Expect to pay $75 or more for a 4′ x 8′ sheet of A2 plywood with plain-sliced veneer. To simplify your decision, consider plywood underlayment if it is recommended by the flooring manufacturer. Plywood Alternatives You can use other types of boards in place of true plywood. “Shop Grade,” “Cabinet Grade,” “Stain Grade,” and “Utility Grade” are commonly used terms that aren’t defined by any industry-wide standards. How can I keep my router bushing assembly in place? If you do find problems, your best straightener is your tablesaw. There are three things to consider when examining types of plywood for purchase. Besides plywood, there are a few other types of sheet goods which are used fairly often. It's used in everything from furniture to house construction. So always cut plywood with the good side down. When all the components are present and adhered to, the process for making engineered structures can be remarkably reliable. Rotary-cut veneer will look like plywood, rather than solid wood. A knowledgeable source will be willing to share what they know and will help to educate. This is bookmatched, plain-sliced veneer. Plywood becomes even stronger with the usage of veneers as well as strong phenolic adhesives. Sometimes material from one continent will be sold using the name of a successful product from another. If the grain pattern is wild, with wide areas of light and dark, it is rotary-cut veneer. 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, along with the use of good veneers and adhesives, makes plywood very good at resisting sharp blows and all sorts of in-service abuse. Then, add a strip of masking tape to both the top and bottom of the sheet, directly over the cut line. OSB is usually smooth or relatively smooth on one side and slightly knurled on the other side. Is it safe to consider the factory edges of plywood to be straight and square, or will I need to true them up? Router-bit manufacturers offer cutters sold as plywood bits, usually 1/64″ or 1/32″ less than the nominal size of 3/4″ or 1/2″. 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. Note the variety of core materials and thicknesses. In a past life I was the product engineer for on organization making engineered flooring. Some plywood from South America and Asia is graded on a similar system, but much of this material is not graded. 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! Save up to 68% on 7 issues of woodworking projects and tricks. Flatness may be critical to an institution with a highly monitored process but over kill to a hobbyist. Expect to pay $75 or more for a 4′ x 8′ sheet of A2 plywood with plain-sliced veneer. The bottom edge usually remains splinter-free. Different rules and grades are used for different types of plywood. So for a circular saw and miter saw, make your cuts with the good … The difference in price is mostly in the difference in the veneer. Every other piece should be a mirror image of the next one. There are few things a woodworker will ever face that are as confusing as plywood. The fir core at left chipped severely while the hardwood core at right had a smooth surface. On the inside, you still want it to look good, but small areas of burl, mineral streaks or sap wood won’t be the distractions they would be on a surface that is always exposed. Two were from the piece of Baltic birch plywood. Right behind it were the 10-year-old samples of oak with a Luan core. The thickness of plywood normally used is 1/8″, 1/4″, 1/2″, and 3/4″. Because of this constant change, it is hard to recommend any plywood product without seeing it and examining it carefully. Sanded Plywood (Common: 1/2 in. 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. Robert W. Lang is a former executive editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine. But when I go to buy it, the storm clouds come rolling in. Good one side is a recognized grade for Canadian made Fir plywood. Method 2: This technique is useful when using a circular saw to trim doors down to height. In the samples with hardwood cores – poplar, birch and the imported wood – the rabbets were smooth. 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. 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. 3. From Luan to Chen-Chen, the names given are trade names for groups of species, which may or may not have similar properties. 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. The rules are written so that hardwood plywood cannot be thicker than its nominal size, but it can be up to 3/64″ thinner. So good one side plywood is B/C plywood. OSB is usually smooth or relatively smooth on one side and slightly knurled on the other side. What core? Outstanding article Bob, thank you. The reasoning is that an undersized thinner panel will still fit in a groove cut at the nominal size, but an oversized panel would not. Because of this construction method, plywood is less susceptible to expansion and shrinkage. Also, because siding can be difficult to price out on the retail market, it's often hard to determine underlying material costs. To make shop cabinets, I’m cutting a lot of plywood. Subscribe ». How much thinner than 3/4″ will it be this time? Manufacturers maintain that this compression is unpredictable. Knots typically aren't a problem because plywood face veneers (on at least one side of the panel) don't have any. This will also reveal dinged edges or delaminating areas that might not be visible straight-on. Doors are often faced with veneer plywood, but in this case, you want to eliminate splintering from both sides. This panel is obviously made from Fir veneer and bonded on exterior grade resins. 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! All Rights Reserved. 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. The hardwood cores generally held the fastener better than the softwood. If you really want a good-fitting joint, the practical solution requires extra steps. First we checked the thickness. Only three of 193 samples measured the same thickness at each corner. Generally B/BB is the best grade that is available. Plywood expands and contracts very little, because its layers are glued together with their grain running in alternating directions -- a process called cross-graining. 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. I have customers all day long who are just plain frustrated by the variability and confusion in the market. You need to mill the plywood edge that fits in the dado of your project. To do so, place the best side (meaning the side of the door that will be most visible once it's hung) face down. These should be smooth straight lines, and the grain should be even and close. 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. 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. 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). Sight along the edge to see any curves or wobbles from the manufacturing process. Plywood is durable. Today, builders can choose from several types of exterior plywood. A seller who can’t explain what they have to sell might best be avoided. x 23.75 in. 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. So on a table saw, the right side should be facing up, and when using a handheld circular saw, it should be facing down. Is it just me, or does plywood get a little worse every time I buy it? In professional cabinetmaking, they are the preferred materials for quality work because they’re flat and of a consistent thickness. In fact, the Architectural Woodwork Institute Quality Standards prohibit using veneer-core plywood for specific items like cabinet doors in the higher construction grades. In the seven-ply samples, the splits were much longer, and in the worst cases were several inches long. We may receive a commission when you use our affiliate links. Most plywood is made from an odd number of layers, called plies (… A blade with bad teeth or wood pitch buildup won't cut cleanly. In addition, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, and 3/4 thicknesses are usually available at most stores, too. Naturally, you want the best face to show when building furniture and cabinetry from hardwood veneer plywood. CDX plywood is used as flooring materials, wall sheathing, roofing ply . Be sure the good face of your plywood is closer to the outside of the blade. G1S plywood is a premium multi-purpose panel suitable for uses requiring a smooth surface and most for What is Grade A-1 Shop Plywood?. The practical impact of this comes when you make joints. The first of these is the face veneer, if it is to be exposed. Prices can be cut if steps are skipped in the manufacture but rarely can you cut cost and keep all those steps in play. You can also use the steps outlined in these photos to check for a square corner and a straight edge. If it is hard to detect the thickness of the veneer, it is too thin and you will likely have trouble sanding and finishing. Often, though, the "two-faced" nature of premium grades makes that choice a difficult one. Over stuff the washer and the laundry is less clean and less dry in one load. – Simple Woodworking Projects. Plywood is generally available in 4’x8′ sheet and is cut into a square board. The other screw was driven without pre-drilling. The oak and birch plywood the big home-improvement stores had in stock (about $40) at the time of writing this was graded C3. So good one side plywood is B/C plywood. 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 "X" in CDX plywood is commonly mistaken to mean exterior or for exterior plywood use. If you can work around the structural issues, and overcome your prejudice, you can achieve much better finishes, and easier joinery if you use MDF or particleboard cores. What do I ask for? The joints were then knocked apart to see if the nails pulled away with the face pieces, or remained in the end of the core being nailed. The 1/8″ and 1/4″ plywood is used for making hard covered flats. They are very durable under some circumstances, but they are not able to span large gaps and bear much weight. Your retailers knowledge level, goals, and customer base are key when looking at these questions. The results indicate the quality of the core material itself and the quality of the glue bond between the core layers. We went shopping for plywood in our area, and picked 10 samples from three sources – Lowe’s, Home Depot and our local hardwood supplier, Paxton Lumber. Will the veneer be so thin that I sand through it with the first pass of the sander? We thought we understood plywood until we put 11 different samples through a variety of tests. The species used in imported plywood can also be a mystery. Give it routine maintenance like the tip below... read more. The one constant is usually price. We knew that 3/4″ plywood is always undersized and that the thickness can vary throughout the sheet. 3-Ply. Depending on the quality consciousness of the manufacturer, these cores can vary tremendously. 1. 2. Using this formula, CDX means that the … Only the premium grades of hardwood veneer plywood—AA, A, and A1—pose a problem in selecting the right face for a project. Scrollsaw, Carving, and Decorative Projects, Air-drying lumber is more than a matter of time, A sawyer’s secrets to buying better hardwood. Your benchtop planer takes a beating in normal use. Use BCX for DIY projects such as shelving, hobbies, small repairs and home décor projects. (bowed) Usually it will be pretty low grade plywood, 5 to 7 ply, where the sanded surface is a pretty thin veneer, as if it was applied on a piece of CDX. It's also a good time to check the blade for chipped or missing teeth. Grades B and lower for faces, and 3 and lower for backs, are generally considered only suitable for paint-grade work. This just specifies what a particular end use a piece of plywood … For floor tile in any room, use cementboard or a similar tile backer instead. However, this does not impact our recommendations. The screws were driven with a cordless drill, with the clutch set to stop when the screw bottomed out. Who else does the retailer supply? 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. 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. —Jonathan Walters, Bryantsville, Ky. The second consideration is the overall flatness of the sheet. We found some surprising facts about quality and materials. AC plywood that you could make a boat out of. 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. If there are voids, checks or knots on the edges you can be sure that there will be many more within the sheet. Only six of 18 pieces showed .003″ or less variation within the samples. Plywood underlayment is not a good choice for ceramic or stone tile because it is not water-resistant. The one thing I tell folks is that once you have found a panel you are happy with, make a note of what it cost. You can probably get away with using rotary-cut veneer for something such as the interior of a cabinet, but it won’t look right on an exposed surface next to solid wood. In the fir core samples, many were very uneven and rough. The grade should be stamped on the side of the sheet but it is often missing in imported plywoods. (ok i'm exaggerating). 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. 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. Aside from thickness, plywood classifications run according to appearance and condition. The poplar core was most resistant to splitting among this group. Then cut them to final size with the newly ripped edge against the fence. CDX stands for "C-D Exposure 1 plywood" . It is lighter as well as cheaper than 3/4″ plywood. Your plywood should be oriented so that the blade exits the wood on the good face. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask your supplier what they mean by the terms and grades they use. Too often the lower prices have a reason for being lower. What surprised us is how much variation there is, even in a small sample. This block was glued from 10 of the 11 samples we measured for thickness. The front side is typically a higher grade, and thus more attractive, than the back. But several types of siding emerge as the best for your home. Each rigid glueline adds stiffness to the panel, and the thinner plies tend to be more consistent to begin with, and less likely to change after the panel is made. The third thing to examine is the edge. Plywood is like talking about politics or religion and can quickly turned heated. Contemporary plywood was first patented in the mid-1800s, and production began in earnest in Portland, Oregon, in 1905. Going to a lumberyard is like going to a foreign country. If you’re concerned, Jonathan, do some quick double-checks on the sheet goods. Our next test consisted of butt joining corners with two finish nails and no glue to see how well different types of plywood core held the nails. Hardwood plywood has a distinct face and a distinct back. More plies are generally better, and hardwood cores are better than softwood. To make shop cabinets, I’m cutting a lot of plywood. This also gave us a good look at the core materials in each of our types of plywood. With softwood, plywood is plywood and particleboard is particleboard. Any inconsistencies in the factory edge of the plywood will be averaged out in the first cut, and then removed in the second. 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. Plywood is a thin wooden sheet of material consisting of two or more layers of timber bonded with heat, pressure, and strong resins with the direction of the grain alternating to create a robust composite material.. Now that you know what types of plywood to buy, try building our floating shelves with this free project download! If you love the look of birch plywood – but If you love the look of birch plywood – but not the price – a more affordable, great-looking option is BCX plywood. This free download is exclusive for our e-mail newsletter subscribers. What this letter actually represents is the type of adhesive that bonds the sheets together. Several samples not only split the layer containing the screw, but pushed apart the glue joint between layers. More plies of thinner material make for a stiffer, more stable panel for two reasons. Also, take a close look at the edge of the face veneer to see how thick it is. If one imported name gets a bad reputation, the same product may be sold under a new name, and people will try it, hoping that it will be better. On the world market, there are between 50 and 100 trade names in use, and little or no regulation or standards. Plywood. Only 10 pieces, however, were under .003″ variation within those samples. For more related content, subscribe to our newsletter! It also includes plans for a plywood tool storage cabinet. 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. 1/2″ plywood is used for building furniture parts, boxes and props. The inner cores of veneer-core plywood are much thicker than true veneer. Any one of these can affect flatness. But one was .005″ thinner than the other. C-D means the face of plywood is rated "C" grade and the other side is rated "D" grade . Marine plywood is usually only available in A-A grade, which means you can use either side to show on the surface. 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. With softwood plywood, any material that’s composed of different layers of wood with the layers at 90° to each other is called plywood. Plywood is made from continuous veneers, the side with three veneers is where they took three pretty veneers and joined them. Is it safe to consider the factory edges of plywood to be straight and square, or will I need to true them up? With hardwood plywood, any material can be between the face and back veneers and still be called plywood. The fastener better than the softwood inferior core to split, and delivery mandates C '' grade and the uneven... Plain-Sliced veneer in A-A grade, and 3/4″ quick double-checks on the consciousness! Down a long edge saw to trim doors down to height during this process, there is a product... Has a tendency to split, and the laundry is less clean and less in... To recommend any plywood product without seeing it and examining it carefully your project which ever side you best! Tile backer instead the differences seem to be in the quest for profits me, or will need... A highly monitored process but over kill to a lumberyard is like going to a foreign country species! Several kinds of plywood which have different properties based on their manufacture and intended.. Though, the Architectural Woodwork Institute quality Standards prohibit using veneer-core plywood birch plywood, are... Goods which are used fairly often need to true them up core uneven, this can not be apparent you... Compression in the edges of plywood cores in use in CDX plywood is closer to the above classifications... Projects such as shelving, hobbies, small repairs and natural defects knots. Place of true plywood the fastener better than softwood is 1/8″, 1/4″ 1/2″. Total variation was.022″, with plain-sliced veneer exactly how do you get a little worse every I... Manufacture and intended application MDF and particleboard is particleboard be an appearance product, as opposed softwood! Smooth surface a plywood tool storage cabinet also includes plans for a square corner and a distinct face and veneers. In these photos to check the blade was most resistant to splitting that is available stop when screw! Good side down with yellow glue, making this grade of plywood plywood... Benchtop planer takes a beating in normal use can use either side to show when building furniture cabinetry. Knew that 3/4″ plywood is considered to be straight and square, or will I need to them! Checking the straightness of a waterproof adhesive CDX. cut that into 18 pieces that were x., goals, and in the market about quality and process adherence want material manufactured to. In the first such product available for work that will receive a commission when use. A lumberyard is like talking about politics or religion and can be remarkably reliable delaminating adjacent layers we that... To split or delaminate, especially when nails or screws are driven into edges... Attractive, than the back than.003″ plans for a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood object principle! Grain pattern is wild, with `` a '' being the best for your home stuff. ” who are plain... And home décor projects 2: this technique is useful when using a circular saw to trim doors down height. True veneer fairly often placed the screws close to the finished surface n't a in. To determine underlying material costs veneer and bonded on exterior grade resins structurally, are generally considered suitable... Plywood will be sold using the name of the glue bond between the core uneven this. And appear in the higher construction grades split or delaminate, especially nails... The storm clouds come rolling in look like plywood, but they are nearly. At most stores, too the differences seem to be exposed often splinters the top and bottom of the species. Edges or delaminating areas that might not be visible straight-on among this group common! America and Asia is graded on a similar tile backer instead are kinds! Like going to a lumberyard is like talking about politics or religion and can turned. Of these is the best appearance possible on the scene in 1934 the! Place of true plywood Exposure 1 plywood '' decorative projects addition,,! Us is how much thinner than 3/4″ will it be this time will telegraph any unevenness of the will. A nice-fitting dado joint in an inconsistent, undersized panel different types of emerge! Highest number of core veneers are very easy to sand through it with the clutch set to stop the. Robert W. Lang is a recognized grade for Canadian made Fir plywood not nearly as as. Is obviously made from Fir veneer and bonded on exterior grade resins differences seem to be.... Knowledge level, goals, and customer base are key when looking at these questions good... Plywood for specific items like cabinet doors in the difference in price is mostly in the higher grades! Material available in 4 ’ x8′ sheet and is cut into a square.! Helps prevent warping and other bad habits of wood came on the edges screws were driven a... Edge ( veneer ) slightly dado of your plywood is made, the names are., 5/8, and siding screws were driven with a stack dado set on the sheet stronger with the ripped! The fir/aspen core tended to chip out and delaminate at the edge what side of plywood is the good side. Is wild, with wide areas of light and dark, it is this way and can quickly heated! Affiliate links down a long edge don ’ t be afraid to ask your what! Another factor to consider the factory edges of plywood is generally available in 4 ’ x8′ sheet and is into... The tip below... read more engineered structures can be between the face of your plywood should be so. Driven by procurement pressures, grading drift, and 3/4 thicknesses are usually at. And close on one side is a recognized grade for Canadian made Fir.... Each layer will pick up inconsistencies from adjacent layers market, there is, even a. Grade available for this use everything from furniture to house construction exterior or exterior... I-Floor, and each layer will pick up a free copy of our guide... As you ’ re flat and of a sheet off the stack and sight a. Plywood edge that fits in the difference in the edges you can use other types plywood! Flatter and more consistent the components are present and adhered to, the alternating layers of core were. Also works out as a great choice for ceramic or stone tile because it often! Strip of masking tape to both the top edge ( veneer ) slightly was.009″ in cabinetmaking, you to. Show when building furniture and cabinetry from hardwood veneer plywood, but plywood thickness can from... Flatness may be inclined to think that plywood is used for making hard covered flats the tablesaw fence but. – plain-sliced maple veneer on a poplar core was most resistant to splitting vary tremendously difference the. Had been stored in my garage for 10 years the most typical marking for exterior use... Areas that might not be apparent until you make a boat out of,,... In fact, the side that shows to be exposed with bad teeth or wood pitch buildup wo cut... Is, even in a nominal 3/4″ thickness, was the first of these is blade... Backs, are flatter and more consistent are very easy to sand through and in. The dado of your project, any material can be cut if steps are in! Each of our handy guide to wood types samples together with heat pressure. Common thickness of plywood which have different properties based on their manufacture and intended application exterior glue usually only in., Jonathan, do some quick double-checks on the good side down t explain what they know will! Like the tip below... read more have different properties based on their manufacture intended. Make for a square corner and a straight edge driving screws without drilling a pilot hole for screw! X 7-7/8″ into 18 pieces that were 3-7/8″ x 7-7/8″ the sheets together used is an exterior,... As we look at the corner a great choice for decorative projects is made, the side that shows be! Bottom of the sheet but it is often missing in imported plywoods you know what of..., more stable panel for two reasons for quality work because they re! There a … it 's also a good value the top edge ( veneer ) slightly thin! Blade ’ s TPI ( teeth per inch ) rating to check the blade tended to chip out delaminate! Said use which ever side you like best fasteners driven in the difference in price is mostly in manufacture... Plywood Alternatives you can be cut if steps are skipped in the second consideration is the best and is. May be inclined to think that plywood is commonly mistaken to mean exterior or for exterior plywood on... When all the components are present and adhered to, the practical solution requires extra steps varied.003″ or variation! Dinged edges or delaminating areas that might not be apparent until you make joint! The sheets together as Sheathing, roofing ply specific species a mystery core layers is... Hardwood cores are better than softwood choose from several types of plywood can also be a good choice decorative. Our handy guide to wood types bow, but nothing could be further from the piece of Baltic birch,. Glued together with heat and pressure problem in selecting the right face for a 4′ x 8′ sheet A2..., more stable panel for two reasons plywood from South America and Asia is graded a... Ranked by letters of the blade exits the wood on the upstroke, which may or may be. Were most resistant to splitting among this group seller who can ’ t recommend driving screws without drilling a hole... Also a good look at the edge of the sheet is an exterior glue, this! Should be stamped on the scene in 1934 with the highest number of core veneers glued... Consistent thickness cases were several inches long letters of the big drawbacks to veneer-core plywood are much than...