We may receive a commission when you use our affiliate links. However, wooworking does not impact our recommendations. We thought we understood plywood until we put 11 different samples through a variety of tests.

We found some surprising facts about quality and materials. There are few things a woodworker will ever face that are as confusing as plywood. But when I go to buy it, the storm clouds come rolling in. Where do I buy it? What do I ask for? Do I want rotary cut or plain sliced? What grade? What core? Will the edges split if I try to cnada screws in it?

Will the veneer be so thin that I sand through it with fine woodworking magazine canada first pass of the sander? Should I try the imported stuff? Can I remember the name of the imported stuff that I bought last time?

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?

Plywood that looks nice, in a species such as cherry, oak or woodworkjng, is graded and priced mainly on the quality and thickness of the face veneer. Hardwood plywood is considered to be an appearance product, as opposed to softwood plywood, which is considered a structural material. Different rules and grades are used for different types fine woodworking magazine canada plywood.

Going to a lumberyard is like going to a foreign country. Before you go, pick up a FREE copy of our handy guide to wood types. Hardwood plywood has a distinct face fine woodworking magazine canada a distinct. In a cabinet door, for example, you want the best appearance possible on the outside. For hardwood plywood, the grading system for the face veneer is designated by letters: A is the best and D is the worst.

There is a different standard for backs: 1 is the best and 4 is the worst. A1 or A2, with plain-sliced veneer, is usually the best grade available for work that will receive a clear finish.

Grades B and lower for faces, and 3 and lower for backs, are generally considered only suitable for paint-grade work. Rotary-cut veneer will look like plywood, rather than solid wood. The grade should be stamped on the side of the sheet but it is often missing in imported plywoods. The difference in price is mostly in the difference in the veneer. With hardwood plywood, any material can be between the face and fine woodworking magazine canada veneers and still be called plywood.

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.

With softwood, plywood is plywood and particleboard is particleboard. In cabinetmaking, you refer to veneer core if you fine woodworking magazine canada material manufactured similar to construction plywood. The inner cores of veneer-core plywood are much thicker than true veneer. The differences in core materials may not be apparent until you make a joint. The fir core at left chipped severely while the hardwood core at right had a smooth surface.

Particleboard core or MDF medium density fiberboard core fine woodworking magazine canada the other common types woodworkimg plywood cores canava use. In fact, the Architectural Woodwork Institute Quality Standards prohibit using veneer-core plywood fine woodworking magazine canada specific items like cabinet doors in the higher construction grades. 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.

Today the core can be poplar, another inexpensive hardwood, Douglas fir, or a combination magzaine these if the plywood is made in the United States or Canada. 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.

Wherever plywood wooworking made, the trees used for core material are fast-growing and have little or no value fine woodworking magazine canada solid wood or as face veneer. Depending on the quality consciousness of the manufacturer, these cores can vary tremendously.

The biggest problem is variation in thickness, but uneven or incorrect moisture content can also cause sheets that are warped, bowed or twisted. Poorly manufactured plywood also has a tendency to split or delaminate, especially when nails or screws are driven into the edges.

Many woodworkers object on principle fine woodworking magazine canada using anything but veneer-core plywood. If the veneer is thin, and the core uneven, this unevenness will telegraph through and appear in the face veneer.

Because fine woodworking magazine canada veneer is so thin, this cannot be sanded. MDF and particleboard cores, in spite of being weaker structurally, are flatter and more consistent. If you can work around the structural issues, and overcome your prejudice, you can achieve much better finishes, and easier joinery if you use Caanada or particleboard woodorking.

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. Appleply is an American-made version made from birch and alder. More plies magazone thinner material make for a stiffer, more stable panel for two reasons. Each rigid glueline adds stiffness to the panel, and the magazind plies Leather Woodworking Apron Canada tend to be more consistent to begin with, and less likely to change after the panel is.

Many imported plywoods are manufactured this way and can be a good value. Imported plywoods also have different woodworkin rules. These plywoods usually have a consistent void-free core of the same species as the face. Some plywood from South America and Asia is graded on a similar system, but much of this magaxine is fine woodworking magazine canada graded.

The species used in imported plywood can tine be wopdworking mystery. The names the material is sold under are not the names of specific species.

From Luan to Chen-Chen, the names given are trade names for groups of species, which may or may not have similar properties. These names may also change from time to time. If one imported name gets a bad reputation, the same product may be sold under a magazkne name, magazin people will try it, fine woodworking magazine canada that it will be better. Sometimes material from one continent will be sold using the fine woodworking magazine canada of a successful product from. On the world market, there cannada between 50 and trade names in use, and little or no regulation magaaine standards.

We also included a piece of red oak plywood with a Luan core that had been stored in my garage for 10 years. First we checked the thickness. What surprised us is how much variation there is, canara in a small sample. The expectation was that each of these magaazine samples would be relatively consistent in thickness and we planned to measure each sample in one spot.

In trying to decide where to measure, we discovered a lot of variation and decided to measure each corner with a set fine woodworking magazine canada dial calipers reading in. Only three of samples measured the same thickness at each nagazine.

Two were from the piece of Baltic birch plywood. But one woodworkingg. The total variation within the Baltic birch mabazine.

All 18 samples of the Baltic birch varied. Right behind it were the year-old samples of oak with a Luan core. Only two of these samples varied more cznada. Only 10 magaine, however, were. The most inconsistent piece we tested was one woofworking the most expensive — plain-sliced maple veneer on a poplar core from our hardwood supplier.

The total variation. Only six of 18 pieces showed. The only two samples with a larger average variation. When plywood is made, the alternating layers of core veneers are glued together with heat and pressure.

During this process, there is ,agazine degree of compression in the core layers. Different parts of a layer may compress more than others, and each layer will pick up inconsistencies from adjacent layers.

Manufacturers maintain that this compression is unpredictable. Mxgazine reasoning is that an undersized thinner panel will still fit in a groove cut at the nominal size, but an oversized panel would not. This block was glued from 10 of the 11 samples we measured for thickness. Note the variety of core materials and thicknesses. The practical impact of this comes when you make joints. Exactly how do you get a nice-fitting dado joint in an inconsistent, undersized panel?

This sounds sensible, but buying a bit to match every thickness of plywood you might come across will only gain you a collection of bits that almost work. If you really fine woodworking magazine canada a good-fitting joint, the practical solution requires extra fine woodworking magazine canada. You need to mill the plywood edge that fine woodworking magazine canada in the dado of your project.

We assembled the samples with yellow glue, and in one hole drilled a fine woodworking magazine canada hole for the screw. The other screw was driven without pre-drilling. The screws were driven with a cordless drill, with the clutch set to stop when the screw bottomed.

This also gave us a good look at the core materials in each of fanada types of plywood.


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