If don’t show up for work tomorrow, it’s because the Asian plywood industry has taken out a contract on my life.
But here’s the truth: All of the Asian plywood I’ve purchased from the big box stores in the last five years has been almost impossible for me to build furniture with.
The veneer on the outside of the plywood is too thin. How thin? Today I carefully delaminated some plywood from a job I completed last year, scraped off the adhesive and measured the result. The exterior veneer was about .015″ thick.
Then I went and measured the thickness of the toilet paper in our publishing company’s men’s room. Let me say that our single-ply toilet paper is not the highest quality. We occasionally use it on our random-orbit sanders when we’re low on #80-grit paper (that was a joke, by the way). In truth, the stuff is rough and thin at .005″ thick.
So the veneer on the plywood is about three thicknesses of inexpensive paper. Or about two shavings from my jointer plane. Or about 30 seconds with #120-grit paper in a decent random-orbit sander. It is just too darn thin.
What’s worse, these sheet goods are also poorly sanded at the factory. There are deep machine marks that have to be sanded out , so burning through the stuff at the edges is inevitable.
And there’s more. The stuff is sold wet, has internal stresses or has both problems. When I rip up a sheet of the stuff, some of it will curl like a coopered door. So you can forget about dimensional stability (unless you build coopered doors).
I’ve had much better luck with Baltic birch-like products and some premium plywoods from specialty suppliers. But this stuff is hard to find in some locations of the country. Our retail supplier closed down a couple years ago, and I have yet to find another convenient source within 30 miles of my home.
As a result, despite the fact that I’m not opposed to plywood (I quite like it in contemporary furniture), I’ve had to rely on solid wood more and more because of the plywood supply around me.
So I was surprised by the results of our poll last week that showed about 45 percent of our online readers use equal amounts of plywood and solid wood. Either you’ve found a good source for plywood or you’re using it in places that don’t show.
Or you’re members of the plywood mafia and I should watch my back during my drive home today.
– Christopher Schwarz
P.S. How do you feel about plywood in freestanding furniture projects? Leave a comment below and let us know. Your comment might just help us improve our content. Also, if you’d like to learn more about plywood, read our free article about how we tested the different kinds and came up with surprising results. You can read that story here.
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