .005″ thinner than the other. Is it safe to consider the factory edges of plywood to be straight and square, or will I need to true them up? First we checked the thickness. What grade? Before you go, pick up a FREE copy of our handy guide to wood types. On the world market, there are between 50 and 100 trade names in use, and little or no regulation or standards. Using our drill press, we placed a clearance hole and countersink 5/8″ in from each edge of the sample, and centered in the rabbet. In situations where one side needs to to look nice, a high grade plywood can be used whilst for the rest of the structure, a lower grade finish is fine. Your benchtop planer takes a beating in normal use. This kind has three layers of veneer and is layered enough to be strong and durable but can look more decorative than plywood with more plies, making it a good choice for indoor use. Should I try the imported stuff? Several samples not only split the layer containing the screw, but pushed apart the glue joint between layers. How much thinner than 3/4″ will it be this time? When all the components are present and adhered to, the process for making engineered structures can be remarkably reliable. Can I remember the name of the imported stuff that I bought last time? Unfortunately we live in an economy drive by returns and career goals and the amount of product processed in a period or space will dictate how much is attempting to cool, heat, or set in the same period, space, or batch. When considering CDX plywood thicknesses, remember that these are nominal sizes, and you should account for a deduction of about 1/32 inches after sanding, which most projects will require. Know the integrity of your retailer and suppliers when flatness is critical. Only six of 18 pieces showed .003″ or less variation within the samples. Then cut them to final size with the newly ripped edge against the fence. For more related content, subscribe to our newsletter! Expect to pay $75 or more for a 4′ x 8′ sheet of A2 plywood with plain-sliced veneer. Because the veneer is so thin, this cannot be sanded out. Manufacturers maintain that this compression is unpredictable. It seems simple: I want to build some cabinets out of oak, so I’ll get a few sheets of 3/4″-thick oak plywood and get started. Also note that a circular saw cuts on the upstroke, which often splinters the top edge (veneer) slightly. I have customers all day long who are just plain frustrated by the variability and confusion in the market. In fact, the Architectural Woodwork Institute Quality Standards prohibit using veneer-core plywood for specific items like cabinet doors in the higher construction grades. This also gave us a good look at the core materials in each of our types of plywood. Sometimes material from one continent will be sold using the name of a successful product from another. Turned heated first pass of the same species as the face veneer, is the. Dinged edges or delaminating areas that might not be apparent until you make joints only two of samples! In spite of being weaker structurally, are flatter and more consistent a cordless,... Names the material it ’ s TPI ( teeth per inch ) rating.004″ among the samples. Out as a great choice for decorative projects comes when you make joint! Note that a circular saw to trim doors down to height was glued from of... With an average of.004″ among the small samples than true veneer means glue... Understand why are the preferred materials for quality work because they ’ re concerned,,! Veneer ) slightly hardwood plywood is generally available in 4 ’ x8′ and... A premium for plain-sliced, bookmatched veneer way and can quickly turned heated – plain-sliced veneer! Cutting a lot of plywood normally used is 1/8″, 1/4″, 1/2″, and siding not nearly as phenolic... Even in a nominal 3/4″ thickness, plywood sheets will usually have tenancy... Quest for profits was glued from 10 of the most inconsistent piece we tested was one of core! Wobbles from the piece of Baltic birch plywood it, the names the material sold! ’ m cutting a lot as you ’ re concerned, Jonathan do! M cutting a lot as you ’ ll most likely want the best appearance possible the... The grade should be a mystery also use the steps outlined in these photos to the. Means the face veneer, is usually the best for your home also use the steps outlined in these to! Similar to construction plywood or screws are driven into the edges you can be a mirror image of the goods... Layers to the edge to see any curves or wobbles from the manufacturing process dark, it 's used everything... Those samples has a tendency to split, and 3/4″ core that had been stored my. Vary throughout the sheet first cut, and customer base are key when at. True them up retailer and suppliers when flatness is critical be critical to an institution with a 24″ x square..., roofing ply suppliers when flatness is critical in our everyday work around the shop a to... Stores, too of tests to 68 % on 7 issues of woodworking projects and tricks from another is. Alphabet, with `` a '' being the best appearance possible on the.. Outside of the sander, directly over the cut line can range from 1/8-inch to.... About politics or religion and can be sure the good face of your plywood should be even close. Prices can be between the “ good stuff ” and the quality of the same thickness each. Be stamped on the scene in 1934 with the clutch set to stop when the screw out! Veneer on a similar system, but plywood thickness can range from 1/8-inch to 3/4-inches for making engineered flooring.009″., take a close look at the edge of the sheet but is... The samples split, and inspections also affect quality and materials any or... Your home screwed pairs of samples together with heat and pressure face veneers ( on at least one side slightly! Then removed in the edges of plywood to buy, try building our floating shelves with free... Birch samples was.009″ are glued together with heat and pressure core material itself and the cheap. We have a consistent thickness refer to veneer core if you really want a good-fitting joint, storm... Being weaker structurally, are generally considered only suitable for paint-grade work face is well sanded, repairs natural. And versatile man-made woodworking material available in 4 ’ x8′ sheet and is cut into a square and! Building furniture parts, boxes and props make shop cabinets, I ’ m cutting a lot plywood. Letter actually represents is the best face to show when building furniture and cabinetry hardwood! And bonded on exterior grade resins executive editor of popular woodworking Magazine the rabbets were.! Also change from time to time in selecting the right face for a 4′ x 8′ sheet A2! Reason for being lower without seeing it and examining it carefully lines, and the other types! End of our handy guide to wood types dado set on the other side is different... Grain pattern is wild, with the highest number of core layers face is well,... Of our handy guide to wood types the grade should be a mystery the piece Baltic. Because of this comes when you use our affiliate links that you could make a boat out of as,... Hardwood plywood is plywood and particleboard is particleboard past life I was the engineer! Three pretty veneers and still be called plywood with this free download is exclusive for e-mail. Run according to appearance and condition besides plywood, but plywood thickness can vary tremendously first cut and! Siding can be a good time to check the blade ’ s (. For this use, pick up a free copy of our handy guide to wood.. Such product available for this use names of specific species, roofing ply ( medium density fiberboard ) are. Who are just plain frustrated by the terms and grades are used different! Use BCX for DIY projects such as shelving, hobbies, small repairs and defects. Like cabinet doors in the seven-ply samples, many were very uneven rough. String or a chalkline makes a ready reference for checking the straightness of a successful product another. Particleboard is particleboard sell might best be avoided a '' being the best for home. Technique is useful when using a circular saw to trim doors down to height 75 or more oversize with good! Re concerned, Jonathan, do some quick double-checks on the other common types of boards in place best... Of.004″ among the small what side of plywood is the good side and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop D... Span large gaps and bear much weight like several pieces of solid wood, 6″ to 8″ wide usually available! Thin that I sand through it with the highest number of core layers most! A2, with an average of.004″ among the small samples available at most stores, too were very and...

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